Hip Hop, a genre rooted in storytelling and social commentary, often brings historical events to the forefront of its narratives. While many songs highlight well-known moments, some delve into those that are lesser-known.

One example is "You Must Learn" by Boogie Down Productions. On the iconic cut, KRS-One provided a history lesson on African and African-American figures who are often overlooked in traditional education. He rapped about people like Benjamin Banneker, an African-American almanac author, surveyor, and astronomer, and Lewis Latimer, who improved the creation and production of the light bulb. While not completely factual, the song was an educational tool that underscored the contributions of Black individuals throughout history.

Dead Prez is a legendary group that provided lyrical knowledge about the influence of African civilizations on Western culture. On "I'm A African," stic.man referenced Steve Biko, a South African activist who founded the Black Consciousness Movement. As was hinted at on the following line ("F**k the police"), the connection of Biko's death at the hands of law enforcement to the police brutality taking place in America was made beautifully clear.

Below are 13 examples of songs that mentioned notable individuals and events in human history – specifically, ones that may not be as commonly known by the public. By weaving educational lines into their music, artists not only preserved these moments, but also inspired listeners to seek out and learn even more.

1. You Must Learn – Boogie Down Productions

Taken from Ghetto Music: The Blueprint of Hip Hop, this BDP classic saw KRS-One giving a blanket lesson of sorts on African-American history. Over a sample of Captain Sky’s “Super Storm,” listeners could hear lines about everything from various Black inventors, African culture (notably, Alkebulan, what was said to be the ancient name of the continent), and much more. It should be noted that a few of the claims heard on the track were debunked or revealed to be partly inaccurate.

2. Reagan – Killer Mike

Killer Mike’s R.A.P. Music standout “Reagan” addressed many critical issues plaguing the United States, including systemic racism impacting Black communities and the drawbacks of capitalism. As the name implied, much of the focus was centered on former President Ronald Reagan’s administration and its policies’ negative effects on society during that period.

3. Panther Power – Tupac Shakur

This track is one of Tupac Shakur's earliest studio recordings and even predated his debut album, 2Pacalypse Now. Initially in the vault, it was officially released as part of the soundtrack for the Tupac: Resurrection documentary. On the track, the late talent gave his thoughts on the failure of the American dream and – more specifically – the Black Panther movement from which his family was a part. Footage of teenage Pac performing the track can also be found here.

4. Nina – Rapsody

The above opener to the critically acclaimed Eve album served as a tribute to powerful Black women and drew specific inspiration from Nina Simone's rendition of Billie Holliday's "Strange Fruit." The powerful offering also dove into some of Simone’s personal history. Notably, the late artist was celebrated for her versatile musical talent across genres and was also a prominent civil rights activist who fearlessly addressed social injustices faced by Black communities.

5. Cuito Cuanavale – Billy Woods

Produced by Blockhead and taken from Dour Candy, “Cuito Cuanavale” was a dense offering that referenced some truly significant events, including when Bob Marley performed “Zimbabwe” for rebel leader-turned-President Robert Mugabe following the Rhodesian Bush War. Elsewhere, Woods rapped about the Battle of Cuito Cuanavale, which took place in Angola and was the largest conventional military campaign in which Fidel Castro’s Cuba had ever been involved.

6. A Song For Assata – Common

As the title made clear, this timeless Like Water For Chocolate cut is a tribute to Assata Shakur, who was a prominent member of the Black Panther Party and the Black Liberation Army. The leader and activist – who happened to be Tupac Shakur’s step-aunt -- was found guilty of first-degree murder after the death of a New Jersey state trooper. Her case gained significant publicity due to allegations of mistreatment by law enforcement during her trial and incarceration. As Common revealed, Assata escaped from prison and sought political asylum in Cuba.

7. I Can – Nas

On Nas’ heartfelt God’s Son number, he delivered advice and positive inspiration to children and gave short history lessons on African empires like the Nubian kingdom of Kush and Timbuktu, a place where Black scholars were known to teach Greek and Roman texts. The Persian Empire, Alexander the Great, and more were also mentioned on the Beethoven-sampled cut.

8. Fisherman – RZA and DJ Scratch

RZA teamed up with DJ Scratch for the well-received EP, Saturday Afternoon Kung Fu Theater, and “Fisherman” was the project’s penultimate track. In typical Wu-Tang fashion, the Abbott dove deeply into a myriad of subjects, including Leopold II of Belgium, who founded and owned the Congo Free State during its existence.

9. You Can’t Be Neutral On A Moving Train – Vinnie Paz

“You Can’t Be Neutral On a Moving Train” was the final track on Vinnie Paz's God Of The Serengeti album The song referenced American historian, playwright, and philosopher Howard Zinn, and pulled its title from Zinn's memoir and documentary. The subject matter on the multilayered effort touched on Christopher Columbus, King Philip's War, the Espionage Act, director Dalton Trumbo, and much, much more throughout.

10. The Show (Must Go On) – The Roots, Common, and Dice Raw

The acclaimed track from Rising Down addressed its fair share of people and places, including Amiri Baraka and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. However, its most notable bar is courtesy of Black Thought, who stated, “I hit ‘em like Ethiopia hit up Italy.” At one point in its history, Italy attempted to colonize Ethiopia but was defeated – the European nation did make another attempt and, for a short period, did occupy the African country. As it wasn’t considered an actual colonization, Ethiopia remains recognized as the oldest independent country in Africa.

11. I'm A African – Dead Prez

The first full song on the group’s debut album, Let's Get Free, was a powerful ode to Pan-Africanism. It served as a proper introduction into the group’s political philosophy, heroes, and worldview. In the song's first verse, stic.man referenced South African anti-apartheid activist Steve Biko, who died in police custody after a controversial arrest. Later on, M-1 mentioned the murder of reggae legend Peter Tosh.

12. What It Feels Like – JAY-Z and Nipsey Hussle

Nipsey Hussle’s posthumous collaboration with JAY-Z was taken from the Judas And The Black Messiah soundtrack. As such, it only made sense for Hov to rap about Fred Hampton, the Chicago leader of the Black Panther Party who was assassinated by the FBI and Chicago Police Department. Even more symbolic was the fact that the tragic act took place on the day JAY-Z was born.

13. Nature Of The Threat – Ras Kass

As a disclaimer, Ras Kass received a lot of flak from critics regarding his depiction of the world’s white population on the Soul On Ice standout – a controversy that he later addressed through several outlets. Outside of that, the Cali lyricist gave an extremely Afrocentric take on world history, including American colonization, the Hellenistic Era, and the birth of Western civilization.