One of the greatest artistic products to derive from the African American culture is its music. And of that music, no category is as distinct as hip-hop, with its ability to raise awareness by telling stories of social injustice and oppression, but also of heritage and pride.

Rap music today sits at the forefront of mainstream and pop culture, but first began as something that was “for the people, by the people.” So in honor of Black History Month, here are 20 songs that speak to hip-hop’s ability to encourage thought, conversation and action.Marjua Estevez