Being aware of the world around you is an essential trait in life. In hip-hop, it's been a driving force for rappers, dating back to the culture's humble beginnings. Born out of the economic disadvantages and impoverished conditions that plagued New York City in the 1970s, hip-hop was originally used to rock the party and provide an escape for those in that environment, but would soon evolve into a forum where societal issues and social strife were brought to the forefront, namely through graffiti and, more prominently, through the art of rhyme.

Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five's "The Message," one of the game's early rap classics, finds legendary MC Melle Mel detailing the ills that put a damper on the inner city, as well as the mental illness that it can induce. By the end of the 1980s, acts like Public Enemy, Ice-T, N.W.A and Queen Latifah had all began offering varying perspectives on life in America for Black men and women, which often involved mentions of inequality, discrimination and systematic racism.

The spirit that was fostered back then is still prevalent today, with many of rap's biggest names using their platforms to help lead the conversation when it comes to sociopolitical matters and being socially conscious. Whether it's tied to the Black Lives Matter movement, presidential candidates, protests against police brutality or efforts on providing relief in light of the water crisis in Flint, Mich., having those with influence use their power in positive ways is to be commended. The Game, Kendrick Lamar, Talib Kweli, Macklemore and Jay Z are just a few of the artists who have gone to action and used their voices to make a difference and sound off. Here we highlight 40 artists in hip-hop that have made their words and actions count in 2016.

More From XXL