EARLIER this year, in an interview with student magazine qmunicate, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon was asked the question on everyone’s lips: what was her opinion on the state of Scottish hip hop? Sturgeon admitted that she wasn’t “up to date”, but added that she loved Stanley Odd’s track Son, I Voted Yes.

The Yes anthem by the Edinburgh group proved a viral hit in the run-up to the referendum and has now stacked up 170,000 views on YouTube.

Hip hop as a genre in Scotland has actually existed for decades.

And yet, for many years, the mere concept of rapping in a Scottish accent was considered farcical by the music industry. One act, Dundee’s Silibil N’ Brains, even became subjects of a BBC documentary after they secured a record deal by posing as American.

In addition to Stanley Odd’s viral success, 2014 proved to be a landmark year for the scene for several reasons: Edinburgh’s Young Fathers picked up the Mercury Music Prize, Motherwell’s The LaFontaines played the massive King Tut’s tent at T in the Park, and Hector Bizerk were shortlisted for the Scottish Album of the Year award.

Remarkably, these acts have managed to become commercially and critically successful without compromising their respective voices. Edinburgh emcee Drew “Werd” Devine cites last year’s independence referendum as a key reason that the scene has enjoyed a surge in popularity: “We were energised by the referendum, and I think it changed a lot of perceptions about how to make rap music about Scotland as a whole. It became less about bitter struggle and more about pride in our artistry.

“I personally feel more confident about representing where I’m from in my raps. I look at everything more positively than I used to.”

Many rappers addressed the referendum argument in a direct and provocative manner.

The best example was Loki, whose album Government Issue Music Protest (GIMP) was set in a dystopian future 20 years after a No vote.

The vote proved a galvanising topic for many emcees.

The vast majority supported a Yes vote, something Werd was unsurprised by: “I think there was partly a class element – a lot of emcees hail from working class communities, although not always.

“I think what was more important is that artists and creatives tended to support a Yes vote. We didn’t fear as much.”

The direct nature of hip hop lyricism meant commentary on the referendum was inevitable, but many rappers still face a challenge in challenging public perception.

Hector Bizerk frontman Louie argues that hip hop’s role runs a lot deeper: “Hip hop in Scotland has always been socially and politically analytical.

“Unfortunately, people have heard ‘gangsta rap’ and misogynistic content of pop songs and accepted that as an accurate representation of hip hop culture.

“Much of the early narrative of hip hop emceeing was synonymous with social comment – rappers became spokespersons for disenfranchised communities. Glasgow has always been home to creators of that writing style, but it was largely looked down on by other artistic disciplines.

“During the referendum, consumers became hungry for culturally and socially relevant music.”

Danny Quinn aka Wee D, one of the few rappers to openly vote No, believes that there is plenty more that both artists and politicians can do: “There are wider social issues from the independence debate that are still unresolved. Artists need to think about how they can personally benefit their communities and use their platform to do so.

“How can political bodies engage with hip hop? Injecting some finance would be no bad thing, but I think it would also help to be aware of what it is and who it speaks to. Hip hop is a powerful tool that communicates directly to the working class.”