“It’s bigger than hip HOP! Hip HOP!,” spits rap duo Dead Prez on probably its best-known track to date. The song—called simply “Hip Hop”—prodded some of the genre’s weak spots (materialism, fake thuggery) and went after critics who blamed the subculture for societal ills. But that was in 2000, on Dead Prez’s first album Let’s Get Free; since then, MCs M-1 and stic.man have chilled out a bit. Tonight, they headline Howard Theatre’s “Black August” show, featuring a variety of socially conscious acts including Roots collaborator Martin Luther and local favorites Gods’illa, Farafina Kan, and Maimouna Youssef. All the performers share a humanitarian, activist bent expressed through hip-hop, soul, and/or West African dance, and tonight they unite for a specific cause: to honor political prisoners in the United States.

Dead Prez performs with Maimouna Youssef, Martin Luther, Gods’illa, and Farafina Kan at 8 p.m. at the Howard Theatre, 620 T St. NW. $20–$25. (202) 803-2899. thehowardtheatre.org.