Music is my favorite way to escape my daily thoughts. It can be used as a method to drift away in an almost magical way, allowing me to forget about whatever is bothering me. Sometimes I use music to bring me back to a specific time and place — almost like using a time machine.
But music isn’t always a means for escape. It can be used to bring light to issues that artists think are important. Song lyrics are often riddled with double entendres and hidden meanings that you might miss if you weren’t paying close attention. When I was younger and didn’t appreciate music as much, I felt like I always missed the meanings of songs. Sometimes, the song is so catchy and good that its message can easily be missed.
A prime example of this is Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the U.S.A.” Many people know this song and think that it is a great example of being proud to be from the United States. Ronald Reagan even briefly used the song in his 1984 campaign for presidency. In reality, the song is very anti-American and is a protest against the war in Vietnam. I love Springsteen, and I didn’t figure this out until I was older and listened carefully to the lyrics.
There’s no denying the fact that rock and roll has always been political, with songs such as Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Fortunate Son” and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young’s “Ohio” becoming staples in the hearts and minds of Americans who grew up during that that time. Now, we are entering an age where hip-hop has become one of the most popular genres of music in America.
Of course, this anti-government attitude did not start with the Trump presidency. Rap groups like Public Enemy and N.W.A. have been taking shots at those in power since the late 1980s and early 1990s. Anti-government hip-hop songs are more easily identifiable because of the raw and real way these issues are addressed.
Rapper YG took shots at Donald Trump in a similar manner in his song featuring artist Nipsey Hussle called “FDT (F— Donald Trump).” The rapper even went as far as to name his 2016 tour the same thing, showing a pure distaste for the then presidential candidate. YG wasn’t afraid to be vulgar while speaking his mind on behalf of those who can’t stand Trump — some of his lyrics show prose alluding to the situation on Trump’s campaign trail where black students were removed from his rally for peacefully protesting.
While being vulgar and upfront may not be the best way to have a meaningful conversation, it is definitely an excellent way to sell records. Other rappers have attacked the struggles that they faced in a more poetic way, hiding real and raw lyrics behind a well-constructed piece of music.
Compton native rapper Kendrick Lamar is one of the most popular artists in America right now, and I think that he is a perfect example of someone who can get his message across in a very poetic way. His 2015 song “Alright” became an anthem at protests around the country for the way that the rapper spoke about how even though people around him grew up struggling, they were “gon’ be alright.” One of his songs from the album DAMN. featured a clip from a FOX News host talking about his lyrics in a demeaning way, to which Kendrick responds with an incredible, full-length story of his day-to-day fears and struggles.
The point here is this: Music will always be political, and the outrage that has been protruding onto news shows and panels is to be expected in our current society. Artists are always going to speak out against what they believe is wrong. It’s a phenomenon that’s been going on for as long as humans have been alive. Now, rappers are attacking the Trump presidency much like they did the Bush presidency, and I don’t see that coming to an end any time soon. President Obama, however, certainly did not receive the criticism from most rappers and was actually given a shout-out in some chart-toppers.
It’s really cool to see rappers speaking their minds without anyone being able to control what they are saying. I don’t come from a struggling background, and rap allows people like me to look into the eyes of someone who has seen the bottom of our society and is struggling to work their way up. This is true for rock and roll as well. Since music plays an important part in so many people’s lives, I think it’s a waste of time to be angry at a musician for their views on the world and politics. If you don’t like the song, just skip it. But if you want to learn about an issue from another person’s point of view, pay attention. You might learn a thing or two.