As long as there has been systematic injustice and tyranny in this world there have been like minded individuals there to stand and oppose it. And as long as there have been like minded individuals to oppose those evils there have been artists among them that had the ability to take the raw emotion of the situation and summarize it so anyone, involved or not, may see the world through their minority point of view. Not only through words did they do this, but through melodies, timing, and tone were they able to share the hope or anger they felt. Through these means artist and activists have been able to not only bridge gaps and change minds, but are able to reach across continents and oceans to affectively change the world as we know it through song. These protest songs and anthems are a way to present options of how to think or live that differ from what a person may be accustom to. Through this we are able to learn from each other, understand each other, and grow together.
Now I bring this all up for the sake of talking about where our protest songs and activists of our generation come into play. And sadly I have concluded that nothing of merit has been made or put out yet that can really help us in our time of need. Now, me saying this does not imply that good or thoughtful music is not being made today. I would even say there are very socially conscience artists our there making music that either helps people or shines a light on injustice. With songs promoting suicide prevention like Logic’s “1-800-273-8255” or a raw look at African american life in america in Jay-Z’s “The Story of OJ”. I’ll even give credit to Alessia Cara’s 2015 single “Here” which promotes an anti-party animal message to a younger base audience. With this all being said, there is still nothing out there with attitude challenging the establishment. There is a generation out there with no one showing them that rules are meant to be broken and that social norms and standards are what we decide they are. I urge artists out there to instead of writing a six paragraph “I Don’t Normally Do This But..” post on Facebook please pick up your guitar and turn those feeling into something of substance. As much as it may seem that your tweet saying “Fuck Trump” that got one-hundred likes is getting out the right message of change, a song written with soul and grit can and will transcend the realm of social media to somewhere everyone is to afraid to go these days. The Real World.
*Here is a list of protest and socially conscious songs you may or may not know.*
There is no sugar coating done from the man who trademarked controversy in the early 2000s. Em cuts straight to the bone calling out America’s President at the time and his associates for the unnecessary deaths brought out by the war on terror. Accompanied by a viciously well done animated video Eminem makes the feelings of the country and time known with lines like,
“No more blood for oil, we got our own battles to fight on our own soil
No more psychological warfare, to trick us to thinking that we ain’t loyal”.
Lines like this expressed the feelings of betrayal Americans felt from having their country send away there sons to die for no reason.
A hit of the 80s, this song is a tribute to Steve Biko, an anti-apartheid advocate and activist against the white minority rule of South Africa in the 1970s. Steve Biko was beaten and killed while in state custody, his actions while alive though influenced the world long after his death. Nelson Mandela called him “the spark that lit a fire across South Africa”. Peter Gabriel, being who he is, used his platform to tell Biko’s story to a world that may have never heard it.
“You can blow out a candle, but you can’t blow out a fire. Once the flames begin to catch, the wind will blow it higher.”
Born Without a Face – Rage Agaisnt the Machine
Being the kings of protest that they are, I could have chose almost any Rage song to put on this list. For this instance though, I’m gunna stick to my Mexican roots. This song sheds light on the plight of the migrant worker, an oppressed demographic that was seen as tools and not as people. Tom Morello’s manic solos express the chaos of constant work and boarder crossing while the rest is cover by Zack De La Rocha’a singing, which is sharp enough to puncture a bulletproof vest.
“Maize was all we needed to sustain. Now her golden skin burns, insecticide rain
Ya down wit DDT yeah you know me”
99 problem(at least the first verse) – Jay-Z
(Not original version. It’s on tidal and I’m not getting tidal)
“Son do you know why I’m stopping you for?”
“Cuz I’m young and I’m black and my hats real low? Do I look like a mind reader sir? I don’t know.”
Jay-Z’s success alone has always been a protest. He is a crack dealer turned Billionaire with strong ties to his roots and culture. Though over mostly over looked, this wildly popular song hosts a verse that shows the blatant profiling that happen to our minority citizens. The second verse is also important, but it’s hard to make a sound protest against Bitch ass motherfuckers stepping out of line. It’s not as compelling.