Lil Wayne's "God Bless Amerika" and Six Other Rap Protest Songs
Lil Wayne's got beef with the American prison system, and that could have something to do with his three incarcerations. But he also feels the purity, valor and justice are missing from the red, white and blue.
This is according to the lyrics from his latest music video "God Bless Amerika." (We're not exactly sure why he misspelled the name, but we digress.) Though making a decent political point, but Weezy also muddles the message with lots of talk about eating pussy, so it's not really that lofty.
But Wayne ain't the only rapper to sing a song about "this ole godless Amerika." Some even did it better.
In this song, Nas tells about how he comes from "the land of the thieves." This being a rap song from a black man, he talks a lot about race inequality. Even as a huge star, Nas can't seem to escape the downward gaze. Still his third verse ruminates on a number of subjects, from the mistreatment and misrepresentation of women to the death penalty. He takes a stab at classism before tying his message together in one neat package: Are we really any better than the third world?
Jay-Z's "Open Letter"
Jay caused a serious uproar among Florida Republicans like Marco Rubio and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen when he and Beyonce traveled to Cuba for their anniversary, so he penned this protest song asking just what the hell the big deal was anymore? As he points out, he's confused by all the talk about communism "when it's from China the very mic that I'm using." Mr. Carter pulls the representation card as well, seeing as how politicians have never done anything for him "except lie to me, distort history." Jay makes the case clear cut, if you're going to lock him up, just make sure you nab him for something that's actually illegal.
Eminem's "White America"
But before you go drawing racial lines in music, remind yourself that hip-hop, like all art, belongs to all people. Eminem decided to take a stab at the hypocrisy of the U.S.A. in 2002 by exercising his first amendment rights to the fullest. Later, Eminem would pen a universal call to action with "Mosh," asking all people of all backgrounds and cultures to come together and vote out the very unpopular President George W. Bush. He was unsuccessful in that aim, but the song is a positive message about what people can do, instead of just complaining about how things are.
Public Enemy's "Bring the Noise"
You probably saw this coming, but we couldn't help ourselves. Public Enemy lyrics are kind of like the Bible for hip-hoppers who are fed up with our country's corrupt system and the hypocrisy of our nation. They could turn a call to revolution into a dance-floor hit, and that's why they were so fucking awesome. One minute, you're dancing to the dope beat, and the next minute, you're thinking about organizing. It's a perfect formula, and only those who would keep the masses down would tell you to be afraid of the Public Enemy message.
BDP's "Stop the Violence"
Recognize that hook? You should, from the awesome Black Star song "Definition," but this '88 original from BDP takes the protest cake. This song is real as fuck, rhyming about how easily history hides the transgressions of our past leaders, how we send our poor into battles that don't concern them, then go on to treat our veterans like yesterday's garbage. Inflation holds people down so we're all stuck in a struggle to eat and provide shelter to our families, that way we can't organize and make the changes we need to pursue our ow happiness. Hip-hop is looked at like a weapon, but it's a weapon of the people, as long as the people can stop fighting each other long enough to recognize the real enemy.
Dead Prez's "Police State"
Seriously, though, when it comes to being revolutionary but gangsta, Dead Prez are about as legitimate as you can get. They don't hold any punches when they unleash the truth on the mic, and they don't really care about radio hits or selling records. They are calling out everyone -- greedy capitalists, lying religious leaders, the private prison system, corrupt public officials, fake revolutionaries, bigots and sexist douchebags -- the whole United States of America. It's ugly out there in these streets, you just have to open your eyes. The big question is, what are you going to do about it?
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