Since Donald Trump’s inauguration, many musicians have become vocal about politics through their own music, especially hip-hop artists. The genre has always featured heavy political influence, but it is easy to see that Trump’s presidency has caused an increase of political interest in the music industry.
While there are likely hundreds of songs about the current state of the union, the three below have reached some of the largest audiences and make incredibly salient points.
1. “I’m Not Racist,” Joyner Lucas
Joyner Lucas, a rapper from Massachusetts, recorded a song titled “I’m Not Racist.” The track and music video details a conversation between a white man wearing a Make America Great Again hat and Lucas, a black man. Lucas concentrates the tension that exists between white and black people in America into a single conversation and relays it as a song.
As the title suggests, the song surrounds controversial topics that are more relevant than ever. The unnamed white man shares his complaints in a very confrontational manner. He belittles important topics, such as the “Black Lives Matter” movement and police brutality, while disregarding Trump’s contributions to racism and claiming that people of color just want someone to blame for their struggles.
The genre of hip-hop is mentioned as well. Lucas raps, “Music rotting your brain and slowly start to convince you. Then you let your kids listen and the cycle continues.” Ironically, the white man is blaming the genre of hip hop for people of color’s beliefs, instead of realizing his own mistakes and racism.
The angry rant continues, and the n-word is even aimed and leveled at the black man. However, his verse ends with the lyrics, “But there’s two sides to every story, I wish that I knew yours. I’m not racist, I swear.” The black man now speaks up and explains his own views and beliefs.
He parallels the first man’s point about hip-hop contaminating the minds of people of color by rapping the lyrics, “Hatred all in your brain, it slowly starts to convince. And then you teach it to your children until the cycle continue.” Lucas also juxtaposes the blame that the first man mentions, and raps that white people will blame their own issues on any race that is not their own.
2. “This is America,” Childish Gambino
“This is America,” by Childish Gambino, also known as Donald Glover, is primarily a political song and music video. As the title implies, Glover describes the current state of the U.S. and black people’s place within the country.
In the beginning of the song, he mentions how people of color attempt to ignore racial issues by partying and celebrating their own culture. He then sings, “This is America, don’t catch you slippin’ now,” which reveals America’s tendency to focus on black people’s failures and mistakes, rather than their achievements.
Glover warns people of color that they must be extremely cautious if they do not wish to be ridiculed. He also advises prudence when dealing with authority because racially biased police brutality is rampant throughout the country. Glover raps, “Look how I’m livin’ now. Police be trippin’ now.”
Glover also touches on the violence that permeates many primarily black neighborhoods. He raps, “Yeah, this is America. Guns in my area.”
3. “XXX.,” Kendrick Lamar
Kendrick Lamar opens with the lyrics, “America, God bless you if it’s good to you,” in his track, “XXX.,” to signify the upper hand that white people have within the country, as compared to people of color. Further along, Lamar utilizes symbolism by allowing a boy named “Johnny” to represent black youth.
He explains that Johnny doesn’t want to go to school anymore because of the intense poverty and lack of funding that the school receives. Instead of trying to take part in school and educate himself, Johnny wants to hustle because it is seemingly easier and quicker. Lamar ends this first verse with a sarcastic, “God bless America, you know we all love him.”
Like Lucas, Lamar directly references Trump’s presidency. He raps, “Donald Trump’s in office. We lost Barack and promised to never doubt him again.” Here, Lamar is lamenting the loss of Obama and emphasizing how much of a downgrade Trump’s presidency is in comparison. Both Lamar and Lucas understand the significance of Trump’s presidency and how it has not only allowed racism to grow in America, but encouraged it as well.
Like Donald Glover, Lamar also discusses the inaccurate portrayal of black Americans in the media when he raps, “You overnight the big rifles, then tell Fox to be scared of us. Gang members or terrorists, et cetera, et cetera. America’s reflections of me, that’s what a mirror does.”
Rap has always been known to discuss not only the everyday struggles and lives of black Americans, but to debate social politics as well. With a man like Trump as the president, it’s even more important for rap to continue providing this service for listeners.
These rappers want to be heard and listened to, so that these problems can not only be recognized, but dealt with as well. America must realize the state of decay that it is in before it can ever begin to improve itself.