One of my favorite things about music is the fact that so much of it can express specific emotions. Listening to some songs can really put your mind in the space of whatever setting the musician is trying to create; sometimes, certain songs can make the listener feel as if they transferred to a completely different place for a few minutes. During times of unrest over the years, many musicians have made music addressing the atrocities going on in the world, giving people solidarity in knowing that their favorite artists notice what is going on too. Artists like Rage Against the Machine, System of a Down, Tupac, The Ramones were known for making music about how unfair and unjust our government and world are; I have always respected artists that do this so much because they could potentially lose fans and endorsement but don’t care because they have to fight for what is right. Since the murder of George Floyd, quite a few big artists have been making music about the systemic racism and police brutality in the United States. These are problems that are so long overdue in this country and need to be changed right away. It is awesome that so many artists are taking a stand and speaking up for what they believe in. I firmly believe that it is super important for artists to talk about social issues if they can because so many young people look up to these artists and hang on their every word. There are so many teenagers today who would follow a movement and sign a petition just because their favorite artist says they should. Today, all of the songs on this list were written after the death of George Floyd and they all address the issues mentioned above. Please let me know which of the songs you like as week in the comments below, and also let me know if there are any other songs about these topics written in the last couple of weeks that I did not get to hear!
FTP – YG
YG has never been afraid to make Political and socially conscious music about issues in the world. Even though he has typically been a gangsta rapper, he has still made sure he makes his intellectual voice known; he has made multiple songs about issues that he sees in the world we live in, with the most notable probably being his underground hit ‘FDT(Fuck Donald Trump.’ It should be no surprise that YG is back with a song about police corruption, as he has had many shitty run-ins with the law. His new song ‘FTP’ is about the topic that you would expect it to be. On ‘FTP,’ YG is screaming “fuck the police,” calling them out for killing and harassing so many black people constantly all over the United States. This track has an instrumental that is similar to a lot of YG’s greatest hits; it has a sort of old school G-Funk feeling to it, as well as a new school West Coast Trap feeling that is similar to artists like 03 Greedo and Shoreline Mafia. YG absolutely excels over these kinds of instrumentals, as his flow and voice sound perfect on this kind of instrumental. My favorite part of the song is this line in the second verse: Protect and Serve means duck and swerve. YG thinks that even though the cops know they are supposed to help and protect the people, their actual objective is the guard the assets of the police stations and stop anyone that they don’t like from doing anything. If you are a fan of YG’s music, you will definitely love ‘FTP’ for many reasons.
OTHER SIDE OF AMERICA – MEEK MILL
If there is any rapper that is qualified to talk about systemic racism within the police system and with our nation’s current laws, it is Meek Mill. Meek was plagued by the system for years, failed by and screwed over laws that are designed to keep People of Color and poor people down and forcing them to always have to go back to jail. Because of a judge that has admitted they just didn’t like Meek and because of petty law violations that kept piling up, Meek Mill has spent a lot of the last decade behind bars. This is such a shame, because he has never been afraid to get serious and political in his music and say whatever he needs to say in his songs. Like many other artists, Meek Mill has decided to use his influence to bring attention to the inequality in and racism towards black neighborhoods around the country and the police brutality that goes with it. ‘The Otherside of America’ has a similar Jazz Trap sound to a lot of Meek’s best work in the past. The quick beat and tempo along with the violin riff match up with Meek Mill’s flow and energy so well, along how to shine throughout this track. ‘The Otherside of America’ is full of deep lyricism that so many people need to hear. One of my favorite parts in the song is this one from one second verse: Started off in the basement. Now it’s rooftops and LeBron there. Still fightin’ open cases. Out on bail, n****, but it’s my year… Closet bigger than my old house. Thinkin’ ’bout it, I was fine there… Meek really did start from the bottom and make it all the way to the top, even though he is still fighting petty cases that could get him locked up. ‘The Otherside of America’ is just as good and just as intense as a song about this topic by Meek Mill should be. I can’t wait to hear more protest or political music from him in the future.
THE BIGGER PICTURE – LIL BABY
I am not going to lie, I have never been the biggest Lil Baby fan. I know that artists I love like Jay Z and Lil Wayne have said that he is the future of the game and that he is their favorite new rapper, but I have always just felt like his sound is typical and bland to me; nothing about his output has stood out to me and made me notice him over other typical Auto-Crooning rappers. ‘The Bigger Picture’ is the first song I have heard from Lil Baby that has a political and socially charged theme. Lil Baby has decided now that he has a platform and is able to do so, he has to do what he can to make a change. I really enjoy the fact Lil Baby is using his sound that is super popular among young people and trying to educate them about what’s going on and encouraging to vote. I really like this line from the second verse: I can’t lie like I don’t rap about killing and dope, but I’m telling my youngins to vote. I did what I did ’cause I didn’t have no choice or no hope, I was forced to just jump in and go… Lil Baby realizes that no matter what he has done in the past, he has a responsibility to affect the world for the better to help out his kids. I really like ‘The Bigger Picture’ for its somber and striking sound along with its important message. This song has made me a fan of Lil Baby’s and I can’t wait to see what he does in the future.
PIG FEET – TERRACE MARTIN, DENZEL CURRY, G PERICO, DAYLYT AND KAMASI WASHINGTON
Before even listening to this song, I already knew that it would be super intense and super well put together. I feel like anyone could assume this based on the artists in the song if you know who these artists are. Obviously, everyone knows about Denzel Curry at this point and how much energy and emotion he brings to every song. Underground music fans should know about G Perico and Daylyt, who are both known for riveting and introspective lyricism and hard ass deliveries. Terrace Martin has been one of the best jazz-rap producers in the last 20 years, producing on albums like Snoop Dogg’s Rhythm n Gangsta and Kendrick’s To Pimp a Butterfly. And if you don’t know who Kamasi Washington is, he probably played the saxophone if your favorite Flying Lotus, Thundercat, and Kendrick songs. The instrumental for ‘Pig Feet’ is just as hard-hitting and anxious and high energy as our world is currently today. It creates an image of confusion, excitement, and fear, all of which are very prevalent emotions in the current landscape if our country. All three rap verses portray these emotions as well, specifically focusing on police brutality and racism. All three rappers create imagery and use metaphors in their lyrics that directly correlate with the issues black people in America face today; they also all use flows and vocal styles that portray their emotions so clearly and make you know exactly how they feel. I think this line from Denzel’s verse sums up the feeling of the song best: Helicopters over my balcony. If the police can’t harass, they wanna smoke every ounce of me. Breath is alchemy, see how the life converted… ‘Pig’s Feet’ is a protest anthem that I really think everyone should hear, and it is definitely one of my favorite singles from 2020 so far.
THEY DON’T – NASTY C AND T.I.
Nasty C is a rising rapper from South Africa, and he has really been blowing up over the last several months. He has had a few songs go viral online, such as ‘Eazy’ and ‘There They Go,’ and a lot of people around the country and the world have been anticipating his upcoming album out this summer. He has garnered so much attention lately that the Trap legend T.I. discovered him and hopped on his new song ‘They Don’t.’ This track has a sort of Afrobeat and World Pop music melody and feeling; it is a very sweet and easy to listen to song that will make anyone want to dance. Lyrically, though, this track is not really one that would make anyone happy or want to dance. It is about systemic racism and police brutality. The whole song has a similar tone to these lines from the beginning of the song: They don’t want me to win, they don’t want me to eat. They don’t want to see a young black man succeed. They don’t want to see me take my brothers out of the streets. They don’t want me…T.I.’s verse is also very intense and telling. I love this line from the beginning of his verse: 2020, guess it’s the year of the burn, consequences you earned. To build this nation that you hate me in, the karma’s returned… Nasty C and T.I.’s ‘They Don’t’ is very real and raw but very pleasant to listen to, and it definitely has me excited to listen to more Nasty C in the future.
KILLING IN THE NAME (COVER) – MACHINE GUN KELLY AND TRAVIS BARKER
As I stated in my article from a few weeks back about all of the covers and remixes he released from home during Quarantine, no one has been putting in more work than MGK over the last couple of months. You could argue that this is becoming the biggest year of his career; not only did some of his Lockdown Sessions reach the top of the trending pages on Twitter and Youtube and garner tons of views when they came out, the music video for his new song ‘Bloody Valentine,’ which co-starred Megan Fox, was trending for multiple days as well and has garnered 20 million views on YouTube in a month. When the protests on systemic racism started up at the beginning of this month, MGK was at the forefront, handing out water and snacks and standing at the front of the line in solidarity with his brothers and sisters. Some of the chaos of the LA protests and his involvement in them are documented in the music video for his new cover with Travis Barker. There probably is not a better song for MGK to cover at this point in time than ‘Killing In the Name’ by Rage Against the Machine. This song was written in response to the murder of Rodney King back in 1992 and is about police brutality, white supremacy, and surrendering to the powers that be. It is absolutely wild and sad how the lyrics for this song sound like they could have written in 2020. MGK exhibits so much emotion in this performance that his feelings and energy are palpable. As he screams the lyrics, it is really easy to sense that he really means that he is saying. Travis Barker’s performance of this song is also so great and so badass. His performance gives the cover so much palpable energy as well. Travis Barker and Machine Gun Kelly are becoming a hell of a tag team, and this latest cover may be their best work together yet.