by Yardena Carmi
5 Important Songs for Social Change
We The People – A Tribe Called Quest
“All you Black folks, you must go
All you Mexicans, you must go
And all you poor folks, you must go
Muslims and gays
Boy, we hate your ways”
Released just a few days after election day, “We The People” and the rest of A Tribe Called Quest’s album, “We Got it from Here…Thank You 4 Your Service” outlines the worst aspects of the recent election season. It tackles racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia, biased news reporting, entitlement, and grief. By referencing the Constitution, “We the People” highlights the injustices built into our society and the need for reform.
If you like this, try: Sweatpants – Childish Gambino
My Generation – The Who
“People try to put us down…
just because we get around”
Sick of the #olds trash-talking Millennials? Back in My Day we really knew how to rebel. The Who released “My Generation” in 1965, highlighting the feelings of disenfranchised youth dealing with the criticism and dismissal of an older generation that did not understand them. The changed, post-WWII world created one of the biggest generational gaps between parents and children, the cultural expansion and personal liberation of the sixties, and young rebellion as we know it.
If you like this, try: Gloria – Patti Smith
Ohio – Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young (see more of Neil Young’s catalog for nature-themed protest songs)
In 1970, the Ohio National Guard opened fire on students protesting the Vietnam War at Kent State University, killing four and injuring nine more. The student-led protests had begun the day after the USA’s invasion of Cambodia. On the fourth day, the protesters were ordered to disperse and refused. When the students began throwing rocks, some members of the Guard fired into the crowd. Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young quickly released their song condemning the shooting, which rapidly climbed the charts.
If you like this, try: Down to the Wire – Neil Young
Alright – Kendrick Lamar
“I’m at the preacher’s door
My knees gettin’ weak, and my gun might blow
But we gon’ be alright”
Released in 2015, this song from Kendrick Lamar’s hit album described the black experience in America as reports of police brutality began gaining more visibility. It was adopted by the Black Lives Matter as a rallying cry and is often sung at protests. Lamar himself attracted criticism for the political nature of the lyrics, which he responded to on his next album.
If you like this, try: DNA. – Kendrick Lamar
Paper Planes – M.I.A.
“I fly like paper, get high like planes
If you catch me at the border I got visas in my name
If you come around here, I make ’em all day
I get one down in a second if you wait”
In this 2007 song by Maya Arulpragasm, also known as M.I.A., issues of immigration and stereotypes surrounding it are punctuated with gunshots and cash registers, as well as a sample from punk rock band the Clash. Purportedly about her troubles with getting visas while traveling, a lot of the song, and the artist’s often controversial actions are up for interpretation. However, in our present-day world, narratives about immigration are more important than ever.
If you like this, try: Make America Great Again – P***y Riot
Google Play Lyrics