By Alana Riddle
Politics has always served as a driving force behind the music that comes to define an era. The U.S. is currently experiencing a time of political and social unrest. Before elected president, Donald Trump caused massive controversy with how he publicly addressed Latin American immigrants, women, and people with disabilities. Since taking office on January 20, 2017, President Trump has continued to fuel conflict both through policy and vigorous tweeting. The Muslim ban, the wall, and the threat of nuclear conflict with North Korea have been among some of the most controversial issues brought up during Trump’s presidency, although it seems there is a new source of outrage on a daily basis. We may not all agree on politics, but one thing is for certain: the Trump era has ushered in some great new music so far. While many artists have shared scathing songs that directly urge listeners to resist the Trump administration, like YG’s not-so-subtle song “FDT”, the majority of music coming out of the left’s resistance to Trump seems to be that of equality and opposition to intolerance.
Perhaps the most well-known protest song of the Trump era so far is “We The People…” by A Tribe Called Quest, which had a timely release in the week following the election. A Tribe Called Quest have always been political rappers, making their return after a long hiatus a refreshing surprise, but not entirely unexpected. “We The People…” touches on a number of issues directly tied to the 2016 election, including women’s rights, immigration, and what some perceive as the dumbing down of America. One of Trump’s executive orders titled “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States”, otherwise known as the Muslim ban, proposed suspending entry into the U.S. from seven Middle Eastern countries. The order was almost immediately met with protests and legal challenges, which led to President Trump instead issuing what he described as a “watered down, politically correct version” in an interview with the Los Angeles Times. The chorus of “We The People…” includes the lyrics “Muslims and gays, Boy, we hate your ways, So all you bad folks, you must go,” which serves as an ironic but blatant objection to what many considered to be a divisive and racist order.
Other songs have expressed a message more subtly, like Chicano Batman’s bilingual cover of Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land”. Los Angeles-based Chicano Batman is composed of four Latino men who have consistently produced politically fueled music for years before the Trump administration came into office, covering topics like police brutality against minorities and oppression of indigenous peoples. In an interview with SiriusXMU, lead singer Bardo Martinez explained that their cover of “This Land Is Your Land” was originally recorded several years ago, but that the band decided to release it on inauguration day as part of an ad campaign for the Scotch whisky brand Johnnie Walker. The band chose to add additional lyrics in the Spanish portion of the song that translate to “There’s no one that can stop me on the way to freedom. There’s no one who can make me go back, this land is made for you and me.” With all of the controversy surrounding race and immigration, including the Black Lives Matter movement, Trump’s proposed border wall between the U.S. and neighboring Mexico, and the previously discussed Muslim ban, the song’s familiar lyrics serve as a poignant reflection of the multitude of systemic challenges like these that are facing people of color.
In the nine months that have passed since Donald Trump was sworn into office, we have seen more national social and political conflict than many of us here at Texas State have witnessed in our lifetime. While the current zeitgeist is exhausting for some, it has undoubtedly acted as a driving force behind a surge in music, art, and cultural appreciation. For those who share that same dissatisfaction with the current political climate that has been expressed by A Tribe Called Quest, Chicano Batman, and other artists, national organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union and the American Immigration Council are putting their messages into motion through political activism and are always welcoming donations, volunteers, and curious minds.
Featured image composed by Alana Riddle.