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The Unapologetic Political Rap Songs That Defined A President’s Term
The Unapologetic Political Rap Songs That Defined A President’s Term
Source: YouTube

The Unapologetic Political Rap Songs That Defined A President’s Term

Lenny Kravitz, Grace Jones, Lauryn Hill, Lion Babe, Thundercat, SZA & More Rock The Afropunk Festival 2015 in Brooklyn, NY. Source: YouTube

Before we start another year with you-know-who in charge, Yoh Phillips breaks down the don't-give-a-funk rap songs that defined American leaders from Reagan to Obama.

“The victim who is able to articulate the situation of the victim has ceased to be a victim: he or she has become a threat.” — James Baldwin

“Fuck” is vulgar, derogatory. A forbidden language in the public spaces of politicians and presidents. It is also powerful and electrifying. A piercing language used in the public spaces of rappers and rap beef. Political correctness was not considered in the least when YG rapped, “Fuck Donald Trump”. Those three words merged the forbidden and the piercing. He said them with no agenda attached and without worry of FBI investigation or any fear-inducing repercussions. It was pure—the outrage of a man who heard all he could from a hate spewing xenophobe and responded with an erect middle finger and the promise to combat antipathy with brotherhood.

Unity was born from the shared contempt that YG and Nipsey Hussle conveyed of the then-Republican presidential candidate. Brotherhood and sisterhood are felt in rooms whenever “FDT” plays, which has become the unofficial-official anthem of a separate nation of Americans who kneel with [Colin] Kaepernick and stand against Trump’s delusional vision of #MAGA and the reality of America’s unsolved societal issues. Other rappers in the game have spoken out about injustice and The Donald, but only YG and Nipsey—two West Coast rappers—gave us a song to channel our angst into. An expressive motif to sing and dance against the campaign, election, and all the travesties that have taken place during Trump’s reign as Commander-in-Chief.

Hip-hop was first called the “CNN of the Ghetto” by Public Enemy’s Chuck D, a perfect analogy of how the culture is meant to communicate with the disenfranchised and marginalized communities unrepresented. The rapper is the reporter, a vessel capable of speaking to and for the hood and its inhabitants. YG fulfilled his role within the culture’s long legacy of a rapper challenging the establishment by plainly stating what no politician or reputable journalist will say. Sure, it wasn’t the most eloquent, nor did the song extensively explain all the evils that would come with a Trump presidency, but, ultimately, YG unleashed a spirit bomb that collectively shared how many of us felt during Trump’s campaign.

Fuck him.

All that to say that throughout each presidency within these United States of America since the election of Ronald Reagan and the birth of hip-hop — rappers have spoken with a truthful tongue and abandoned political correctness for transparent vigor. Songs inspired throughout the decades were born by their resentment and distaste of the men who entered and exited the house James Hoban built. @Okayplayer has found these musical entries that are political and are not coated in sugar to share with you all, to keep the fight alive.

By allowing the music to have a message that embodies the raw thoughts, feelings and emotions of a people who couldn’t stand on a podium and speak against the wrongs they see — these rappers, at their best, carry the words we all wish would be said by those in a place of power.

As more break out to do champion the fight against intolerance, injustice and ignorance, the rapper will continue to be unapologetic curators of the soundtrack to each president’s term and America’s most brutal critic.


Lenny Kravitz, Grace Jones, Lauryn Hill, Lion Babe, Thundercat, SZA & More Rock The Afropunk Festival 2015 in Brooklyn, NY. Source: YouTube

Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five — “The Message”

The de facto song during President Ronald Reagan first term, which took place from 1981 to 1985, “The Message” summed up what life was like for the impoverished American citizen in the Crack Era eighties. For Melle Mel, specifically, the edge was near for him when Reagan was elected United States president.

On “The Message,” he paints a vivid picture of the poverty-stricken surroundings engulfing him, conditions that would add anvil size pressure to any man’s sanity. America wasn’t appointed blame, but “The Message” served as the awakening of an MC and a culture that would view the Reagan Administration as an enemy against the black community.

“The Message” is also regarded as the lyrical bulldozer that knocked down hip-hop’s party house and encouraged fellow MCs to speak from a more socially conscious perspective. A classic track that is timeless, forever.

Honorable Mention:Kurtis Blow - “The Breaks”


The Unapologetic Political Rap Songs That Defined A President\u2019s Term Source: YouTube

Public Enemy - “Fight The Power”

Despite “The Message” showing us the broken state of mind of America’s downtrodden, Reagan won a second term, which lasted from 1985 to 1989. It was then when the actor-turned-politician ran into a lyrical landmine in the form of Chuck D. Public Enemy’s “Fight The Power,” along with N.W.A.’s “Fuck tha Police” are interchangeable when regarding the song that best captures The Gipper’s second presidential term and the state of America’s ongoing struggle with police brutality.

The two would take different paths to articulate defiance against the abuse of power that police continue to exercise against black and minority citizens. Instead of a middle finger, Public Enemy would raise a black fist in protest. While “Fuck tha Police” is equally as timeless as “Fight The Power,” upon release the latter conquered the world and has continued to be a glowing example of protest music that keeps the fire burning in the heart of protesters still invested in fighting the good fight.

Honorable Mention: N.W.A. - “Fuck tha Police”

Lenny Kravitz, Grace Jones, Lauryn Hill, Lion Babe, Thundercat, SZA & More Rock The Afropunk Festival 2015 in Brooklyn, NY. Source: YouTube

Ice-T — “Cop Killer”

Before Law & Order: SVU gave Ice-T a badge to act as a cop, a much younger Ice-T recorded the radical “Cop Killer” during President George H.W. Bush’s first term. Created to vent his frustrations against police brutality, America reacted as if he actually committed the act he illustrated throughout “Cop Killer”. Even President Bush acknowledged the song with negative disdain in a public speech.

“Cop Killer,” which was recorded in 1990, performed in 1991, and released the following year, all took place during the time of Rodney King and the L.A. riots. By the time the song was in the world, emotions were extremely high and there was fear present that even a fictional song could erupt a sleeping volcano. President Bush and his fellow politicians were shooketh, as the kids say.

Honorable Mention: 2Pac — “Holla If Ya’ Hear Me”


Lenny Kravitz, Grace Jones, Lauryn Hill, Lion Babe, Thundercat, SZA & More Rock The Afropunk Festival 2015 in Brooklyn, NY. Source: YouTube

KRS-One — “Sound of da Police”

Woop-woop! Those were the first sounds you heard on KRS-One’s “Sound of da Police” cut, which was certainly unforgettable. A cop siren straight from the bowels of hell.

Bearing the torch of N.W.A. and Ice-T, the South Bronx’s champion was up next to be a harsh critic of those who are meant to protect and serve. An intense backdrop to prison reforms taking place during President Bill Clinton’s first term (1993 to 1997) — “super-predators,” private prisons and the then-forthcoming Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act (“Three Strikes Law”) had everyone’s head on a swivel.

KRS said it best comparing the sound of police to the sound of “The Beast,” an evil, hellish creature that was on the hunt. In this case, the hunt for black-and-brown people to lock behind bars. The final question, KRS-One, a hip-hop legend if there ever was one, asks at the end of verse two of “Sound of da Police” is still relevant: when will it stop?

Honorable Mentions:Goodie Mob — “Cell Therapy” | Nas — “If I Ruled The World”


Lenny Kravitz, Grace Jones, Lauryn Hill, Lion Babe, Thundercat, SZA & More Rock The Afropunk Festival 2015 in Brooklyn, NY. Source: YouTube

2Pac — “Changes”

During Bill Clinton’s second term, which began in 1997 and ended in 2001, there was an artist who surpassed expectations and shone to be brighter than hoped for. 2Pac (aka Tupac Amaru Shakur) wasn’t perfect and was far from pure, but he had an unwavering optimism when it came to promoting positive hope for the black community.

He didn’t live to see the release of “Changes,” but the posthumous release is one of his most notable entries in his discography. He touched upon everything from institutional racism to our worship of the dollar on “Changes”. It was a song about being black in America, hoping to see changes in the community and within the world. Progress has been made since then, yes, but if ‘Pac was here, he would have encouraged us all to keep pushing toward change.

Despite his own visions of his ending, ‘Pac wasn’t a seer. He believed in who we could be tomorrow, and that’s a helluva lot more than I could say for Mr. Bill Clinton.


The Unapologetic Political Rap Songs That Defined A President\u2019s Term Source: YouTube

Eminem — “Mosh”

At first, I considered selecting Jadakiss’ “Why?” solely for the, “Why did Bush have to knock down the towers?” line. But the lyric doesn’t carry the same weight as Eminem’s entire “Mosh”. Making politically charged music wasn’t new to Marshall Mathers, as he has habitually used his voice to speak against the system. Most recently, in a scathing, vitriolic freestyle directed to our current Cheeto-and-Thief, Donald Trump.

“Mosh” is one of his most outspoken cuts, rebelling against the son of George H.W. Bush, President George W. Bush (2001 - 2005), and the declaration of war against Iraq and the “War On Terror” in the Middle East. It was a bold song to make, as the World Trade Towers falling had left many Americans with mixed feelings about the war.

But not Eminem.

Slim Shady took a stance against the president and attempted to spark similar feelings in those of the millions who listen to him.

Honorable Mentions: Jadakiss — “Why” | Eminem — “White America” | Kanye West — “All Falls Down” | Talib Kweli — “Get By”


The Unapologetic Political Rap Songs That Defined A President\u2019s Term Source: YouTube

Lil Wayne — “Georgia Bush”

“George Bush doesn’t care about black people,” is still, to date, the biggest hip-hop moment of President George W. Bush’s entire presidency. It will forever be cemented in history as a timeless event that occurred after the Hurricane Katrina tragedy during Bush’s second term (2005 - 2009). Sadly, what is often overlooked is Lil Wayne’s dedication to Bush that appeared as the final song on his Dedication 2 mixtape.

Over Field Mob’s “Georgia,” Wayne released a scathing post-Katrina attack against George W. Bush, who he accuses as playing a part in the failing of New Orleans’ levees. It was not about convincing people of the InfoWars-esque conspiracies, but more about Wayne showing love to the Crescent City’s resiliency, riding for those affected by such disaster and pointing fault directly at those in power who failed the people in their time of need.

Honorable Mention:Immortal Technique — “Bin Laden” | Kanye West — “Heard ‘Em Say,” “Crack Music,” “Diamond From Sierra Leone” | Jay-Z — “Minority Report” | Lil Wayne — “Tie My Hands | Ice Cube — “Gangsta Rap Made Me Do It” | Killer Mike& Ice Cube — “Pressure”


Lenny Kravitz, Grace Jones, Lauryn Hill, Lion Babe, Thundercat, SZA & More Rock The Afropunk Festival 2015 in Brooklyn, NY. Source: YouTube

Young Jeezy ft. Nas & Jay-Z — “My President”

Do you remember where you were when this song rang out of the speakers to commemorate President Barack Obama’s first term? Hell, Young Jeezy’s Lambo being blue actually had nothing to do with the former Chicago senator, but it rhymed with “My President Is Black,” and that’s what we clung so dearly onto. Before anyone else could put the words together, Jeezy threw Barack’s inaugural victory song into the universe, crowning him the world’s true first black president in U.S. history.

“My President” became an unofficial-official song of the Obama campaign and then the song of his victory. Jeezy wasn’t running the race alongside President Obama, but he scored the moment he crossed the finish line perfectly. May history never forget that The Snowman and the first black president are forever intertwined.

Honorable Mention:Ab-Soul ft. Jhené Aiko & Danny Brown — “Terrorist Threats”


Lenny Kravitz, Grace Jones, Lauryn Hill, Lion Babe, Thundercat, SZA & More Rock The Afropunk Festival 2015 in Brooklyn, NY. Source: YouTube

Kendrick Lamar — “Alright”

When Obama won office, he promised us change and change did come. Regretfully, many things also stayed the same. During the president’s second term (2013 - 2017), most notably his last years, Obama felt the pain of losing young men and women like Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Sandra Bland and Philando Castile. Black faces were being taken off this planet and murdered without any justice by those who wore the badges of those meant to “protect and serve”.

Obama was leaving office with a country still plagued by the ghost of Jim Crow, and his successor would only add to the nightmare. Enter: Kendrick Lamar. He didn’t promise us change at all, but he did whisper to us to persevere and that through that effort, we would be alright. Naive as it may sound, Kendrick’s anthem sparked the masses. It felt like warm soup, nourishing the soul during the coldest day of winter.

He gave us a song to revive hope, to keep spirits high, and it was most needed f0r all the days to come.


Lenny Kravitz, Grace Jones, Lauryn Hill, Lion Babe, Thundercat, SZA & More Rock The Afropunk Festival 2015 in Brooklyn, NY. Source: YouTube

YG ft. Nipsey Hussle — “Fuck Donald Trump”

The anthem to end all political anthems. “FDT” was and is a song for the people. A reminder that we as a nation will never stop fighting against ignorance, injustice and immorality—together. Preaching the gospel of loving your brother, loving your sister, and never, ever stop waving your middle finger toward #45 until he is removed from the White House and placed where he belongs—a dingy, dank, dark jail cell.

Honorable Mentions:A Tribe Called Quest — “We The People” | Dreezy — “Spar” | Kendrick Lamar — “XXX” | Vince Staples — “Bagbak” | Joey Bada$$ — “Land Of The Free

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Yoh Phillips is an Atlanta-based writer whose work has been featured on DJBooth and Mass Appeal. Follow him @Yoh31 on Twitter.