Maybe it’s just us, but it seems like the Trump family are doing a fine job pitching civil rights, international diplomacy and economic stability into the crapper, continuing the work the Bush family did earlier this century. Then again, think of all the great music their presidencies have inspired. Recorded both pre- and post- 9/11, here are some protest songs you won’t find in any Republican White House—though we’re fairly confident they’ve certainly made more than a few blacklists.
1. Bad Religion – “Chaos From Within”
Forget emo dudes who wear their hearts on their sleeves: Long-running, straight-talking punk icons Bad Religion wear their brains on theirs. This song can be found on their recently released 17th record, Age Of Unreason, and it succinctly details the malaise happening in America today from partisan news outlets to social media. “Threat is urgent/Existential/Omnipresent like a skin/But the danger’s purely mental/It’s chaos from within.” Wonder how many scales Tucker Carlson might lose listening to it…
2. Rage Against The Machine – “Guerrilla Radio”
Next time you’re shredding Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 to Rage Against The Machine’s bomb track “Guerrilla Radio,” pay attention to the lyrics: This protest song doesn’t just call out George W. Bush as “the son of a drug lord;” it delivers beatdowns to Al Gore, the police, the FBI, Mumia Abu-Jamal’s jury and the entire two-party system. And you thought rap-rock under Clinton was all empty gestures and backstage sluts.
3. Geto Boys – “Fuck A War”
“Mind Playing Tricks On Me” may’ve gotten these gangstas from Houston’s 5th Ward into MTV rotation, but it was We Can’t Be Stopped’s ninth track, “Fuck A War,” that made the real impact during the elder Bush’s war with Iraq. Though it isn’t always clear which side of the button he’s on, Bushwick Bill makes it known that he and the Boys “ain’t fightin’ behind no goddamn oil/Against motherfuckers I don’t know/Yo, Bush! I ain’t your damn ho!”
4. The Fartz – “What Do You Stand For?”
These Seattle punks may be famous for lending members to Guns N’ Roses and the Accüsed, but their infamy comes from discs such as Injustice. Armed with just noise and oversimplification, the Fartz stuck it to Bush II and the system he represents. The back cover is a 9/11 memorial; however, since it reminds us we’re all just “victims of our collective leaders’ ongoing stupidity and inability just to get along,” we’d imagine it’s not hanging in the Pentagon.
5. The Casualties – “Borders”
There’s really not a whole lot of nuance with the sentiment “Fuck your president/Fuck your wall/Fuck your border/Fuck you all.” But then again, NYC street punks the Casualties were never known for their obliqueness. Armed with statistics about migrant people and refugees coming to America, the band aren’t backing down from their stance with this protest song in a world that allows today’s concentration camps to be rebranded as “detention centers.”
6. Paris – “Bush Killa”
Public Enemy’s Chuck D serves as an executive producer on Louder Than A Bomb, a comp celebrating 20 years of revolutionary thought in hip-hop. From PE to X-Clan to YZ, every track’s killer—literally in the case of Paris’ “Bush Killa,” which, though it character-assassinates W’s pappy, has nothing on the MC’s 2003 album, Sonic Jihad. The cover art for that one features an airliner headed for a collision with the White House. Rock this funky joint, indeed.
7. Billy Bragg – “The Times They Are A-Changin’ Back”
Before there was Frank Turner, there was Billy Bragg, the British singer- songwriter whose leftist politics helped define the ’80s U.K. indie scene. If there was any question of Bragg’s relevance 40 years later, this update of one of Bob Dylan’s classic songs should end that discussion. “Come Mexicans, Muslims, LGBT and Jews/Keep your eyes wide for what’s on the news/For President Trump is expressing his views/And I fear the mob that he’s inciting will soon break your windows, burn down your schools/For the times they are a-changing back.” Leave it to the old school to draw the lines in the sand.
8. Choking Victim – “Fuck America”
Welcome to Choking Victim’s squat, where the stereo blasts Op Ivy and Dark Funeral, and the walls are stenciled with Crass logos. With its crusty ska-punk blazing at Warped speed, No Gods / No Managers is the peppiest anti-capitalist statement ever made. Who could’ve predicted that, two years after it was recorded, this line from “Fuck America” would reveal Choking Victim’s darker side: “The Trade Center is bombed and the FBI is pissed/So they act the good Americans, blaming Muslim ‘terrorists.’”
9. Jello Biafra – “Die For Oil, Sucker”
“Die for oil, sucker…sucker…sucker.” Pedantic as these lines seem in hindsight, they were a left-wing rallying cry during Bush Sr.’s Iraqi invasion. Now that foreign policy is repeating itself, notice Jello Biafra’s third spoken-word album to see how little’s changed in the anti-war movement. Turns out “Die For Oil, Sucker” has aged well—though we’re guessing Biafra’s riff on the “Pledge Of Allegiance” isn’t much of a hit post-9/11.
10. A Tribe Called Quest – “We The People….”
“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/So all you bad folks, you must go.” The hip-hop avatars weren’t fucking around on their final album when they seemingly summarized the party line from a man in the Oval Office who said that “You also had some very fine people on both sides” during the Charlottesville, Virginia, riot that left one woman (Heather Heyer) dead. It’s not like the Tribe would ever want a White House invite, anyway…