Politics in Music

By Catalina Benavides

It can be said that politics has divided this country and created an environment that reminds us daily of the true nature of this nation and its many issues. Music and the talents of artists, from all across the country, have been able to bring to our attention the issues of the nation by using music to inspire an audience, to educate them in the political reality of this country, and motivate them to fight for change. Modernization, a fight that has been ongoing for decades, has allowed us to have easier access to music that addresses issues of racism and discrimination.The music is also influenced by not only current events but the history behind the issues it highlights.
Police brutality and racial profiling are issues the Black community has been subjected to since their supposed freedom from slavery after 1865. However, a modern slavery has come to control the lives of Black individuals. The white power structure continues to abuse minorities and uses fear as a tactic to subjugate those “below” it in any socio,economic, political manner. Falling victim to this abuse, rap group N.W.A and rapper J. Cole call attention to these two issues in their music.
Police brutality and the frustration against L.A cops, in particular, was heard around the country in the 1988 hit  by N.W.A’s “F The Police.” N.W.A’s “F The Police” was a protest song against the racial profiling and police brutality that they faced in the city of Compton. The song encourages needed violence to defend yourself against cops.  N.W.A rapper Ice Cube’s line “A young nigga got it bad cause I’m brown/ and not the other color/ so police think they have the authority to kill a minority” shows us how empowered and villainous the cops have become towards any race that is not theirs. Police officers feel like they are invincible and kill without consequence. After the song’s release, the FBI reported that the song encourages violence against cops and incites riots. An overall disrespect for the law enforcement officers is also heard in the relentless chorus shouting “F the police,” according to the FBI.  Racial profiling and unjust stereotyping continue to fuel the frustration of Black people in this country as rapper J.Cole almost echos N.W.A’s message thirty years later. J. Cole’s “Neighbors” raps “I can’t sleep because I’m paranoid/ Black in a white territory/ Cops bust in with the army guns/No evidence of the harm we done.” The need to assume certain things about certain races, like one is a drug dealer because they are black and have a nice house, as is the case in the song, is ridiculous and offensive. The fact that Black people, now and then, live in fear and paranoia for their safety, even in their own neighborhoods, shows us how behind we are as a society.
“4 Your Eyez Only” by J. Cole reflects on a unique concept that segregation might have been more beneficial to the Black race when he raps “I dedicated these words to you and all the other children/ affected by the mass incarceration in this nation/ that sent your pops to prison/ when he needed education/Sometimes I think that segregation woulda done us better.” J. Cole suggests that perhaps the segregation would have allowed white and black people to succeed in their own areas without interference of one another respectfully. He makes listeners question if this could have been a more peaceful solution. A later line in this song goes “This crooked ass system set for me. And now I fear it’s too late for me to ever be the one that sets examples that was never set for me.” J.Cole reminds us that the justice system in this country is designed to work against us, not for us, if we are someone of color. The brokenness of the justice system was something we witnessed before our eyes recently with rapper Meek Mill’s incarceration in Pennsylvania due to a probation violation that involved riding a dirt bike, which violated his ten year probation. This justice system judges not based on what is right or wrong. Color and race are used as the means to judge. As a nation, how much longer can we allow race to divide us?
Let us continue to use music to educate and inform one another. Let us continue to share the stories of victims through rhyme and rhythm. Let’s  not allow politics or fear to sensor our expression of the abuses we live through or see others experience. We are more than a color, we are a voice that we can use to fight back. We will not be silenced. So write, rap, sing and play your music as loud as you want and let those stories be heard.

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Politics’ Role in the Arts

October 11, 2018

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