Protest songs

Music to inspire the vote

The only good thing about Donald Trump is that he has made time slow down. As we get older, every year seems to pass more quickly than the last in the rush toward death. But the Trump regime has slowed all of that down and the year since the dark night when he was elected has felt as long as any since high school.

As in high school, this slow-moving but insanely intense sense of time has seemed to heighten the emotional impact of music. When a song rings right and seems to express the horror and angst that emanates from the world around you, it feels glorious.

This collection of songs comes from the music editors of more than 20 different papers. Since I was writing a column about the Trump regime for a number of alt-weeklies — and trying to find ways to take “alt” back from the Nazis — I ended up talking to a lot of editors and writers around the country. We thought if we could bring together the best protest songs from as many cities as possible, we might learn something about the state of dissent — while also finding some relief. — Baynard Woods

Cerebral Coretext, ‘Classy As Trump’, Eugene, Oregon

Brenden Lynch, also known as Cerebral Coretext, has been performing and releasing hip hop in Oregon and the Pacific Northwest for over 10 years. His most recent album, Polarities, includes the track “Classy As Trump.” Written and recorded during Trump’s campaign for office, the track acts as a sarcastic take on the prospect of Trump as a presidential candidate. Lynch says the song “was inspired by the sheer ludicrousness and strangeness of the presidential race.” Although Lynch doesn’t necessarily think that music can inspire political change, he says via email, “I believe music is a natural place to express/vent political pain and surely a powerful way to subvert politics that you don’t agree with. … It can challenge someone’s ideas before they have a chance to react with defensive mechanisms.” — Meerah Powell, Eugene Weekly

Priests, ‘Right Wing’, Washington, D.C.

There’s been no shortage of scathing political protest songs coming out of D.C. since, well, the birth of punk. But in recent years, post-punk quartet Priests has succeeded in reminding the rest of the country that D.C. is, and always has been, pissed the fuck off. “Right Wing,” off the band’s breakthrough EP Bodies and Control and Money and Power so perfectly captures the ass-backwardsness of living in a country controlled by capitalists, fascists, racists and war-mongers. “Everything everything / So right wing / Everything everything / So right wing / Purse searches, pep rallies / Purse searches, SUVs,” sings Katie Alice Greer. It reads like a short, poetic treatise on how the toxicity of right wing ideals infects everyday life.       — Matt Cohen, Washington City Paper

Trombone Shorty and Dumpstaphunk, ‘Justice’, New Orleans, Louisiana 

Trombone Shorty and Dumpstaphunk teamed up on a song called “Justice,” which they released on the day Donald Trump was inaugurated president. A melange of funk, jazz and New Orleans brass band sounds, the video for “Justice” slyly marries video footage of Trump against pointed lyrics. “Inauguration day seemed to be an appropriate time to voice the need for equal say and opportunity for all people,” said Dumpstaphunk’s Ivan Neville. “We entered a New Year with a lot of unanswered questions on the subject of ‘justice’ that we all felt a little uneasy about. But there’s only so much we can do and this track is our way of expressing our worries.” The song is available on most streaming services. — Kevin Allman, Gambit Weekly

OG Swaggerdick, ‘Fuck Donald Trump’, Boston, Massachusetts

Among diehard hip hop heads as well as artists, Boston’s underground rap scene is renowned as one of the most lyrically elaborate and intellectual anywhere. To that end, over the past year, such acts as STL GLD (Moe Pope + The Arcitype) and more recently The Perceptionists (Mr. Lif + Akrobatik) have released their most compelling works to date, largely inspired by the mess that Donald Trump has made (though not always naming-checking Dolt 45 directly). But when it comes to straight up protesting and verbally impaling the potty-mouthed POTUS, there’s something undeniably satisfying, even admirable about the Hub’s own OG Swaggerdick’s simple and straightforward election anthem, “Fuck Donald Trump.” From the fittingly filthy rhymes — “never give props to a punk ass trick / motherfuck Donald Trump he can suck my dick” — to the strangers on the street who gladly join the rapping in the video, they’re protest lyrics that you’ll still be able to remember and perhaps even rap for relief on occasions when the president leaves you otherwise speechless. — Chris Faraone, DigBoston

Lingua Franca, ‘A Man’s World’, Athens, Georgia

Shortly after Inauguration Day, two Athens studios invited 19 local bands to commemorate the dawn of the Trump Age, tracking 20 songs in a marathon 48-hour session. While much of the resulting album, Athens Vs. Trump Comp 2017, is suitably bleak, ascendant emcee Lingua Franca’s “A Man’s World” stands out for its sheer defiance. “Frenzied and indiscreet,” it’s a fiery feminist anthem for the resistance.
— Gabe Vodicka, Flagpole Magazine

Lonely Horse, ‘Devil in the White House’, San Antonio, Texas

Shots fired! Lonely Horse came out guns-a-blazing with the track “Devil in the White House.” Opening with a sludgy cadence that crescendos into a tumultuous rock n’ roll explosion, the “desert rock” duo of Nick Long and Travis Hild make very clear their feelings about the 45th POTUS. — Chris Conde, San Antonio Current

Thunderfist, ‘Suck It’ (demo), Salt Lake City, Utah

Sure, there are more articulate ways to denounce Trump. And revolution by example — countering blustery, bigoted bullshit with artfully composed, well-reasoned takedowns — is how we’ll effect change. That doesn’t mean we can’t occasionally vent our rage by strapping on Les Pauls, cranking up Marshalls, raising middle fingers and offering a blues-based, punk-rock invitation to fellatio, and maybe also, as the final, snarling chord slides into silence, calling Trump a “fat baby fuckface.”

— Randy Harward, Salt Lake City Weekly

Dooley, Lor Roger, and TLow, ‘CIT4DT’, Baltimore, Maryland

This Boosie-tinged The Donald diss from Baltimore that dropped long before inauguration still thrills: “Boy ain’t even white, you yellow / You said you’d date your own daughter you a sicko.” Stakes are high here too — the mastermind behind it, Dooley, is Muslim. For example: Right-wing semi-fascist snowflakes took the song totally seriously, denounced it as a “death threat” (“CIT4DT” stands for “chopper in the trunk for Donald Trump”), and bemoaned its Baltimore origins, where protest morphed into property damage and as far as a lot of us were concerned verged gloriously on revolution. Meanwhile, the trio responsible for it thought the shit was hilarious.  — Brandon Soderberg, Baltimore City Paper

Mal Jones, J. Blacco, Lost Firstborne, and DJ Shotgun, ‘CODE RED ‘Hands Up, Don’t Shoot’’, Jacksonville, Florida

Jones said, “We came up with this song after all of the recent acquittals in the cases related to the steadily rising murders of unarmed black men in the hands of law enforcement in America. We wanted to protest about this issue in the most affective way we know how. Through song. Hands up don’t shoot!”

“My inspiration for writing my verse was first the climate of events going on at the time. It was right after the Alton Sterling situation. When my man Lost Firstborne played the beat that’s just what the track was speaking to me. It had a haunting soulful vibe about it so once I heard it everything flowed rather easily,” added Blacco. — Claire Goforth, Folio Weekly

Clint Breeze and The Groove, “Blood Splatter”, Indianapolis, Indiana

Featuring over a dozen guest contributors, including poets, rappers and jazz musicians, Nappy Head weaves a phantasmagoric assemblage of words and sounds into a razor-sharp critique of racial oppression in modern America. “I wanted to symbolize the state of oppression that Black people experience every day. From not getting fair treatment in the justice system, to getting shot and killed by law enforcement, to being unfairly treated in the workforce — you name it. I wanted to make a statement on how we as Black people view this oppressive society that we live in. I also wanted to give a different perspective from white people. I have a couple of my friends who are white on the album speaking about the nature of white privilege,” Breeze says. “Blood Splatter” is the record’s most cutting track; featuring spoken word artist Too Black, with cascading cymbal cracks and careening sax. — Kyle Long and Katherine Coplen, NUVO News

The After Lashes, “We the Sheeple”, Coachella Valley, California

The After Lashes is a new all-female punk band from the Coachella Valley that features Ali Saenz, the wife of former Dwarves and Excel drummer Greg Saenz. Frontwoman Esther Sanchez explained the inspiration behind the band’s song “We the Sheeple.”

“’We the Sheeple’ was an easy song to write, because it came from a place of frustration and growing resentment toward the current powers that be, and, of course, more specifically, Donald Trump,” she said. “We have a president who calls anything he doesn’t like ‘fake news’ while simultaneously spending an insane amount of time tweeting nonsense and lies like a crazy person.”

“The policies he intends to establish are harmful to pretty much everyone who is not wealthy; unfortunately, so many who voted for him were unknowingly voting against their own best interests. The song is very much about uniting against a tyrant, because that is precisely what we believe Trump to be.” — Brian Blueskye, Coachella Valley Independent

Withdraw, “Disgust”, Columbia, South Carolina

On its 2017 debut EP Home, Columbia’s Withdraw oscillate violently between bristling, pedal-to-the floor emo (think At the Drive-In) and brutal, clawing crust punk. And on “Disgust,” the band proves the virtue of their versatility, shifting from an unflinchingly blackened hardcore blitz that bashes sexual abusers to a more expansive, anthemic coda that seeks to lift up the victims — “You are not tarnished!” It’s a potent statement, a searing declaration of allyship in a musical realm more often derided for problematic gender politics. — Jordan Lawrence, Free Times

NODON, “Alt-Wrong”, Burlington, Vermont

NODON are an anti-fascist, anti-hate power-punk duo born out of the 2016 presidential election. Seething with caustic epithets, their songs condemn xenophobia, sexism, homophobia, white supremacy and, above all, President Donald Trump. “Alt-Wrong,” from their 2017 EP, Covfefe, delivers a swift and vicious kick to the alt-right’s figurative crotch. Over razor-sharp guitar riffs and seething drums, they scream their battle cry: “Annihilate this hate! Not right! Alt-wrong!” — Jordan Adams, Seven Days

Rmllw2llz “So Amerikkkan”, Louisville, Kentucky

Nationwide, when you think of the Louisville music scene, your mind probably bounces to My Morning Jacket, Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy or maybe even White Reaper — all who are great — but our city’s hip-hop scene is packed with poignant hip-hop artists, and if you’re looking for a pure protest song, look no further than Rmllw2llz’s “So Amerikkkan,” where he says “Fuck Trump, he’s a bum and Hillary trash, too.” The song was released a few months ago, but, if you give it a listen, you can hear a lot of the country’s past, present and future angst packed into a few powerful minutes. — Scott Recker, Leo Weekly

Keith Morris, “What Happened to Your Party?”, Charlottesville, Virginia

Known to at least one of his fellow musicians as “our rockin’ protest grouch in chief,” Keith Morris has a slew of protest songs, such as “Psychopaths & Sycophants,” “Prejudiced & Blind” and “Brownsville Market” from his Dirty Gospel album, plus “Blind Man,” “Peaceful When You Sleep” and “Border Town” from Love Wounds & Mars. His latest release: “What Happened to Your Party?” — Erin O’Hare, C-VILLE Weekly