Music, the human portal of expressing happiness, discontent, fantasy, love ect. For centuries it has been used to express political discontent and motivate change. For a long time, mainstream music has censored the types of songs that address hard topics in fear of sparking debates and uprising, but what type of art form isn’t meant to make you think? With the rise of freedom of speech and impact of social media, it has become a lot harder to hide the waves of political outcry. And with the recent/ continuous events that rock the world, it forces us to put our experiences into perspective. I believe that one of the core roles of music is to make us conscious of our collective reality.
The visionaries of the past:
There are are couple of artists that have been overtly political in their music, though despite their fame this aspect has been overlooked. For example, an icon like Bob Marley despite being an activist for the economically and physically oppressed is not remembered for this same reason. Another influential Nigerian musician, Fela, was persecuted for being outspoken in his views against the government which was a pillar for greed, corruption and violence.. In both examples these artists strove to make a change in a corrupt world, but their image and message were skewed after their deaths. However, we shouldn’t forget the impact these visionaries had, here’s to remembering their message.
Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery
We’ve got to fulfil the bookBob Marley
‘Redemption song’ is about the hidden power the individual who is at the bottom of society has, once they become fully aware of the social forces against them. The first line refers to the fact that in order to reach political emancipation you must first achieve mental emancipation, Bob Marley challenges us to think critically about class and the untapped strength we have within us.
Who steal your bleaching?
Your precious bleaching?Fela Kuti
‘Yellow fever’ speaks on the epidemic of skin lightening in Nigeria and the diaspora, an issue still prevalent today, stemming from a post-colonial mentality, Fela addresses the taboo with satire but underneath, the message is to embrace blackness fully.
Visionaries of the future
In this day and age we have a lot more vocal artists who produce songs that speak on today’s issues. There is a conscious awareness all around the globe from the big voices, to the smaller ones at the back, all whose messages speak loudly to our generation. Topics such as money, class, race, unjust laws against the vulnerable and violence are the few issues touched on below.
M.I.A – Paper planes
All I wanna do is take your money
M.I.A isn’t shy of using her political voice and ‘Paper planes’ one of her earliest songs satirically makes fun of the opinion of immigrants in countries like UK, Australia, USA and so on. M.I.A plays on typical stereotypes associated with immigrants alluding to the idea ‘they’re taking our jobs’ and draining the system coming in on ‘fake visas’. But watching the visuals, we see the struggle regular hard working immigrants face on a day to day basis, just to build a wholesome life.
MANIC MC – Muckiest
They’re tapping up our phones just to listen to our secrets.
MANIC MC is quite an underrated London rapper, there is a strong anti-establishment message in his COLORS performance, which again speaks on how to not be drawn into a life of crime and misery, and instead remain untapped in a society that unconsciously governs behaviour.
Akala – Fire in the Booth
Call it my intution internal guide, I’m that you get’em too but you ignore
Akala is one forceful political voice of our time, yet still unknown by many. His lyricism and delivery is truly unique and in this Fire in the Booth performance he spits pure facts drops he speaks on a range of issues blending personal experience and history together, always remaining insightful.
Miguel – Now
We will fall for standing and watching
‘Now’ speaks on the inside view on detention centres in America where many immigrants are held in violation of their human rights. The treatment of people inside detention centres has always been contested and Miguel shows the inhumanity of the ‘free world’ and reinforces the fact that immigrants shouldn’t be treated as second class citizens.
BMike – Story of Erica
‘The Story of Erica’ is told not only by the lyrics but by music video which is shot like a short story. It follows the life of a woman who becomes an escort, engrossed in the hedonistic life solely based on money, sex and social status , this sort of thing may seem common in mainstream hip hop songs but B Mike goes deeper and at 3:21 the song actually highlights the impact of child and domestic abuse, it is a sad portrayal of the trapping cycle of abuse, but brings awareness to a devastating reality true in many people’s lives.