TEN BEST POLITICAL RAP SONGS YOU DON’T KNOW
“RENT MONEY” BY BAMBU
Filipino-American rapper Bambu hails from Watts, and his lyrics are relatable. One of the best parts: It features journalist-turned-emcee Rocky Rivera, whose songs are also peppered with political lyrics. “Rent Money” is just one of his songs celebrating crime as a means of survival for people in poverty, and suggests people fight back against police and “roll with the revolution/ take back your block,” as he says in “Pull it Back.” Also try: Otayo Dubb, Rocky Rivera.
“LIBERTAD” BY REBEL DIAZ
These Bronx-based brothers of Chileandescent regularly put out excellent songs, be they singles by Rodstarz (like Stop “Stop & Frisk” or “Free ‘Em All”) or entire albums. Their remake of “Which Side Are You On?” is among their most famous, and their latest single “Revolution Has Come” is equally impressive. Yet “Libertad” is my current favorite — it’s in Spanish and English — but don’t miss “Canto” either. Also try: Kalae All Day, YC the Cynic, La Tere.
“LA RAGE” BY KENY ARKANA
If you don’t speak French, watch the music video with subtitles on YouTube, filled with clips from The Fourth World War. “The rage, for this world does not suit us but feeds us with false dreams/ and Babylon grows fat and starves us to death,” she says. “Watch at the people’s rage/ seething with unrest from every corner of the world.” Even with no grasp on French, the song is clearly an anthem and her other tracks no less addictive. Also try: Soprano, MC Solaar.
“I’M BROWN” BY THE FOUNDATION MOVEMENT
This duo has countless great songs, including this one about Puerto Rican culture and pride. It isn’t as heavily political as other songs by this group from Boston, but is still stuffed with references to the Young Lords, Lolita Lebron and military bombing in Vieques (also listen to “Vieques: US Navy’s Got to Go”). Also try: Rebel Diaz, the Coup.
“EL KUFIYYEH” BY SHADIA MANSOUR
Railing against the commercialization and culture appropriation of the kufiyyeh, the Arab scarf that became a popular accessory in the US several years ago, Shadia Mansour commits herself to Arab people across national borders. Mansour collaborated with M1 of Dead Prez on this Arab pride anthem. Also try her song “Palestine” and DAM.
“EVERY LAST ONE” BY COMMON MARKET
No, not Common. The Seattle pair includes DJ Sabzi, who is half of the Blue Scholars. “When the last shot’s fired at the empire/ who shall emerge from the dust?/ Every last one of us!” the song declares. Common Market reached acclaim by winning the 8th annual Independent Music Awards for rap/hiphop album. It’s slower than most of the tracks on this list, but is reflective of their style in general. Also try: Blue Scholars, Little Brother.
“WHO SHOT 2PAC” BY KING LIL G
LA rapper Lil G addresses immigration, the police, racism and poverty between choruses repeating the song’s title. Using 2Pac’s line, “They don’t give a f*ck about us,” he continues, “Deporting all the immigrants./ We don’t get no love/ even with a black president.” The artist is releasing his next mix tape on Feb. 7. Also try: Bibg Swiisha, Lil Boosie.
“LET FREEDOM RING” BY GRIME
The name says it all: Grime stands for Got Revolution In My Eyes. The title track off this album from this artist out of the Southwest is among the better — and more political — tracks. “Capitalism can’t survive unless people are hungry,” he says. “So we support the world’s most brutal thugs that murder their people and call it the War on Drugs.” From what I can tell, Grime isn’t around these days. Also try: Kon Radio, Akir.
“BORN HERE” BY DAM
“I broke the law?/ No, the law broke me,” one of the members of DAM, or Da Arab MC’s, raps. Featured in the film Slingshot Hip-Hop, this Palestinian hip-hop group is most well known for “Born Here” and “Who’s the Terrorist?” which asks “How am I the terrorist when you’ve taken my land?” Also try: Lowkey.
“PEACE TREATY” BY KAM
This throwback is about the 1992 Bloods-Crips peace treaty and Rodney King riots in Los Angeles. “We used to jack from the rich and give to the needy/ but now it’s a peace treaty,” Kam says, among other memorable lines like this one at the end: “More than ever/ black people have to stick together./ I just hope it don’t cease/ for the sake of all the homies/ that’s resting in peace.” Also try: KRS One.