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Music’s never not been politicized. It’s one of the easiest ways to spread ideas into the mainstream, and in an age when most have access to seemingly infinite numbers of songs, music is an effective carrier.

In light of recent events, I’ve compiled a playlist of some politically-charged songs that I like. Some of them are calls-to-arms, and some of them are harrowing testimonies, but each song is powerful and relevant.

 

1. Bloc Party- Kettling

Frontman Kele Okereke penned this track about the 2010 student protests in London which occurred as a result of a proposed rise in tuition fees. Though its inspiration is specific, the song’s message is that of widespread revolution.

 

2. M.I.A- Born Free

The story behind this song is pretty terrifying. M.I.A grew up in Sri Lanka, where her father became a subject of political persecution, the government going so far as to beat her mother in front of her. The family (sans father) eventually fled to England, but M.I.A retains a deep connection to Sri Lankan politics.

 

3. Kanye West- New Slaves

I think this one is pretty self-explanatory.

 

4. Sonic Youth- Swimsuit Issue

Kim Gordon has the greatest snarl of all time. In “Swimsuit Issue,” she sings about sexual harassment and assault in the workplace, as well as the general sexualization of women- at the end of the song, she names each of the models on the year’s swimsuit issue.

 

5. The Roots- Don’t Feel Right

My favorite lyric from this song is “Ill, but that’d be too real for TV/ It’s crazy when you too real to be free.”  I can’t help but be struck by how relevant it is. I remember seeing a political cartoon about Ferguson the other day- a protester on the ground saying “don’t shoot!” to a cop, and the cop in turn saying “don’t shoot!” to a reporter.

 

6. The Clash- Washington Bullets

The Clash is pretty much the most political band of all time, so it was hard to pick one song. The title sold me on this one.

 

7. Nas- If I Ruled the World (Imagine That)

This is a classic. Nas’s ideal future is built on racial equality, fair government procedures, and a higher overall quality of life. He has some more radical ideas too, such as abolishing political imprisonment, but in general, he describes a world most people would want.

 

8. Lou Reed- Dirty Blvd.

Lou Reed refers to the Statue of Liberty as the “Statue of Bigotry” on this sad, bitter track about poverty and police brutality (hmmmmmm.)

 

9. Destiny’s Child- Independent Women Part I

Ending the playlist on an uplifting note, the iconic female-empowerment anthem of the 2000s which would only be the start of Beyonce’s incorporation of feminism in music. (See also: ***Flawless, or, even better, ***Flawless (Remix) ft. Nicki Minaj.)

 

Listen to the playlist here. Let me know in the comments what you’d add!

 

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