Sunday, September 23, 2007

What happened to protest music?

You don't give money to the bums
On the corner with a sign, bleeding from their gums
Talking about you don't support a crackhead
What you think happens to the money from yo' taxes
Shit the governments an addict
With a billion dollar a week kill brown people habit

-Brother Ali


What happened to artist who looked at the U.S. and said this place is fucked up? I listen to a lot of different music, but I hear no one saying that we have a fucked up nation. Well, I hear underground hip hop artists pointing out these facts. Artists like Brother Ali, Immortal Technique, Talib Kweli, Maroons, Atmosphere, Aesop Rock all point out the hypocrisy in our world and the way this place is fucked up and yet they get no play time on major radio. They are not even well known within the hip hop community. The Dixie Chicks tried to put out some music that protested the war and what was going on, but country radio wouldn't play it, no surprise there and I like country music, but they are just conservative political music i.e. Toby Keith. The rock/pop stations did not seem to pick up much of it either, we here in the left applaud their efforts but how many of us actually went out and bought the album. I should also point out Billy Bragg here as he is amazing, but again not being played on the radio or at least not that I have heard. Even though I was not born in the sixties, I have the feeling that there was more openness to allow musicians to talk about the hard issues in that time period. I can refer to artists such as Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Simon and Garfunkle among many others who pointed out the fact that the war in Vietnam was wrong and not just in their songs, they talked about it in other venues as well. Music these days seems to be either all about the "bling" in other words money, emo rock of bands like The Shins or The Decmeberists (I point out these two bands because I really like both of them) or country radio is well country radio. I would say I miss a time when music was more on the edge of society, but since I was not alive when this occurred, I wish the music would be more of a reflection of the realities of what is going on. I wish more artists and radio stations would play music that said hey this war is fucked up and we need to bring the soldiers home. I wish more artists and radio station would play music that looks at the growing economic disparities in the U.S. and tried to do something about it. Music is supposed to be fun sometimes, it is how we can relax, but it also has a responsibility too. It has the responsibility just like all mass media, in my opinion, of showing us the hard things, of pointing out that things are not easy all the time. We have wars, hurricanes and the illusion that everyone is rich and needs diamonds and big SUVs that is perpetuated by the musicians of today is annoying and false.

I could be listening to the wrong musicians or the wrong music stations. I don't really listen to rock stations anymore as I find them to be annoying and all rock music to sound the same anymore, to me at least. If I am listening to the radio it is country radio or NPR. I listen to a lot of underground hip hop, some rock bands like And your will know..., A Perfect Circle, or early 2000s rock like Linkin Park, bluegrass like Nickel Creek or Alison Krauss, or indie rock like the The Shins or Bright Eyes, all on my iPod. My point is mentioning what I listen to is that I don't listen to just one type of music and yet I cannot find many artists who are really great at pointing out the fucked up nature of our nation.

1 comment:

Adam said...

You are not listening to the wrong stations because, essentially, most radio stations are the same (owned by Clear Channel and homogenized to the same "sell-able" music nationwide). The only interesting stations I can find are college stations that play a wide variety of music. I ended up scraping radio altogether and end up just listening to NPR if radio is the only option.
And you definitely aren't listening to the wrong artists -- quite the opposite, in fact -- you are listening to some of the only artists that are trying to push an actual idea to listeners.
Indie rap contains the most explicit condemnation of the wide gulf between the rich and the poor, the war and the state of civil liberties. I'd add Mos Def, POS, El-P, Sims, M.I.A., Mr. Lif, Soul Position and Sage Francis to your obviously not-supposed-to-be-complete list of indie rappers who say something.
Indie rock provides a soundtrack to the discontent found in America, but usually in a much mroe subtle way (except for 16 Military Wives from The Decemberists, of course). Also, up for consideration are bands like Gogol Bordello or Flogging Molly -- bands that might be considered punk, I suppose -- that try to protest the currently apathetic state of music.