Because the Internet – A Look At the Best Rap Album Nominations For The 65th Grammy Awards

When The Fresh Prince and DJ Jazzy Jeff won the first Best Rap Performance, they didn’t go because they knew ahead of time their win wouldn’t get televised. After another year, that award wouldn’t see the light of day for 22 years. However, there have been more puzzling choices in the category beyond the album award, like “Hotline Bling” winning Best Rap Song when it isn’t a rap song – I guess Drake in name alone is rap? Hey Drake, resubmit a country song as rap and see if they bite. Jokes aside, one might understand the shiftiness of presenting live; the Grammys don’t show every award because they award over 70+ categories yearly, but when it 86’d a genre – of course – there would be protests. We didn’t have Best Rap Album till’ 1996, with a few performance categories that would subsequently get replaced with Melodic Performance and Rap Song. And still, one thing many in the general audience harp at is the nominations.

Like with the most prestigious awards, we balk at the nominations for categories we hold close to heart. But for Hip-Hop, we’ve had lapses in sub-categories and the shifting choice of which award to present. I prefer Best Rap Album as it is the cream of the crop, but sometimes it’s Best Rap Song, Best Melodic Rap Performance, or Best Rap Performance. Though we aren’t the only ones subjected to it, it’s the lack of a presence in the universal Gen-Pop awards throughout the years. Over the past two decades, we’ve seen slow growth in finding general acceptance in those awards, especially with the more Alternative albums (2) – to standard hip-hop – winning the big one – The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill and SpeakerBoxxx/The Love Below. These days, a win is a win, but it hasn’t been honkey dory, especially for us nomination balkers who see worst mistakes than the year the Academy gave Paul Haggis’ film Crash, Best Picture. Unfortunately, they still make mistakes, and this post is about nomination mistakes, especially in 2015 and today.

One of the most egregiously what the hell moments for nominations was in 2015, Iggy Azalea’s boorish pop-rap effort on The New Classic and Wiz Khalifa’s poor attempt at creating Trap music, “We Dem Boyz” aside. If either went on to win, it would have been the weakest winner among the many, but they are safe choices. 2015 had the albums, My Name is My Name by Pusha T, Piñata by Freddie Gibbs, PTSD by Pharoahe Monch, My Krazy Life by YG, and more that could have snuck to replace them, but like the film academy, niche styles won’t see the proper praise. I say this considering how focused it is on the G-Funk/Gangsta Rap My Krazy Life by YG is or the gritty percussion and synths of Monch and Pusha T. They reflect the genre discussion in film. I’m talking about the more whimsical work from creators like Wes Anderson, who rarely get looked at due to his niche style until it becomes more generally appealing, like The Grand Budapest Hotel. Fortunately, the last few years saw some consistency of diversity, as we saw artists you wouldn’t think the academy would find appeal in, like Tyler, the Creator, who has won twice, along with honoring albums that were some of the best that weren’t pop-like.

Additionally, we’ve seen nominations for Laila’s Wisdom by Rapsody and Victory Lap by Nipsey Hustle, two albums by rappers whose commercial appeal never translated into the vast world of pop but got nominated in back-to-back years, respectively. Though oddly, Nipsey’s world did converge with that of the Crazy Ex-Girlfriend fandom; however, I digress. It’s been many familiar faces, aka rappers with the highest commercial appeal, some non-debatable, others more so until recently, like that triumphant moment for Nas, winning his first Grammy after 27 years in the game. It’s been part great since 2015, but with an influx in quality from the growing number of artists, debates will continue to spark about what did and didn’t deserve a nomination.

2015 wasn’t the first time I felt flustered by the array of nominations considering the vast plains of music to get discovered outside the R&B-like Pop Rap of the 2000s. But it’s the first I’ve sensed they didn’t hear everything that was out there except for what’s on the radio. Universal Mind Control by Common, a winter 2008 release, was nominated in 2010, the same year as the overly dull and sugary R.O.O.T.S. by Flo Rida over more deserving entries like the DJ Quik and Kurupt Collab Album Blaqkout or Ludacris’ Theater of the Mind. It happened and happens currently because the Academy has a wonky, designated calendar for eligibility. Usually, their calendar year is October to October, disregarding the November and December months like film companies when they were releasing more potential critical failures, like wear found footage horror films, in January and February in the 2010s. Not saying those releases never brought forth greatness, but with an influx of covers and best-of lists, reviews can get drowned beneath it.

Rare moments like 2015, where many nominations weren’t reflective of the best work that year, and another came this year, where we saw three of the nominations bring out questions from fans. We got Jack Harlow, DJ Khaled, and one of Future’s weakest albums in his discography. And this isn’t to discredit these artists, as they have delivered fantastic surfeit work, Jack Harlow, aside. Unfortunately, the love for pop we’ve seen with Eminem and Kanye winning multiple, further making past flawed nominations make sense, especially since the late 00s. The Iggy Azaleas and DJ Khaleds – Khaled, who continuously finds himself in Best Rap Album, despite mediocre releases over the past decade – and legacy nominations that don’t always get heard through a critical lens and are nominated for the name alone – see the “Hotline Bling” nomination for Best Rap Song. It doesn’t discredit the 90% + nominations that merit the nomination. This year just left me floored when there are better albums viable for the award, like The Forever Story by JID and Traumazine by Megan thee Stallion – this includes non-submitted work like Gods Don’t Make Mistake by Conway the Machine and Cheat Codes by Danger Mouse and Black Thought.

I can understand the Future and DJ Khaled nominations, but with Jack Harlow, it felt like 2015, where there was little merit within the album to even come up with an argument for its inclusion. It’s what you’d expect from some white rapper who wants to be Drake but without much swagger. It was an overall boring album riding the highs of a Drake feature and a dope Fergie sample. Similarly, God Did by DJ Khaled is riding the coattails of a few decent songs, this remarkable Jay-Z verse on the title track, and memes. Future; well, it’s sad this is his first Best Rap Album nomination, considering how many great projects he’s released over the past decade. I didn’t hate I Never Liked You, but it isn’t Dirty Sprite 2 or Evol. It just leaves me flustered that they made it look like such a give-me for either of the other nominees, which I wouldn’t be mad if either won – Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers and It’s Almost Dry

2022 will be like 2015 all over again, with fantastic performances and a ceremonious win, where the big shock would come if Future upset the two clear front runners. Though one could expect Kendrick Lamar to win, he did lose to Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, so anything is on the table. Unfortunately, Best Rap Album isn’t always “locked,” and here you could see Jack Harlow sneaking his way in for a win. His tacky apropos style never left anything to the imagination, almost feeling standard in approach – I Never Liked You isn’t tacky but is tried and, sometimes, forgettable. I’m here thinking about past years while trying to come to grips with it. And DJ Khaled, mediocre as it is, is forgettable outside that Jay-Z verse, so it leaves me curious about how it got nominated. It doesn’t define Hip-Hop/Rap, and frankly, I tune more into the yearly BET cyphers at their Hip-Hop awards, which is a much better and understanding award show about the world of Hip-Hop. Hope Kendrick Lamar wins, and cheers to the nominees…well, most of them.

Here are some past wins and speeches I’ve loved:

YG – I Got Issues: Review

Consistency is key. Unfortunately, it hasn’t been a key for YG since the release of his sophomore album, Still Brazy. Teetering between raw, authentic Gansta-Rap/G-Funk and West Coast Hip-Hop style influenced by So-Cal flavored popular rap hits, YG has this esoteric identity–it now shifts, stunting by pandering features and weak beats and hooks. He’s trying to find ways to make his style more vivacious. Though this isn’t to discredit YG since he still delivers full skillets of different food of quality, and on his latest album, Issues, he returns to past recipes that has better consistency. I Got Issues is leveled, giving us an exuberant force of those West Coast Hip-Hop and Gangsta Rap/G-Funk bangers boasted by layers of authenticity and unique samples. He’s bringing levity musically, flexing his range, and having fun at times, as he relays these delineations of issues YG’s been through and still goes through, as he continues to cement himself as one of the younger heavyweights killing.

Opening with “Issues,” you’ll immediately start to get whiffs of what has been present in past albums but not as effervescent since his solo tracks on Stay Dangerous. YG gives us four straight songs that embolden YG’s essence. It’s what is in the middle of the album where most stumbles appear, specifically from the artist’s side and some of the production. Though he’s treading toward keeping himself relevant through certain features–I mean, let’s face it, YG isn’t hopping on something as poppy as that song with Fergie, “L.A.LOVE”–they are predominant misses. It’s easy to find yourself veering back toward his solo tracks, especially with his clear direction. “Go Dumb,” “Sacred Money,” and “Sober” aren’t the most gripping, at times feeling distant; some don’t have lavish production like “Go Dumb” and “Toxic,” and others have weak features that tune you out like Post Malone. 

When it comes to beats, the consistency is high, but there are a few blemishes. “Toxic,” you get a gut punch immediately as you hear “Be Happy” by Mary J. Blige get sampled. As it progresses, your sense of positivity with slight bewilderment starts to fade with lackluster verses and a nearly monotone beat. It’s similarly the case in the middle as YG whips up some poor concoctions that get lost by the features’ drab performances from ones you wouldn’t expect. One of the first tracks you’ll notice on the tracklist, “Sacred Money,” will be so because of the names J. Cole and Moneybagg Yo, but push that aside since it explores particular characteristics YG has beaten to death lyrically. It’s not like the crisp street-cut “How To Rob A Rapper,” which features D3szn & Mozzy, two artists that understand the assignment. The aforementioned “Go Dumb” and “Sober” show levels of mediocrity as YG tries to adhere to radio standards, except these tracks aren’t that memorable. Even when YG shifts in this direction, there are some highlights due to the sheer fun he has had making tracks like “Go Loko” with Tyga and Puerto Rican rapper Jon Z. I Got Issues isn’t absent from that kind musical fun, though it can be more subtle than apparent.

From the crisp gangsta-rap-influenced bleakness of “No Love” and “Killa Cali” to the more adventurous “Baby Momma” and “I Dance,” YG is coming with his all, even though not all translations work. There is musical depth amplified by its sonic layer, mirroring elements from other hip-hop subgenres and allowing us to finally see YG express a slight melodic digression from the known. “No Weapon,” featuring Nas, creates harmonious equilibrium as the producers bring elements of Jazz-Rap and that Southern Cali sound of the 90s, more modernized. “Baby Momma” isn’t far from your normative G-Funk track; the funk is subtle, the percussion fruitful, and YG is jovially performing about his disdain for baby momma. Fortunately, these tracks are smooth surfaces on the dirt path you take toward your destination. And on this path, that flurry of greatness elevates the I Got Issues further, especially with the external layer coming from the perspective of his performances. “I Dance” sees YG attempting to bring that So-Cal Latin/Hip-Hop hybrid to the forefront, but unlike “Go Loko,” this one has more flavor and potent featured work from Californian singer-songwriter Cuco and Argentine reggaeton artist Duki.

Listening to I Got Issues wasn’t so much rejuvenating because that essence of gangsta/west coast hip-hop has seen variations, and here, it’s more consistent. My Life 4Hunnid gave us “Blood Walk” and “Out On Bail;” 4Real 4Real gave us “In The Dark” and “Stop Snitchin’,” and so on and so on, but when that flavor spreads more thoroughly, you get something that’s more repeatable. Coming in hot with “Issues” and captivatingly closing on a somber note with “Killa Cali” I Got Issues is a YG album I’ll be returning to rather swiftly.

Rating: 7 out of 10.

YG’s Opus – Still Brazy: 5 Years Later

For many, It’s hard to distinguish an artist’s opus when many one-up the previous work at times – see The Black Album by Jay-Z in comparison to The Blueprint. But at times you see greatness amongst those who keep it close to 100 on their roots, improving on the music you grew with and recorded prior to making it, and elevating to a new level. For west coast rapper YG, it was Still Brazy, which was released five years ago. Still Brazy oozes West Coast Gangster Rap and G-Funk directed within a niche demographic, but universal to the overall love within the hip-hop community. However a lot of his forays into pop and more rounded universal hip-hop sounds have been extremely hit or miss for YG, all the while growing on the charts. And though it hasn’t been the ten-year mark, at five years Still Brazy makes a case for being a bona fide classic.

YG has charted high a fair amount, especially on tracks that incorporate or feature A-list musicians like Drake, Big Sean, and Jeremih, but unless YG is headlining it doesn’t always come across as authentic. YG has made the radio-track his way with the Jeezy and Rich Homie Quan featured, “My N*gga,” and the monstrous “Big Bank,” with Big Sean, Lil Wayne, and Nicki Minaj. These are standouts due to YG orchestration, unlike “Ride Out” from the Fast and Furious series and “Gucci On My” orchestrated by Mike Will Made It and co-featuring Migos and 21 Savage. Ironically, the third single of My Krazy Life, “Who Do You Love?” featuring Drake, didn’t peak high, peaking at 54 on the Hot 100, opposed to “My N*gga” at 19. It shows that star power doesn’t always equate like you’d expect.

However, since the release of Still Brazy YG has been on a minimalist decline with these unique directions he has taken post this album, but he has never shown a decline in his technical and lyrical abilities. Sometimes it feels as if he is trying to commercialize himself to a level by trying to find ways to incorporate artists that don’t mesh with his style and incorporating himself on pop songs like “I Don’t” with Mariah Carey and tracks with G-Eazy and Macklemore. And If I’m being frank, he has shown a lot of misses on the tracks he is featured on, like his basic verse on “Slide,” with H.E.R. What separates this from Still Brazy is the authenticity behind creating music attune to the style reminiscent of a golden age in the 90s.

That is what makes Still Brazy a phenomenal album. It was like this once and a lifetime album where instead of trying to eclipse pop-chart numbers and more, he found a happy medium where he could keep the authentic g-funk sound as a resonating base and elevate his range more on some of his subsequent albums. However, Still Brazy’s inherent focus on the funkadelic and gritty extravagance has made it one of the more unique gangster rap albums of the 2010s. It isn’t completely confined by trying to overlay pop-like and universal glamorization and instead keep it nuanced to the culture of the west coast. And In simple terms, it stays niche to sounds that are isolated to the culture of that area, like Spice-1 from the bay and the Geto Boys chopped and screwed style from Texas. But it’s usually when an artist sticks to being authentic, without a worry of trying to break through the radio waves.

Eventually a single off Still Brazy went on to have a moment in the limelight, without really charting. This track is the politically charged “FDT,” which stands for Fuck Donald Trump. It didn’t commercialize well and went off being a stand alone hit/anthem for four years as the United States suffered through four years of slightly imbecilic command. The monstrous noise it made and the anthem that grew from it only went up as he delivered a remix with G-Eazy and Macklemore together at the initial height of their popularity. It never really steered people toward the album and it suffered in creating hype outside the huge hip-hop community. It stinks because it seems like the general public who knows the song, may only know the words opposed to the rappers who deliver them. Coincidentally it is a bona fide g-funk/political hip-hop anthem, and a good amount of the music is a derivative of g-funk and west coast hip-hop.

This isn’t the album’s only foray into politically and socially charged tracks with it closing strong with tracks “Police Get Away With Murder,” and “Blacks & Browns.” The latter features LA Hispanic rapper SadBoy Loko delivering verses detailing daily discrimination and other occurrences that happen to both the African-American and Hispanic community, going deep from the black on black violence, police bias, and more. It’s finely tuned g-funk production oozes within the crevices of the verses and boosts this track attention grabbing prominence – ten fold.

Outside these tracks mentioned prior, others relate to the life that comes from his gang affiliations and creating complex pictures of the social dynamic that is rooted within the social history of Los Angeles. This gang affiliation has led to things going awry at times, one time of which, he documents on “Who Shot Me?” This track details his thoughts and paranoia after he was shot on his way out of a session at the studio. It breaks down his psyche as he tries to ponder who and why, relating back to relationships with people. Still Brazy doesn’t glorify a lifestyle and instead makes statements by painting a picture, however he does glorify a culture within certain aspects of LA in some of the singles and others in the track list. 

Uniquely the commercialization of Still Brazy is niche and thus has never been able to see a wide range of appeal. As an east coast writer, a lot of the music on hip-hop stations range from the hot commodity in melodic-trap rap and rappers primarily on our side of the coast. When I went to Los Angeles, on their hip-hop stations, they played Kendrick Lamar, Nipsey Hussle, and Anderson. Paak a bit more frequently. So tracks like “Twist My Fingaz,” didn’t have that wide range, but it’s production and infectious agro-fun dance energy makes it sound naturalistic to that culture. 

Further down the line, YG brings a dominating force on both spectrums as a feature in Lil Wayne. And what makes this track interesting is that YG took the opposite approach to what you’d expect. The production and the content of the song – lyrically and tonally – don’t go down the rabbit hole of a banger and instead they deliver a smooth bounce-funk centric track. “Why You Always Hatin’” takes a similar approach, despite being more commercial. It features Drake and Californian rapper Kamaiyah on a track that boasts their prominence and successes, while calling out critics and people who disregard their style and want different and profound pieces of work. 

He redefines a lot of these notions on the standout non-single “Bool, Balm, & Bollective.” He comes across with a nonchalant and chill demeanor about his life and his progression forward as he shrugs off the bullet wounds. His fresh approach makes his internal feeling of too hard to kill more refined and unlike many flex raps we hear today. If only it closed the album it would have been a beautiful crescendo on repurposing a lot of what was expressed. But the cultural consistency of the tracks on Still Brazy elevate this to new levels of nuance that other rappers grasp and make their own, and not many have that sound YG delivers without skipping a beat in authenticity.

YG & Mozzy – Kommunity Service: Review

YG and Mozzy have always been rappers to turn out great pieces of work, one after the other, but as of recent their final products have been teetering on mediocrity as they try to blend into trends. YG has never been slowing his lyrical and technical abilities, but his recent work has had weird sonic directions, that hearing something nuanced is like a breath of fresh air. Mozzy has always had this distinguished swagger that brings more than his slow flows tell you. So upon hearing about their collaboration album, Kommunity Service, it gave me a small hype as I awaited the release. It delivers in many ways, as Kommunity Service feels more grounded and nuanced to the modern bounce centric west coast hip-hop that made both such monumental talents in the rap world. It has enough to keep in rotation as we hear the side of YG from the first half of the 2010s in rare, but note peak form, while Mozzy contributes as expected.

Kommunity Service opens on a bold note. YG and Mozzy flow over a flipped version of the instrumental to “Wanksta” by 50 Cent. This new take yearns for melodies and on-beat flows, and YG is the only one to truly make a splash on it despite Mozzy having some solid bars and trying to flow in melody. It is after this, where the album starts to get interesting and nuanced within production. It contains a west coast tune up; specifically in their melodic bounce overtones on most of the instrumentals. Though it is to their benefit they get bonafide producers like Tariq Beats and DJ Swish; the latter of which produced some of YG’s best work and the bombastic political anthem “FDT,” while the former has had his hand on the stellar “EAST COAST,” by A$AP Ferg and working with Californian rappers like Nipsey Hussle. 

There are many high points in the production, but the features can make or break the whole track they are a part of. There are some significant highlights like G Herbo on “Dangerous,” and “First 48” with some Californian staples, D3SZN, Celly Ru, and E Mozzy.” It is reminiscent of posse cuts that embolden the west coast sound, which distinguished the music prominent to the areas, specifically the Bay Area, where this comes across as a modernized version with a big LA rapper – i.e. “Dusted & Disgusted,” with E40, Mac Mall, Tupac, and Spice 1. The distinguishing mark being on the flows and production that resonates with the area. 

“Vibe With You,” in particular blends this off-putting acoustic riff over a simple percussion pattern that falls too inline with the many other boring love/relationship tracks. Ty Dolla $ign sounds like he is phoning it in as well. It is easily forgettable and one that could have been left out. Similarly this feeling comes on the track that precedes it, “MAD,” with Young M.A. who doesn’t bring much to the table. She feels too much like an outlier and even worse when the quality of the verse and delivery is subpar. It isn’t like the bouncy and bombastically fun “Toot It Up,” with Tyga, which is a prototypical booty bounce party track but it is delivered well with hypnotic flows and tolerable production. And outside of the aforementioned “Vibe With You,” and “Gangsta,” the other solo outings from the two are phenomenal.

YG and Mozzy have this unique equilibrium that fleshes that kinetic energy from one with vibrant and fun flows in YG, and while Mozzy keeps it within constant motion no matter the tempo/pacing. It is why some of the best highlights are in the tracks that contain no features, and those are both “Bompton to Oak Park” and “Bite Down.” The former is this beautifully bombastic gangster rap anthem that exhumes monstrous flexes, while the latter is a somber take at their personal lives, which has arisen from their reputation and status in their respective gang and celebrity status. It bounds the varying party tracks into something that explores a new brotherhood from YG and Mozzy.

The album cover’s homage to the DMX and Nas vehicle Belly embodies a lot of the themes reflected in Kommunity Service, like brotherhood and gang violence, which they never shy away from on the album. When it’s brought to life they strive above some of their more mundane outputs. It isn’t the most perfect album, but it has many highs and worth a listen. 

Rating: 7 out of 10.

Billie Holiday and Protest Music: A Bigger Picture

Southern trees bear a strange fruit,

Blood on the leaves and blood on the root,

Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze,

Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees

Strange Fruit by Billie Holiday (written by Abel Meeropol and produced by Milt Gabler)

“Strange Fruit” is one of the most famous protest songs of the past, but it stands alongside many that came after. When the dynamic shifts in the people who were oppressed turned on the peaceful flames, they fought for change. And behind these movements, there were gas ignitors that helped spread their message in the form of music. Billie Holiday, Nina Simone, Odetta, and Sam Cooke, are some of the many to bellow out these beautiful songs that expressed their inner pain and heartbreak to see the divide in the world based on race and religion and more.

Abel Meeropol wrote “Strange Fruit” after seeing a photo showing a lynch mob hanging two young African Americans, Thomas Shipp and Abram Smith. It was a de facto idea behind the “Jury of the People,” which has been prevalent today with “cancel culture.” During the various peaks of ignited fuel for the Civil Rights Movement, like Emmett Till who was murdered by the men of the women who falsely accused him of heinous acts. 

So when Abel Meeropol let his inner anguish boil into flames, he wrote “Strange Fruit.” To him it was an act of protest against the racial mob mentality from various angles, including the justification and persecution of African Americans under Jim Crow laws. In this particular case, and as it was for most cases in the south, the unruly mob took a tyrannical route of justice. The two men who were lynched by the mob were accused of murder, rape, and more. The extent of their guilt is based on an admission by a third man who managed to escape for a brief moment.

Eventually it would make its way to Billie Holiday, whose expressive delivery was mastered by the despair growing through her vocal chords. Billie Holiday’s version has stood the test of time as the more iconic version, but her legacy is spread through the times covers or samples has reemerged during times of racial strife in one way or another. Her story, amongst others, became catalysts to a life tarnished and a future for artists to let their voices be heard.

Protest music had slight “prominence” during Billie Holiday’s prime (30s, 40s, 50s)  and destruction at the hands of the FBI, which is what made her case so relentlessly disheartening. She was played into being painted as a drug addict (which is slightly true). Like Fred Hampton, Billie’s life was infiltrated by someone working with or for the FBI, which showed inherent racism through the years. It’s like what the film Judas and The Black Messiah showed about the racial divide. It was no secret J. Edgar Hoover had an extreme hate/disdain for the African American Community. And he feared a “rise,” that would change the social-dynamic of their race-classism.  

“Strange Fruit” has seen many renditions. It has been sampled by many artists, particularly in Hip-Hop. Throughout history, this song has been an embodiment to the struggle the African-American community lived through during an era where freedom wasn’t all that free, especially the way they were tried.

As artists grew alongside hand in hand with the world, the protest song became more and more prominent with the Civil Rights Movement and the eventual protest against the Vietnam War, amongst the long standing history of songs of prior. Especially with rock and roll and folk artists at the time, save for the legendary Woody Gunthrie song “This Land,” which protested the weak-white centric symbolism of the song “God Bless America,” which didn’t reflect the universal citizen demographic with simple blandness, especially now with the kind of history we’ve had.

During the March on Washington, a lot of artists performed songs that have metaphorical meanings behind the lives of many and the oppressive nature from those who had a superiority complex. Though it was a bigger picture, as there had been a lot of shifty practices everywhere and especially in the work place. The march was known as March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.

These performances consisted of few well known artists, like Joan Baez and Marian Anderson, but nothing was phenomenal as the performances of Odetta and Mahalia Jackson, who performed the gospel song “How I Got Over,” which showed unity through belief and prosperity. And Odetta’s performance of “I’m On My Way,” continues the sense of hope as it shows the light at the end of the tunnel behind the journey for their freedom and equality.

“This Land Is My Land” and Bob Dylan’s “When The Ship Came In,” grew bigger than intended with deep rooted allegories in the words. Bob Dylan’s song is seen as an allegory to having the power to fight oppression. And as such they become associated with various movements and producing various covers from different artists for newer generation. One particular song, inspired very loosely by the Gunthrie song (interlopes part of the chorus), “This Land,” by Gary Clark took a different approach as it speaks on the continuing racism Gary faced and the way it mirrors to ongoing ideas flowing through their heads. More importantly skin color and the vague association with them.

“Mississippi Goddamn” by Nina is a remarkable feat that expressed her views at the horrors of the deaths/lynching of young men and girls in the south (Emmett Till, Medgar Evers, and the Baptist Church Bombings that took 4 young lives). Nina Simone was never silent when it came to speaking on the front lines and the music she created that brought that awareness is an embodiment of that. She was prominent figure/activist during the Civil Rights Movement, delivering help in various ways, one of which was music. She has many songs in her repertoire that were a part of something bigger, but outside of “Mississippi Goddamn,” the other most recognizable contribution to protest music was “To Be Young, Gifted, and Black.”

Nina Simone’s music allowed her to give her people’s voice a bigger platform, with certain performances of songs done and recorded. “To Be Young, Gifted, And Black,” was first recorded at a live show at the Philharmonic Hall. The title of the song was inspired by Nina’s late friend Lorraine Hansbury, playwright of the autobiographic play of the same name and A Raisin in the Sun. This inspirational song expresses hope of a different future than the limits and struggle Nina and Lorraine faced and overcame to be who they are.

The way “To Be Young, Gifted, and Black,” expresses the notion of education and prosperity as a unique gift that one can wield and how it can be lost when does around you try to hinder your own progress. Though it was hard for many, going as far back to the their people’s freedom.

Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come,” became one of the quintessential anthems of the Civil Rights Movement, with its effervescent orchestration and vocalization that demanded unity/change. It aspired for hope and the dream Martin Luther King Jr. spoke about. It was a dynamic change for Sam Cooke, as the music he recorded prior to followed themes of love, unity, and community through a broader POV. But “A Change Is Gonna Come,” brought a view people weren’t so adjunct to seeing from Sam Cooke. It showed, when he performed it, instead of the leading single of his album at the time, during a stop at The Late Show with Johnny Carson. It’s unconventional direction is what made it so profound and memorable.

Sam Cooke sang predominately slow soulful and R&B like love songs, primarily, trying to keep his music in line with a kind of genius few have been able to master consistently. So the change of pace during his performance showed the world he isn’t always like the mainstay they have known him to be, and has a stronger voice to express within. Unfortunately his life was cut short later in the year of this release (1964).

Music gives us many forms of expression; whether we hear through their anguish or words, we can make music paint a bigger picture. Hip-Hop has become that for the people of today, but has been here for years prior as well. From the aggressive and audacious “FDT (F*ck Donald Trump)” by YG or rather most hip-hop songs from the past 40 years that fill that void. We had Public Enemy’s triumphant anthem “Fight the Power,” Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five’s “The Message,” and NWA’s “F*ck the Police,” all of different eras, but fought back showing the incomparable poverty and social climate minorities lived in around the world. 

Each of these songs fight against a system that messes with those beneath the oppressors, like the distinguishing segregation from the neighborhoods they deviate the people too. It is as if they push to them to side to weaken their chances of proper education and success that others receive. From 2016 on with President Trump in command, an outspoken bigot, it gave people a sense of security to speak and act in similar ways. All it takes is one “powerful” role model to give that sense of security, which is why we hear more and more acts of violent and other aggressive hate crimes happening like its nothing; this, even if it comes from a mob mentality-like situation.

No matter the “genre” music has a way of slipping deep into the cracks of our purpose and shows us that we have every right. Listening to the opening of the this music video, you hear a young woman express their lack of simple freedoms from the Bill of Rights because of the fear mongering finally show in those who are supposed to protect and serve us.

As well, there is a lot hypocrisy behind these people who have preconceived notions of the social structure of humanism. This hides behind the larger structural walls of blindness. It’s the belief a 15/25 year old American is going to clean or fix your stuff when they want to explore new worlds. People like Latinos struggle to make a living in the United States because citizenship is worth a lot, especially in the workforce. This is why you see many work dead end jobs like dishwashing and gutter cleaning (for example).

As a society we have a long way to go, but learning and adjusting is only part of the equation. We have to fight harder for humanistic equality. Music allows us to have a voice and it’s great that we use that voice to speak to bigger issues. It has ways of accessing people of different tastes, but the goal remains the same. This weekend, Hulu will release The United States vs Billie Holiday, a film detailing the bigger picture of the performances of “Strange Fruit,” by Billie Holiday. If you’re not privy to documentaries or reading, definitely give it this film a go to see a new world open up to you in music history.