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Protest Music of the 21st Century: Part II

Updated on February 16, 2015


The Resistance Album (2009): Songs like Resistance and Uprising give us an instant taste of rebellion, right from the opening. I feel inclined to skip a description of the album for two reasons: I feel that most people have heard it, since word of mouth always favors Muse. Secondly, the message of these songs are very clear and upfront, so just experience the intensity of both the lyrics and beat for yourself!

A Perfect Circle

Some concepts need no introduction. Feast your ears. Again, another very upfront band in conveying their political convictions.

For so many reasons, I thank you Maynard Keenan.


Rage Against the Machine

"See right through the red, white and blue disguise. With lecture I puncture the structure
of lies installed in our minds and attempting to hold
us back. We've got to take it back..."

Take the Power Back

Powerful right? How many of us feel manipulated for someone else's gain (*cough* the banking institution, military industrial complex, and pharmaceutical industries)? We all do not feel the strings moving us like puppets, but that's what's happening regardless. Some bands, like Rage, base their provocative songs on this universal reality of deceit. There are many parallels between Take the Power Back and Counting Bodies Like Sheep to the War Drums. Do you see them?

Will you Settle for Nothing, both now and later? Check out the whole album, its all good! XX (2012).

One small comment...

Hip hop artists, WHERE YOU AT?

Growing up under bold artists like Tupac, Biggie, Nas, Wu-Tang, Big Pun, LL-CoolJ, Mary J., Mos Def, Talib Quali, Jadakiss...etc, I thought Hip Hop was supposed address social inequality and the rules of the hustle.

It is not the case anymore. Conscious Hip Hop is dead. Sorry Nas, but Common and Lupe couldn't hold it down on their own. Eminem does his own thing; if he was socially conscious, he could REALLY pack a punch! Don't get me started on Kanye West. I respected his song about diamond mining in Sierra Leone. Actually, I was blown away. And then my expectations plunged with every single he dropped. Pretty boy drama queen could get people to hit the streets if he put down the mirror. Oh well, spilled milk.

Lauryn Hill has retired the mic.

Everyone has gone silent on everything that matters, and obnoxiously loud otherwise. Right, Lil Wayne? Auto-tune and the movement don't coincide, it seems.

... Nevermind. Found a good one. Ice Cube- "Everythang's Corrupt".

Lupe Fiasco

I have to re-introduce Lupe. Its ironic, since I began this musical journey describing the Lasers (2011) album.

Food & Liquor II The Great American Rap Album Pt. 1 (2012) Is one of those albums where every song resonates aspects of our dark, cruel natures. As he paints scenes of exploitation, describing moments of inexcusable masochism, he tears apart your idealistic heart.

And then he puts it back together. In Unforgivable Youth, Lupe packs his hardest punch by far!

"A society at peace. With Liberty and Justice for all neatly carved in what seems to be a wall They would doubt that there was any starvation at all That they pretty much had the poverty problem all solved [...] Assumed they had clean energy, little to no enemies Very honest leaders with overwhelming tendencies...."

Are you seduced by his vision of something bigger, deeper and more meaningful experiences and connections with neighbors? Building a national/global society that values and invests in all lives, empowering communities based on love and other intrinsic goods is very possible. And it's a reality I experience as I follow this emotional roller coaster of a song.

Calle 13

I stumbled across this knockout Puerto Rican alternative Spanish rap group on YouTube, and they are true visionaries. Stepbrothers Rene Perez and Eduardo Martinez are relentless in their the truths they shove in your face. Rene is apologetically honest, pulling no punches when he addresses the cartels and thugs of Latin America. Feel his anger and hear his message to these "gangsters" in Adentro, off of the album Entres Lo Que Queran.

Equally moving is the anthem of South America. LatinoAmerica is what introduced me to Calle 13. As a Latina in a developed country, Rene's poetic essay on the indigenous' connection to nature and its rejection of western "values" deeply touched me. I grapple with these competing forces daily; to me, nature and God are one and the same. My economic system prioritizes infinite growth in a world of finite resources. See the dilemma?

No puedes comprar mi vida. Mi tierra no vendi!!! By the way, the English subtitles are a small price to pay for the ferocity of this dynamic duo. Music is universal; you'll know what he's saying without any lyrical translation. Enjoy the following video.

Alex Grey is an extraordinary artist and visionary. He runs COSM, the Chapel of Sacred Mirrors, in Wappingers Falls NY. He painted cover art for Tool's albums; the topics the songs delve into are existential, much like Grey's work.
Alex Grey is an extraordinary artist and visionary. He runs COSM, the Chapel of Sacred Mirrors, in Wappingers Falls NY. He painted cover art for Tool's albums; the topics the songs delve into are existential, much like Grey's work. | Source
A personal picture of Grey's artwork from my visit to COSM.
A personal picture of Grey's artwork from my visit to COSM. | Source


And this is why I love Maynard Keenan...

46 & 2 (1997) is a deeply philosophical song; it shares themes with Mumford and Son's The Cave. I still can't stop singing it. If you aren't familiar with the theories of Plato and Socrates on enlightenment and logic, you are missing the deeper meaning here. Do the research, its worth it.

The most basic explanation of 46 &2 is that there is something, a Shadow, encroaching on the protagonist's physical self. This Shadow is something he tries to hide from, but the Shadow always enters him and he sheds his outdated form. He is also partly curious about this presence.

"My Shadow's shedding skin
I am picking my scabs again
I'm down, digging through
My old muscles looking for a clue

I wanna feel the change consume me,
Feel the outside turning in.
I wanna feel the metamorphosis and
Cleansing I've endured within"

This Shadow is his spiritual evolution; 46 & 2, the addition of two extra chromosomes, is the physical result of this supernatural awakening.

Why is this significant, and how is this political? Easy. Revolution isn't possible without evolution. Evolution isn't possible without enlightenment. This comes in many forms. Music was meant to be one of them:

a Tool,

a Muse,

leading you to a higher consciousness. Rage on, friends!

Posted by owner and social activist David Bryson.
Posted by owner and social activist David Bryson. | Source


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