Very Specific Playlists is a weekly feature in which Jezebel staffers make very specific Spotify playlists based on their weird proclivities.
On Tuesday, Donald Trump all but secured the nomination, knocking Rubio to his knees in Florida and winning every state in contention but Ohio. To assuage the confounding sensation of terror, helplessness and dread that accompanies the knowledge that the man who brought us The Apprentice has a viable chance at the United States Presidency—a campaign he seemed to have launched primarily in response to feeling emasculated once by President Obama in 2011—the most visceral response for catharsis is to listen to aggressive political music at appalling decibels.
Youth culture has, as you know, leveled musical response to shady politics for hundreds of years, but its more recent history is louder, kickier, and more aggressive, whether the sound of punks in the ’70s responding to working-class disenfranchisement or rappers in the ’80s lodging complaints to the racism of the crack era.
After a brief reprieve in the 1990s, during which the sound of Reagan-era unrest gave way to Clintonian ennui, the country was faced yet again with the prospect of a disenfranchising presidential administration, and the 2000s were awash with thinkpieces: Where is the anti-Bush protest music? As the reasonable among us cling to the last months of the Obama Administration—whether into the tolerable arms of Clinton or Sanders or flung off a sharp-edged cliff into a Trump-helmed future that makes W seem docile—we dive into an uncertain future, chanting Kendrick Lamar the whole way down.
1. Jeezy, “My President”
A throwback to a happier time, you can still cling to Jeezy’s prescient 2008 anthem when you’re cold and alone at night, shivering at the prospect of a Trump presidency. The Atlanta rapper’s been more explicitly political in the years since, a street prophet full of thoughtful and gritty parables, but even from his solo beginnings in the early 2000s he was applying a cynical and prayer-filled eye to his life. On “My President,” which was the unofficial theme song to Obama’s election, Jeezy rapped:
Bush robbed all of us, would that make him a criminal?
And then he cheated in Florida, would that make him a seminal (/seminole)?
I say and I quote, “We need a miracle”
And I say a miracle ’cause this shit is hysterical
By my nephews and nieces, I will email Jesus
Tell him forward to Moses and CC Allah
It’s a reminder that in desperate times, helpless-feeling humanity tends to turn to the higher-ups.
2. M.I.A., “20 Dollar”
The Sri Lankan singer flips the ’80s ennui of The Pixies’ “Where Is My Mind” and New Order’s “Blue Monday” into a treatise about Western blindness to the terrible living conditions in developing countries, which is to say at its core, it’s a song about class disparity, and the way race plays into that. The twenty bucks of its title refers to “the cost of AKs up in Africa,” as she raps—not exactly accurate, although in 2007, the year M.I.A. released this song, the price of a Kalashnikov in Africa was “on average $200 cheaper than anywhere else in the world.”
3. Teenage Jesus & the Jerks, “Popularity Is So Boring”
Boring and, in the case of Trump, potentially lethal. Lydia Lunch lets go on this live version and the satisfaction is purely visceral.
4. The Specials, “Racist Friend”
The British ska band spent its formative years railing against the Thatcher era from the perspective of working class and/or immigrant musicians from an anti-racism perspective. “Racist Friend,” from 1982, is a calm and gentle encouragement to dump the idiot racists in your life. Judging by the amount of Facebook posts I’ve seen in the past few months that read some variation of “Seriously, unfriend me if you are voting for Trump,” it’s particularly relevant right now.
5. The Coup, “5 Million Ways to Kill a CEO”
Another throwback jam to a fastidiously political era, this lovely number is from the Oakland rap duo’s Party Music, an album meant to be released in September 2001 until it was pushed back due to the first version of its cover art—notoriously, and eerily, a depiction of the World Trade Center aflame. It came out a month later with the WTC replaced by molotov cocktails and its incendiary, anti-Bush/anti-corporate message heightened. “5 Million Ways to Kill a CEO” is casually seething class analysis hoo-riding on easy g-funk, applicable in the Bush, Obama, or any era. Rapper Boots Riley wonders, Do you checks have elasticity? Did they cut off yo’ ‘lectricity? Did you scream and yell explicitly? Force the boss into complicity.
6. Banda al Recodo, “Corrido al chicano”
The Mexican group Banda al Recodo has been performing in various incarnations for almost 90 years, and their latest incarnation is crunk as fuck; “Corrido al chicano” is a classic sorrowful ode to sad Chicanos in the States from our hermanos across the border, who we will hopefully see at some point soon before el Trump tries to build his pinche wall.
7. Erase Errata, “Tongue Tied”
The early 2000s saw a proliferation of no-wave influenced underground bands whose frenetic style reflected the unease of the Bush years right after 9/11. Among the best of these was the Bay Area’s Erase Errata, whose 2001 album Other Animals encapsulated the physical manifestation of both fear and imposed restraint we felt in those years, often with their own scribbly time signatures and the occasional trumpet bleats. This one was their pop hit, so to speak, but the whole deal is great and inherently political.
8. Mala Rodríguez, “No Pidas Perdón”
No apologies is the message, so I’m not going to apologize for putting more than one Spanish song on this playlist. English is NOT our official national language, y’all.
10. Candi Staton, “Freedom Is Just Beyond the Door”
One of this Alabama soul/gospel singer’s many anthems for leaving a bad man, it’s also applicable if you pan out and imagine that the bad man is, in fact, Donald Trump, and that the door is America. To be clear, I did not think fleeing the country was a viable solution to the election of George W. Bush, nor do I think it would be if Trump is elected—it’s selfish and privileged, for one—but as a musical metaphor for escaping this maniac, it’s pretty liberating to stomp around to it.
Illustration by Jim Cooke