When Killer Mike released his critically acclaimed manifesto I Pledge Allegiance to the Grind II earlier this month, he joined a long tradition of political protest music. From Billie Holidays Strange Fruit to Ice Cubes Endangered Species, music in the 20th century had regularly spoken to the soul of man by challenging societal ills exacerbated by the status quo.Now in the new millennium, Killer Mike takes a moment to reflect on the songs that inspired his conscious awareness and artistic direction.10. Rage Against the Machine Bulls On Parade (1996)Man the lyrics ‘Rally around your family with a pocket full of shells.’ A lot of times we as Americans think military and police are supposed to protect and take care of us as citizens. And when that goes wrong the same people that were there to protect you and the government thats supposed to support the persons that are apart of the country often turns against its people. Thats what spoke to me.It had an anger and a angst that was needed.9. Cypress Hill I Wanna Get High (1993)The legalization of marijuana is about a lot more than people just wanting to get high. Hemp can end a lot of our problems in terms of cutting trees and the making of paper. Hemp has dozens of medical uses. It can be used for different fibers in clothing. It really is a wonder plant. And the fact that its illegal in America speaks more to the fact that legal cigarettes and beer want it to stay illegal than it does about this drug [having] any real harmful side effects, besides making you eat and go to sleep.8. N.W.A F**k tha Police (1988)This song really was a retaliation cry against what was happening to young people in Los Angeles when the news wouldnt even acknowledge it. Ten years later you get a Rampart investigation, and find out the police force in Los Angeles was actively doing whatever it could to be the judge, jury, and executioner for street level gang members. (Its) another example of when policing citizens becomes a force of people occupying citizens.7. 2 Live Crew Banned in the USA (1990)2 Live Crew and Ice-T in particular, who I didnt have on this list but should have, were actively in the censorship fight. The reason we can say what we want to say now, or think we can say what we want to, is because 2 Live Crew fought that Broward County judgment. They fought it and made sure that rappers would forever be able to say whatever they wanted to say. Ice-T did a similar thing after Cop Killa with (his rock band) Body Count.A lot of rappers talk about theyre real but aint nobody really went up against the US government. And Im not just talking about testifying in front of government, but to literally have your life on the line. If you lose that case, you go to jail.I look at Luther Campbell in particular as the Larry Flynt of our day. Someone who had the money, resources, and most of all the courage to go head to head with the US government and win on behalf of the US citizens. It gave us the right to say what we wanted, and when we wanted.6. Geto Boys Crooked Officer (1993)Southern rap is often looked at as just smooth s**t, cool s**t, or pimp s**t. But the Geto Boys in particular always had a socio-political message in their music, whether it was City Under Siege or Crooked Officer.Crooked Officer was relevant then and its relevant now. Its good to hear southerners do some of the same type of music that was coming out of other places but with a southern spin on it.It was great to hear Big Mike, Scarface, and Bushwick just expound more on what N.W.A touched on in F**k the Police and what KRS did in Black Cop. Its always going to be one of my favorites.5. dead prez They Schools (2000)I like this because dead prez [says what] Black people have known for years; just because were integrated doesnt mean those people have fully accepted us and it doesnt mean theyre willing to educate us.The same people that run bad hospitals and give you bad jobs and dont pay attention to the garbage on your street are the same people that run the schools. And if White people dont trust their (public) schools and are taking their kids out to private and charter schools, how do you think the quality of education is going to be for Black children?4. Paris Bush Killa (1992)You could never make this record again in America. It was off the Sleeping with the Enemy album. It was the fanciful and imaginary story of a Black activist/rapper knocking the president off. And its important that people remember Bush Sr. now is just an old, funny looking man that people laugh at, but this man was once the director of the CIA. This man had full knowledge of the Iran-Contra Scandal which was funded through the Contras with crack used as the resource to do that. And it destroyed our whole community.So I think its only appropriate that a man that would kill a whole community gets a song dedicated to him. Thank Paris for that.3. Public Enemy Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos (1988)I got a letter from the government/The other day/I opened and read it/It said they were suckers What the f**k can you say after that? Chuck let it be known, man. He always reminded you no matter how far weve come; weve still got a long way to go. 2. Immortal Technique Bin Laden AKA Tell the Truth (2004)I like that fact that Mos Def and Immortal brought it home on the original. Weve been taught by the government to be afraid of Arabs and Bin Laden. But as a person of color in America more acts of terrorism have been done to me by agents of my own government as opposed to some outside force. As a poor Black man in America Im going to be more afraid of the power of my government than some spooky man with a weird beard. Bin Laden didnt destroy the projects. Our f**king government did that. They (Arabs) arent persecuting us here our government is doing that. Mos Def said on Bill Maher I aint scared of Bin Laden, and thats straight the f**k up. Its that around the way knowledge that we need and this song made me a full-fledged Immortal Technique fan. 1. Killer Mike feat. Ice Cube Pressure (2008)This song is different from the others in that instead of dealing with the boogeyman or the government etc, I really get at Black leadership and the government on behalf of all people, not just Black people. We shouldnt live in fear of our government and Black leaders got to learn to understand (that). For 40 years youve been preaching that we shall overcome s**t to us, and when we finally decide to make decisions out on our own and that weve overcome, your ass better come with us or get left the f**k behind.Pressure is the type a song I talked about doing when I was standing in the trap wasting my life. Its the type of song I needed to hear during my freshman year at Morehouse College, and thats why I gave the world that song.I cant give you all the answers because I dont have them. But I can tell you if you put the pressure on the right people, youre going to come up with some of the answers because those people will reveal some of the solutions theyve been hiding.
What’s your Top 10?