Alright y’all, first things first. I know that this space is ostensibly a place to discuss new music and give you the quintessential turn up anthem for your collective weekend, and furthermore I know that as steward of this column I have bent, twisted, and broken both of those rules on a number of occasions. So in the interest of fulfilling my obligations as a columnist, here it is, your weekly slapper, Missy Elliot’s “WTF (Where They From).” I don’t want to downplay how excited I am about new music from Missy, but I won’t spend a lot of time discussing the merits of this track. This is a great weekend to play it at a party or to hear it in the club though. It’s still new enough that your less culturally perceptive friends may not have heard it yet, and I sort of get the impression that this track will wear out its welcome after a couple thousand rotations. But for now, it’s fucking fantastic.
However, your FRANK Friday pick of the week is not one track, but a playlist. In light of everything going on at my alma mater, the University of Missouri, over the past several weeks and months, I decided to make a compilation of protest music. We tend to think of protest songs as being from the ‘60s and ‘70s, and having mostly to do with the war in Vietnam. What we sometimes overlook is that hip-hop as a genre has been responsible for some of the greatest protest anthems of all time. If you’ve ever yelled or sang the phrase “fuck the police,” you know what I’m talking about. Looking back across a catalogue of hip-hop songs that deal with oppression, you’ll find joy, rage, humor, optimism, and despair in the songs that have been created. I selected a few of my favorites, but this is by no means a comprehensive list. Some of the selections include classics you’d expect like “Fuck The Police” by N.W.A and “Sound of da Police” by KRS-One, plus newer cuts like “Alright” by Kendrick Lamar, “Hands Up” by Vince Staples, plus my personal favorite, “War Cry” by Tef Poe, a diss track aimed at Missouri’s governor.
I was living in Missouri when Michael Brown was killed and protestors descended on the streets of Ferguson. Over the past week, I’ve barely been able to peel myself away from news and updates at my old school. As a white dude, I don’t know the pain that people of color who lifted up their voices in either place felt and continue feeling today. I can’t relate to the tales of police harassment and brutality described in a lot of these songs. But any time you have to face a struggle, it feels good to know that you’re not alone. And hearing voices of solidarity through music especially can empower, soothe, or inspire you. So whether you’re at Yale, Mizzou, or anywhere else in the world where people are being marginalized for arbitrary reasons: bump this while you fight the power.
Ps, what did I miss? Share your favorite protest songs in the comments, or better yet, make a playlist of your own and we’ll plug it here and on social media.