The only good thing about Donald Trump is that he has made time slow down. As we get older, every year seems to pass more quickly than the last in the rush toward death. But the Trump regime has slowed all of that down, and the year since that dark night when he was elected has felt as long as any since high school.
As in high school, this slow-moving but insanely intense sense of time has seemed to heighten the emotional impact of music. When a song rings right and seems to express the horror and angst that emanates from the world around you, it feels glorious.
This collection of songs comes from the music editors of more than 20 different papers. As I was writing a column about the Trump regime for a number of alt-weeklies — and trying to find ways to take “alt” back from the Nazis — I ended up talking to a lot of editors and writers around the country and we thought if we could bring together the best protest songs from as many cities as possible, we might learn something about the state of dissent — while also finding some relief.
E-Turn, “Ill Legal Alien”
Orlando, FL Bandcamp
Everything about Orlando MC E-Turn is a particularly eloquent middle-finger in the face of Donald Trump. The outspoken femme Persian-American MC is a firebrand on the mic, and her lyrics deftly meld the personal with the political in ways that hardcore dudes could only dream of. The fury and technique with which she drop bars – and other, usually male, MCs – on stage is the proud definition of a nasty woman. Her anthemic "Ill Legal Alien" may predate Trump's election, but the Swamburger-produced track (Solillaquists of Sound) is still furiously of-the-moment. (Matthew Moyer and Bao Le-Huu, Orlando Weekly)
Mal Jones, J. Blacco, Lost Firstborne, and DJ Shotgun
CODE RED: “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot"
Jacksonville, FL Bandcamp
Mal Jones says, “We came up with this song after all of the recent acquittals in the cases related to the steadily rising murders of unarmed black men in the hands of law enforcement in America. We wanted to protest about this issue in the most affective way we know how. Through song. Hands up, don't shoot!” J. Blacco adds: “My inspiration for writing my verse was first the climate of events going on at the time. It was right after the Alton Sterling situation. When my man Lost Firstborne played the beat that's just what the track was speaking to me. It had a haunting soulful vibe about it so once I heard it everything flowed rather easily.” (Claire Goforth, Folio Weekly)
Lingua Franca, “A Man’s World”
Athens, GA Bandcamp
Shortly after Inauguration Day, two Athens studios invited 19 local bands to commemorate the dawn of the Trump Age, tracking 20 songs in a marathon 48-hour session. While much of the resulting album, Athens Vs. Trump Comp 2017, is suitably bleak, ascendant MC Lingua Franca’s “A Man’s World” stands out for its sheer defiance. “Frenzied and indiscreet,” it’s a fiery feminist anthem for the resistance. (Gabe Vodicka, Flagpole Magazine)
Iris DeMent, “We Won’t Keep Quiet”
Iowa City, IA
Back in February, Iowa City held a Solidarity Rally Against the Ban, proclaiming support for immigrant populations and refugees in the wake of Trump's first and most ridiculous attempted travel ban. In between the community leaders, local politicians, and youth speakers, a variety of area musicians performed, including the brilliant Iris DeMent. She debuted a song, "We Won't Keep Quiet," that captured the feeling in the crowd that day in a really powerful way.
Cheap Perfume, “Trump Roast”
Colorado Springs, CO
Cheap Perfume are a four-piece Colorado Springs band who follow in the tradition of feminist punk acts like Le Tigre and The Slits. “Trump Roast” is, not surprisingly, one of their biggest crowd-pleasers, as Stephanie Byrne and Jane No deliver a “Dear Don” letter to the resident president, culminating in a final verse that grows more timely, and more serious, with each passing day: “You wanna ban Muslims? Well, we wanna ban you / Your fascist ideas wrapped in red, white, and blue / Your KKK clones won't be the ones to choose / Enjoy your last gasp cause racism's through.” (Bill Forman, CS Independent)
DBL DRGN, "Trim the Bushes"
There were several election-reflection songs that came out of Charleston following Nov. 8, 2016. One of those that stood out for us is by a local hip-hop duo — Damn Skippy and Bad Mojo, dubbed DBL DRGN. Before releasing the audio, the guys filmed the video for the song "Trim the Bushes" on Election Day. With Bad Mojo dressed as a dragon, high-fiving passersby, the silly aspect of the visuals was meant to complement the circus-like atmosphere of the 2016 election — it also brought a smile to the faces of voters on an otherwise stressful day. The video was released on Inauguration Day, another attempt to lift the spirits of those who felt the doom and gloom all too well that January morning. In the single, the duo rather brilliantly mash up George Bush ("Fool me once ... can't get fooled again") with Bob Marley ("You can fool some people sometimes but you can't fool all the people all of the time"), while the video shows footage of Donald Trump's remarks on everything from immigration and Mexicans to birtherism, Putin, John McCain, and women. The acknowledgment of all the things we as progressives find disturbing about the current administration coupled with the sense that folks should keep their heads up (and alert) and stick together for the duration of the hand we've been dealt was the perfect combo. Check out the video for yourself below. (Kelly Rae Smith, Charleston City Paper)
Vincent Randazzo, "What We Don't Know"
Monterey, CA Bandcamp
Randazzo, a Seaside, California native, got his start with a local metal band, and has since gone solo. On his latest album, Politics Are Parlor Tricks, there's a bright and fast guitar part but the chatty lyrics and are all about despair, and the angst comes through in the quality of his vocals too. "No president to come is gonna wave his magic wand," Randazzo sings. "What's this bullshit, collectively agreeing we can't do it on our own." Other songs go beyond Trump-bashing to to the political system more broadly: "$20 for a congressman / We've got billions lacking common sense," he sings in "Blame You For It." (Sara Rubin, Monterey County Weekly)
Lonely Horse, “Devil in the White House”
San Antonio, TX Bandcamp
Shots fired! Lonely Horse came out guns-a-blazing with the track “Devil in the White House." Opening with a sludgy cadence that crescendos into a tumultuous rock & roll explosion, the "desert rock" duo of Nick Long and Travis Hild make very clear their feelings about the 45th POTUS. (Chris Conde, San Antonio Current)
Thunderfist, "Suck It" (demo)
Salt Lake City, UT
Sure, there are more articulate ways to denounce Trump. And revolution by example — countering blustery, bigoted bullshit with artfully composed, well-reasoned takedowns — is how we'll effect change. That doesn't mean we can't occasionally vent our rage by strapping on Les Pauls, cranking up Marshalls, raising middle fingers and offering a blues-based, punk-rock invitation to fellatio. And maybe also, as the final, snarling chord slides into silence, calling him a "fat baby fuckface." (Randy Harward, SLC Weekly)
Dooley, Lor Roger, and TLow, "CIT4DT"
This Boosie-tinged Thee Donald diss from Baltimore that dropped long before inauguration still thrills: "Boy ain't even white, you yellow / You said you'd date your own daughter, you a sicko." Stakes are high here too — the mastermind behind it, Dooley, is Muslim, for example — and right-wing semi-fascist snowflakes took the song totally seriously, denounced it as a "death threat" ("CIT4DT" stands for "chopper in the trunk for Donald Trump"), and bemoaned its Baltimore origins, where protest morphed into property damage and as far as a lot of us were concerned verged gloriously on revolution. Meanwhile, the trio responsible for it thought the shit was hilarious. (Brandon Soderberg, Baltimore City Paper)
“Justice,” Trombone Shorty and Dumpstaphunk
New Orleans, LA
Trombone Shorty and Dumpstaphunk teamed up on a song called “Justice,” which they released on the day Donald Trump was inaugurated president. A melange of funk, jazz and New Orleans brass band sounds, the video for “Justice” slyly marries video footage of Trump against pointed lyrics. "Inauguration day seemed to be an appropriate time to voice the need for equal say and opportunity for all people,” says Dumpstaphunk’s Ivan Neville. "We entered a New Year with a lot of unanswered questions on the subject of 'justice' that we all felt a little uneasy about. But there's only so much we can do and this track is our way of expressing our worries.” The song is available on most streaming services. (Kevin Allman, Gambit Weekly)
OG Swaggerdick, "Fuck Donald Trump"
Among diehard hip-hop heads as well as artists, Boston's underground rap scene is renowned as one of the most lyrically elaborate and intellectual anywhere. To that end, over the past year, such acts as STL GLD (Moe Pope + The Arcitype) and more recently The Perceptionists (Mr. Lif + Akrobatik) have released their most compelling works to date, largely inspired by the mess that Donald Trump has made (though not always naming-checking Dolt 45 directly). But when it comes to straight up protesting and verbally impaling the potty-mouthed POTUS, there's something undeniably satisfying, even admirable about the Hub's own OG Swaggerdick's simple and straightforward election anthem, "Fuck Donald Trump." From the fittingly filthy rhymes — "never give props to a punk ass trick / motherfuck Donald Trump he can suck my dick" — to the strangers on the street who gladly join along in rapping in the video, they're protest lyrics that you'll still be able to remember and perhaps even rap for relief on occasions when the president leaves you otherwise speechless. (Chris Faraone, DigBoston)
The After Lashes, “We the Sheeple”
Coachella Valley, CA
The After Lashes is a new all-female punk band from the Coachella Valley that features Ali Saenz, the wife of former Dwarves and Excel drummer Greg Saenz. Frontwoman Esther Sanchez explains the inspiration behind the band's song "We the Sheeple": "It was an easy song to write, because it came from a place of frustration and growing resentment toward the current powers that be, and, of course, more specifically, Donald Trump,” she says. “We have a president who calls anything he doesn't like 'fake news' while simultaneously spending an insane amount of time tweeting nonsense and lies like a crazy person. … The policies he intends to establish are harmful to pretty much everyone who is not wealthy; unfortunately, so many who voted for him were unknowingly voting against their own best interests. The song is very much about uniting against a tyrant, because that is precisely what we believe Trump to be.” (Brian Blueskye, Coachella Valley Independent)
Columbia, SC Bandcamp
On its 2017 debut EP Home, Columbia’s Withdraw oscillate violently between bristling, pedal-to-the floor emo (think At the Drive-In) and brutal, clawing crust punk. And on “Disgust,” the band proves the virtue of their versatility, shifting from an unflinchingly blackened hardcore blitz that bashes sexual abusers to a more expansive, anthemic coda that seeks to lift up the victims — “You are not tarnished!” It’s a potent statement, a searing declaration of allyship in a musical realm more often derided for problematic gender politics. (Jordan Lawrence, Free Times)
Priests, "Right Wing"
There's been no shortage of scathing political protest songs coming out of D.C. since, well, the birth of punk. But in recent years, post-punk quartet Priests have succeeded in reminding the rest of the country that D.C. is, and always has been, pissed the fuck off. "Right Wing," off the band's breakthrough EP Bodies and Control and Money and Power, so perfectly captures the ass-backwardsness of living in a country controlled by capitalists, fascists, racists, and war-mongers. "Everything everything/ So right wing/ Everything everything/ So right wing/ Purse searches, pep rallies/ Purse searches, SUVs," sings Katie Alice Greer. It reads like a short, poetic treatise on how the toxicity of right wing ideals infects everyday life. (Matt Cohen, Washington City Paper)
Clint Breeze and The Groove, "Blood Splatter"
Indianapolis, IN Bandcamp
Featuring over a dozen guest contributors, including poets, rappers and jazz musicians, Nappy Head weaves a phantasmagoric assemblage of words and sounds into a razor-sharp critique of racial oppression in modern America. "I wanted to symbolize the state of oppression that Black people experience every day. From not getting fair treatment in the justice system, to getting shot and killed by law enforcement, to being unfairly treated in the workforce — you name it. I wanted to make a statement on how we as Black people view this oppressive society that we live in. I also wanted to give a different perspective from white people. I have a couple of my friends who are white on the album speaking about the nature of white privilege," Breeze says. "Blood Splatter" is the record's most cutting track, featuring spoken word artist Too Black, with cascading cymbal cracks and careening sax. (Kyle Long and Katherine Coplen, NUVO News)
Burlington, VT Bandcamp
NODON are an anti-fascist, anti-hate power-punk duo born out of the 2016 presidential election. Seething with caustic epithets, their songs condemn xenophobia, sexism, homophobia, white supremacy and, above all, President Donald Trump. “Alt-Wrong,” from their 2017 EP, Covfefe, delivers a swift and vicious kick to the alt-right’s figurative crotch. Over razor-sharp guitar riffs and seething drums, they scream their battle cry: “Annihilate this hate! Not right! Alt-wrong!” (Jordan Adams, Seven Days)
Rmllw2llz “So Amerikkkan”
Nationwide, when you think of the Louisville music scene, your mind probably bounces to My Morning Jacket, Bonnie "Prince" Billy or maybe even White Reaper — all of whom are great — but our city’s hip-hop scene is packed with poignant hip-hop artists, and if you’re looking for a pure protest song, look no further than Rmllw2llz’s “So Amerikkkan,” in which he says “Fuck Trump, he’s a bum and Hillary trash, too.” The song was released a few months ago, but, if you give it a listen, you can hear a lot of the country’s past, present and future angst packed into a few powerful minutes. (Scott Recker, Leo Weekly)
Michael Bone, “My Peace Will Outlive You”
Chico, CA Bandcamp
Michael Bone is a Chico musician, husband and father who has a day job teaching music to developmentally disabled kids, a night job playing drums for jazz combo Bogg, and dozens of side projects including running the 1day Song Club. The latter is a songwriting group that receives a one-word prompt every other week, after which participants are tasked with writing, recording and submitting a song to be posted online (at www.1dayclub.com) within 24 hours. “My Peace Will Outlive You,” an angst-riddent yet hopeful slice of psychedelic pop, is Bone's contribution to the prompt of “Trump.” (Jason Cassidy, News Review)