Protest Songs

Protest songs have been around for years, they allow artists to express their disapointment and disgust at political or social matters such as War, Sexism, Greed, Corruption etc… Here are some protest Songs with short paragraphs to talk about them… 

“Not Now John – Pink Floyd”

Not Now John is a protest song dealing with War (mainly the Falklands War that went on between April and June 1982 which was a ten week war between Argentina and the United Kingdom over the Falklands island which were British territory. The song also criticizes England’s then prime minister Margaret Thatcher and the general greed and corruption in society seen by the song’s writer Roger Waters.

“Behind the Wall – Tracey Chapman”

Behind the Wall is a song from Tracey Chapman’s self titled debut album in 1988. The short a capella song looks into the prejudice of the Police and Law during the time and how they say they cannot get involved in domestic matter. The actual song is from the point of view of a neighbour to a woman who suffered domestic abuse from her husband and that when called the police say they cannot do anything about the matter. The last verse of the song we find out that the women unfortunately is killed by her husband. The song has a strong message for how this woman could have survived if the police were allowed to get involved, something which luckily has changed with today’s society.

Research by Joseph Bagwell

Mathematics – Mos Def

Rap – like physics – is fundamentally a mathematical disciplineYasiin’s masterful jaunt into numerology rests mainly on analysis of sociological statistics. The concepts of mathematics has to do with The Supreme Mathematics of the Five Percent Nation (aka Nation of Gods and Earths. Talib Kweli (Blackstar with Mos) along with many other NY rappers is Five Percenters. Yasiin is a traditional Muslim, and not from Nation of Gods and Earths. In Old School hip-hop, calculated planning is called “math”, knowledge is called “science”, and good rhymes are “English”. Back then, quite a few rappers were college educated, and school metaphors were common, as were school/classroom scenes in rap videos. Mos Def takes the metaphor and runs with a literalist interpretation, just to be fly.

“No. 99 – Joey Bada$$”

The meaning behind this song is anti Police/government and about their corruption. How they hide the truth from people and how racism affects people and how higher ups treat African Americans like cops. This song is Joey fighting back against the government. This is a reference to a line from 2Pac’s “I Get Around” “I’m just another black man caught up in the mix”. Even though Joey is famous, he is still a normal black kid. Because of that, a cop can still be racist towards him, and treat him poorly. The people are the No. 99 (%), the police/swine represent the other 1%. The police should represent the people but sadly nowadays the opposite is true, they are used as a tool for the top 1% to maintain the status quo, control and power. Joey says to never trust them! This is the reason for the name of the song.

Research by Ryan Heaney

“Heroes of War – Rise Against

Was made in 2008 from the album Appeal to Reason – The song starts of with a sort of army recruitment trying to persuade a man to join the army presuming around the minimum age of enrolment to the army as it seems aimed at a younger person. The song also depicts how destructive war is after claiming the boy ‘can see the world’. He doesn’t explain how war really is which he learns all too well quite quickly. The chorus really focuses on how patriotic people are before joining the army; and even during but then they really see what it is like from a first hand experience and see it’s completely different to what they expect. The second verse is a whole lot more harrowing than the first, this in my opinion is when you can say the song gets real from glorifying the military to something quite disgusting and what you wouldn’t be proud speaking about. It also really shows how some young men can feel forced into doing horrible acts of violence when their friends encourage them to, to actually feel apart of the group. This is really shown in the lyric “I told them to stop, but then I joined in” This shows that the ‘boy’ had a conscience but the things he took part in and was told were okay have completely changed his outlook on not only people but life as well: you could say he was brainwashed into doing these awful acts.

“Ill Mind – Hopsin 7”

Ill mind Hopsin is a series that focuses on the Artist Hopsin and how he thinks, these are normally quite controversial topics for example ill mind 7 being about how he hates “The Rap Game” And how it was kind of gone back rather than progressing forward. In ill mind 7 (IM7) Hopsin talks about his fights and struggles with his religious and primarily the concept of God and Christianity. The whole song is a progression of his thoughts and is perfectly executed from the idea of his faith to how he feels now and honestly it’s kind of a harrowing song that is just non-stop pure feels.

He talks primarily in the beginning about how people called him a sell out as he seemed to change faith quite quickly but honestly like he explains in the song he doesn’t know if there is or isn’t a god and it’s quite a heavy subject to talk about and to give one defind opinion can be quite difficult. He also points out that there are many different religions that people try to get you to follow but how can you tell theirs is the “true” religion, there’s no current proof. He also claims “I won’t read that book cause a human wrote it” showing he needs some kind of actual proof of a god for him to feel content.

Research by Connor Lumsden

“Whitey on the Moon – Gil Scott Heron”

The lyrics of this song are talking about one man’s opinion of how the American government had spent big sums of money on space travel and getting Neil Armstrong on the moon. He felt this was unfair and not right when people were suffering and there was inequality between people, the black and white.   It’s about how black people were giving everything to white people and how white people had everything, luxury items, nice houses, good food, nice cars, good education and jobs. The black people were left struggling.

“Strange Fruit – Billie Holiday”

Billie Holiday was a black singer entertaining white people. She was very popular and well liked with her audiences. The lyrics to the song “Strange Fruit,” was about a haunting critique of lynching and race terrorism in the American South. The lyrics of the song were to make people more aware what was happening to the American people.  This song helps to make changes and started the Civil Rights movement.

Research by Jordan Mehr

“Remember His Name – Jurassic 5”

The song Remember His Name by Jurassic 5 speaks on the high rate of death in the projects, especially drug related death. The lyrics are very cleverly written, using death as a metaphor for someone they do not know, all through the song they are describing death as someone you’d hang out with, suggesting that ‘the fellas he ran with no longer exist’ meaning that the people who were flirting with danger in the projects were all dead. Later on in the song they continue the metaphor with lines like ‘every time he came around and showed his face I ducked, in the mid eighties the nigga went crazy’ implying that death was running wild in the projects during the time.

Overall I chose this song because I think that the clever songwriting touches on a very serious matter, but it is sometimes hard to distinguish that they are talking about death, so it can surprise the listener at the end of the song when the final line reveals the metaphor ‘oh, hey, you know what, now I know who homie is man, his name is death’

“Holiday in Cambodia – Dead Kennedys”

The song is an attack on a stereotypical, moralizing, privileged American college student. Its lyrics offer a satirical view of young, well-to-do and self-righteous Americans, contrasting such a lifestyle with the brutal dictatorship of the Khmer Rouge, led by Pol Pot (depicted on the original single’s label and mentioned in the lyrics), which is estimated to have been responsible for the deaths of some two million people in Cambodia 1975 and 1979.

I chose this song because it is not an attack at leaders or governments, but at a country’s specific class/type of people, suggesting that they are incredibly insensitive, it also have some comedic value to it.

Research by Tyler Frost


Author: 42

English Singer-Songwriter and Producer.

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