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Bars: A look back on the best middle-finger tracks of the 2016 election, October 21

Get political with Eminem, YG, Swet Shop Boys, Mike Dean, and Perfect Giddimani

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“Nobody has more respect for women than I do. Nobody.”

We don’t like to get too political at ACCLAIM. However, that one quote – and I don’t think I need to tell you who said it – deserves about as much scrutiny as the JFK assassination. The final US presidential debate has been and gone and now it’s up to each candidate to carefully mince each of their words. Just don’t expect the music world to do the same. This year’s campaign has also coincided with the release of some excellent politically charged tracks from pissed off artists taking aim at the whimsical political climate we’re somehow stuck in. Some go red, most are blue. While we can guffaw at the idea of musicians fronting a political facade as an excuse to release new music, the debate has become so heated that music and art seem to be the only outlets free of chicanery and two-face political bullshit. With election day in just over a fortnight, this week Bars looks back on those talented peoples who’ve shared their two cents on the US Presidential Election everybody hates but desperately needs in their mundane 9 to 5.

01. Eminem – 'Campaign Speech'

The greatest technical rapper of all time leaves a trail of smart-alec backhanders on the man who once endorsed him for president. On ‘Campaign Speech’ Trump cops some of the grittiest bars we’ve heard from Em in a long time, being called out as “a fucking loose cannon who’s blunt, with his hand on the button who doesn’t have to answer to no one”. It might sound like Em’s endorsing the Republican candidate, but he’s quick to renege by firing bars on his own presidential vision. “If I was president… I’d walk up to Uncle Sam naked, laughing/ dick cupped in hand screaming “fuck safe sex!”/ throw an AIDS test and a latex at him”.

At this point in his career, Em sounds like a kid in a book of rhymes store – he’s got so many bubbling in his head that they tend to come out in a flurry of verbose nonsense. But in typical Slim Shady style, ‘Campaign Speech’ utilises the anarchy so key to his career. In practice, this “campaign speech” comes off less as political commentary and more as forthright political satire; showcasing the egocentricity which seems to be a prerequisite for any presidential candidate. With minimal production for cover, these bars are bold and unapologetic. “Why am I such a dick?” Em asks in the closing line. Perhaps we’ll know the answer when his forthcoming album drops. In the meantime, surely I’m not the only one feeling a West v Mathers debate in 2020?


02. Mike Dean – 'Grab Em By Da Pussy'

No matter which side of the political spectrum you fall under, or how disgusting you found Mr Trump’s “locker room talk” it’s hard to deny Mike Dean’s ability to make gold from filth. ‘Grab Em By Da Pussy’ attacks the Republican presidential nominee in the most diminishing way; using his own quotes against him. For the full three minutes, the former Kanye West producer does not speak a word. Instead, the “pussy” and “bitch” liberally vomited from Mr Trump’s mouth adds a touch of nonsense to this number. But Mike Dean’s production almost steals the show. The pounding, distorted bass points ‘Grab Em By Da Pussy’ in a new direction. At first you’re infuriated that you have to listen to his misogynistic comments on repeat. While the next minute you wanna go eight-ball. But is Mike Dean intentionally fucking with us? Does he want us to go off our nut then allow guilt to seep in when we realise we’re dancing to the sexist comments of a guy who could soon be the next president? Honestly, Mike. Why lay down such sacred, righteous beats when we’re just going to end up dealing with an arsehole of a moral dilemma?

03. Perfect Giddimani – 'Dollnald Trummp' [ft. Stephen Dajure]

You know you’ve done something wrong when you’ve managed to piss off the most peace-loving people in the world; Caribbean reggae musicians. ‘Dollnald Trummp’ tries to put the man on a crucifix but almost inadvertently wipes his face with a wet cloth. That’s not to say Giddimani nor Dajure support the Republican candidate. More-so, to the untrained ear – i.e. me – any reggae song sounds like friendly summons to a hash-stuffed soiree. For the experienced reggae fan, ‘Dollnald Trummp’ is a focused, concerned affair. The wellbeing of ethnic minorities dominates the track, with Giddimani pinpointing Mr Trump’s ignorance and blindness to his own racial and economic privilege. “Donald, you never respect my African heroes.” It’s a three-and-a-half-minute head-bop, suitable for anyone who knows better than to allow the glumness of a possible future to ruin the friendly warmth of the present.


04. Swet Shop Boys – 'T5'

Consisting of former Das Racist member Heems and actor/rapper Riz MC, Swet Shop Boys have been breathing nourishing, fresh air into an all-too familiar hip-hop scene for months. ‘T5’ is the ultimate callout on institutionalised racism that right-wingers these days seem to have no shame in endorsing. Half satire, half social commentary ‘T5’ explores the frustrating reality of POCs having to deal with airport security. “Oh no we’re in trouble/ TSA always wanna burst my bubble/ always gotta have that check when I rock the stubble.” It’s a reality that’s obviously preceded this election by many years. However, for Riz and Heems, the recent upswing in anti-Muslim protectionism is like throwing fuel on the fire. “Trump want my exit, but if he press a red button / To watch Netflix, bruv, I’m on”. For the average Joe, ‘T5’ is two friends riffing about authoritarian security staff. For Riz and Heems, it’s a damning reality they’ve become all too familiar with.


05. YG – 'FDT' [ft. Nipsey Hussle] and 'FDT pt.2' [ft. G-Eazy and Macklemore]

“Fuck Donald Trump”. Whoever said keep it simple, stupid was an outdated mantra? West Coast rapper YG made his political thoughts loud and clear when he dropped ‘FDT’ back in March. “I’m ready to go Black Panther/ Don’t let Donald Trump win that n***a cancer.” God bless YG for never fucking around. Not only do his words seethe with animosity, but there’s also frustration bubbling from a seemingly overnight political shift. For YG, the hope and equality promised by the Obama administration has all but receded. Hope has been replaced with fear. Equality is now a matter of “us vs them”. YG’s ‘FDT’ represents the unity that results in times of the “wicked and weird”.

“When me and Nip link, that’s Bloods and Crips/ we gon’ crash your ship.” For someone as blatantly territorial as YG – the same MC who only refers to his home Compton as “Bompton” – this brother-in-arms, David v Goliath unity is damn inspirational. Cue the surprise release of ‘FDT pt.2’ some months later and YG’s tour de force political campaign gained even more supporters.

“I ain’t livin’ in fear with my people who are Muslims, Mexicans, and queer and we ain’t gonna let you fuck up four years”. Love him or hate it, Macklemore throws down some of his tightest bars in round 2. Same goes for G-Eazy. ‘FDT pt.2’ is even more breakneck than its predecessor. YG’S signature middle-finger politics haven’t been seen since Rage Against the Machine burned the American flag on stage 17 years ago. If a Woodstock ’16 were announced, you know who’d be happy to continue the tradition.