15 Greatest Protest Songs Of The 21st Century

How about a little anarchy with that melody?

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[adult swim]

Political songs tend to come in bunches, stemming from a major cultural incident that persuades the populace to rebel against their leaders. And so far, the 2000s have not been short on protest-worthy moments.

The late 60s through the early 70s were arguably the apex of political musicianship, as the Vietnam War had pushed artists like Bob Dylan, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Sam Cooke, and Bob Marley to voice their dissent in song. It was an amazing time for melodic civil unrest.

But anyone who asks "Where have all the great protest songs gone?" clearly hasn't been paying close enough attention over the last couple of decades. Because that kind of music didn't go away with Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young. There's still plenty to be angry about, and there are still plenty of people ready to translate that anger into powerful music that stands in the face of injustice.

Some of these songs inspired a movement, but most were a reaction to one that was already in progress. Either way, they continued one of music's finest traditions: steering the cultural conversation with a beat, a melody, and a message.

15. Killer Mike - "Reagan"

Key Lyrics: "We should be indicted for the bullsh*t we inciting // Hand the children death and pretend that it's exciting"

Released in 2012, "Reagan" is a rare example of nonpartisanship protest music that abstains from attacking one particular side of the aisle. Although Killer Mike makes allusions to every leader the United States has elected into office since 1981, when everything's said and done, this is song is as much an indictment of his own community as it is politics.

Every verse has two sides to it. On one hand, he criticizes the country for having no genuine leaders, only a "talking head" to speak on behalf of "the real masters." But just as quickly, he turns the words on himself and his fellow rappers, and shoulders some of the blame for leading the nation's youth astray. In a way, "Reagan" is a protest against some of his own work.

But don't call it a protest song. At least not to Killer Mike's face.

In an interview with Spin magazine, the emcee explained, in the most refreshingly direct way possible, why it bothers him when people refer to him as a political rapper: "I don’t care too much for any political party. I care about people."

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Jacob is a part-time contributor for WhatCulture, specializing in music, movies, and really, really dumb humor.