bring on the revolution! 10 tracks to get you psyched for may day. #soundcheck

April 29, 2013

For much of the world May Day is celebrated as an international worker’s holiday. In America May 1st is Loyalty Day. No. Seriously. While most countries are celebrating worker’s rights and international solidarity, in the Land of the Free® we celebrate obedience to the state. But cities across the country are holding their own May Day celebrations. In New York a coalition of Immigrant Rights groups, Unions, and Occupy are organizing a day of action and a march to promote worker’s rights, immigrant rights, and to fight the endless creep of austerity. If last year’s celebration was any indication, it’ll be epic. Here are 10 tracks to help you get you psyched for it.

1. The Coup – 5 Million Ways to Kill a CEO

Boots Riley is legit. One of the few artists who sings about radical politics who’s not afraid to get his hands dirty working as a community activist. An outspoken member of Occupy Oakland and a life-long community organizer, Boots fills his music with anti-capitalist rhetoric. This whole list could just have been a list of awesome songs by The Coup. (fun fact: that would be all of them.) Honorable mention: “The Guillotine” from The Coup’s genius 2012 record Sorry to Bother You with my favorite lyric of 2012 “we got hella people / they got helicopters”.


2. Trash Talk – Uncivil Disobedience

It shouldn’t be surprising that 2012 was a good year for political anthems. It was a year that saw global uprisings (some successful, some not so much) against austerity, oppression, and colonialism. Trash Talk puts it simple on this hardcore rager from 119 “stop me if you think it’s complete / I see you’re displeased / class war rages on.”


3. Death – Politicians in My Eyes

Before there were the Johnnies Thunder, Ramone, or Rotten, there were 3 brothers from Detroit who laid down the template for punk rock. Their lone self-released single (before they got the master tapes back and released them as a full length 30 years later…) “Politicians In My Eyes” sums up the relationship of average Americans to our leaders with the line “they could care less about you / they could care less about me.” Happy Loyalty Day?


4. The Beatnigs – Burritos

Michael Franti’s early post-punk / industrial band is best remembered as the band that first recorded the hit “Television.” But while “Television” leverages some damning social commentary (“television, drug of the nation / breeding ignorance / and feeding you radiation”) the track from The Beatnigs’ self-titled “Burritos” highlights class divisions through something we can all understand: food. We eat burritos from street vendors, while our leaders eat gourmet meals cooked by personal chefs. The President Franti references may have changed a a few times since 1988 but not much else has.


5. Mos Def – War

Mos Def’s 2004 record The New Danger split fans down the middle. Featuring his heavy backing band Black Jack Johnson (with Dr. Know on guitar, no less), it was unlike anything Mos had done before. One of the best tracks is the disjointed “War” in which Mos Def takes a sort of post-modern approach to the Military-Industrial Complex. Jumping from the point of view of a soldier afraid to die to a greedy military contractor, the conflicted track ends with a chorus of “fuck you, pay me.”


6. Open Mike Eagle – The Financial Crisis That Would Not Die

Open Mike Eagle gives a master class on the economic meltdown over a killer beat on this track from his 2012 record 4NML HSPTL. If you had any questions about how we got here, just check this track. It’s like Zizek but with a more elaborate internal rhyme scheme.


7. Charles Bradley – Confusion

The Screaming Eagle of Soul may be full of gratitude and love on his latest record Victim of Love, but he’s got no love for our nation’s leaders who wield confusion like a weapon.


8. Bad Brains – Destroy Babylon

OK let’s be real. This track would get you psyched for just about anything. Doing laundry? “Destroy Babylon.” Awkward dinner with your ex? “Destroy Babylon.” Dismantling oppressive systems and fighting for workers rights? “Destroy Babylon.” It’s that simple.


9. Bloc Party – Kettling

Kele Okereke’s lyrics are often masked by layers of irony and sarcasm, so it’s honestly hard to tell whether “Kettling” is a call for revolution or a criticism of revolutionary rhetoric. But who cares? This song is badass and the chorus of “They can’t stop this / we can feel it in our bones / the future’s ours, yes it is” gets me every time.


10. Antibalas – Dirty Money

As a founding member of the Occupy Wall Street Puppetry Guild, this song basically maxes out my heart meter. Afrobeat + criticism of Wall Street greed + felt muppet-style puppets? Shit yeah! I may not be able to narrow it down to my 5 Desert Island CDs (I could maybe do 50 and that’s assuming we’re going to allow a burned data CD with Bowie’s complete discography on it to count as one) but I’ve got exactly one Desert Island Video.

What are you planning on doing for May Day? What protest songs get you going?

– Words by Nathan Leigh