the nsa knows you’ve got awesome taste in music. 10 songs for the surveillance state. #soundcheck

June 14, 2013

I’ve never really been the kind to buy into conspiracy theories. The Moon Landing was real. 9/11 wasn’t an inside job. Obama was born in Hawaii. And I can say with absolute certainty as an anarcho-communist who regularly attends meetings, the fluoride in your water is not an international communist plot. Macklemore is though. But the revelation that the NSA has in fact been keeping tabs on American’s internet and phone usage puts things in a new light. And while the Alex Jones crowd may still be wrong about basically everything else (you only had to spend about 15 minutes working with Occupy Sandy to realize that FEMA is far too incompetent to accomplish even 1/8th of Alex Jones’ fantasies), they kind of did call this one. So grab your favorite tinfoil hat, and turn this shit up, secure in the knowledge that the NSA knows you have excellent taste in music.

By Nathan Leigh, AFROPUNK Contributor

1. Immortal Technique – The Cause of Death

Remember 10 years ago when MCs like Immortal Technique were all about the Illuminati watching us all the time and we were all “that’s nice Tech…of course they are?” Well, uh sorry. You were right. My bad.

And you can’t fathom the truth, so you don’t hear me

You think Illuminati’s just a fucking conspiracy theory?

That’s why Conservative racists are all runnin’ shit

And your phone is tapped by the Federal Government

2. Fishbone – Behavior Control Technician

Fishbone’s “Behavior Control Technician” is inspired by the grand-daddy of dystpotian surveillance state novels, George Orwell’s 1984. It’s nearly impossible to reference the NSA’s PRISM surveillance program without comparison to Orwell’s Big Brother. While we may not be at the point of Behavior Control Technicians quite yet, but, uh, I don’t have a joke for this one. I’m kind of freaked out, guys.

3. Dead Kennedys – I Spy

One of the rare Dead Kennedys songs with lyrics by drummer D.H. Peligro, “I Spy” is about spotting an undercover in your scene. “you look at me from the back of the room / all I see is a bumbling buffoon.” We may be being watched at all times, but at least they’ll never credibly pull off punk rock. So we got that going for us.

4. Death Grips – I’ve Seen Footage

Always a little divorced from reality to begin with, MC Ride divorces himself from the reality of the shit he’s seen in the ghetto, declaring it all just a fictional video tape. Painting himself simultaneously as the watcher of the footage and the watched. Victim and victor. “I’ve seen it, I’ve been it / Can’t delete it feels like jail / …surveillance post my bail.”

5. Bloc Party – Hunting For Witches

Bloc Party’s “Hunting For Witches” isn’t so much a song about government surveillance as it is about the paranoia that inspires it. When you’re constantly told that there are terrorists around every corner, losing your right to privacy seems like a fair compromise, right? Right. “Kill your middle class indecision / Now is not the time for liberal thought.”

6. Ab Soul ft. Danny Brown – Terrorist Threats

The one consolation to realizing we have no privacy and basically haven’t for years is the twisted entertainment value of watching the government scramble and fracture along bizarre unexpected lines. A third say “it’s a necessary evil.” A third say “it’s evil and must be stopped immediately!” And a third say “it’s not really that bad or even happening at all, really, go watch cartoons!” Caught in a decade long lie, politicians and media figures reverse course and swerve into each other. If it weren’t horrible it’d be pretty damn entertaining. On his track with Danny Brown, Ab-Soul is finds sick pleasure in the lies we’re sold to keep us all tame. “Dear Barack / I know you just a puppet but I’m giving you props / You lying to the public like it ain’t nothing / And I just love it, I hope it don’t stop.”

7. Beauty Pill – Quote Devout Unquote

As every audio engineer who has ever had to deal with me tuning a theatre sound system knows after the 50th time on repeat, I contend that “Quote Devout Unquote” from Beauty Pill’s The Unsustainable Lifestyle is one of the most perfect sounding recordings of all time. Taking their band name from a line in Aldus Huxley’s Brave New World, Chad Clark’s sarcastic indictment of the Stupid American sounds as good now as it did 10 years ago, but the line “there’s no black ops / yeah, nobody’s reading your mail / no matte finish helicopters to swoop down and snatch you out of the habitrail” sounds downright naïve in hindsight. Well, at least they were right about the helicopters!

8. Rockwell – Somebody’s Watching Me

On this vaguely remembered but almost cruelly catchy mid-80’s Motown hit, son of label president Berry Gordon, Rockwell sings “I always feel like / Somebody’s watching me / And I have no privacy.” And yes, that is a Thriller-era Michael Jackson on the hook (with a little help from Jermaine). While it’s unknown why Rockwell—with his trademark halting vocal delivery and perfectly adequate lyrics—never recaptured the moderate success of “Somebody’s Watching Me,” I think it’s safe to assume it was the result of an elaborate conspiracy. Maybe it was the lizard people? Probably it was the lizard people.

9. Party Animal – You Can Fuck the System But The System’s Gonna Fuck You Too

Kool AD’s new hardcore band’s debut is a celebration of drunken punk sloppiness. But as much fun as the record is, they’re not immune to the appeal of the grand statement of nihilism. When the government is always watching you, you can fuck the system however you want, but the system’s gonna fuck you too. Go get ’em?

10. Akala – Welcome To Dystopia

We may just be finding out now that the NSA is playing all-seeing eye, in the UK closed circuit cameras are just a normal part of daily life. UK grime artist Akala’s “Welcome to Dystopia” opens with a haunting chant of “conform” before launching into an evisceration of the modern surveillance state. When you’ve got one surveillance camera for every 14 British citizens, you’re not just on the slippery slope to Big Brother, you’re pretty much there. How come we can’t have the Brave New World type of dystopia where everything sucks but at least we’re off our asses on soma the whole time?