occupy wall street 2 year anniversary anthems #soundcheck

September 16, 2013

Occupy Wall Street turns 2 this week. Here are 10 songs celebrating the ongoing revolution. Featuring The Coup, Talib Kweli, Tom Morello, and more. #SoundCheck

By: Nathan Leigh, AFROPUNK Soundcheck Editor


2 years in and the Occupy movement has been declared dead more times than punk, disco, hiphop, and Paul combined. And yet, though our numbers are admittedly smaller than our peak, the cardboard signs are still here. Every night folks are sleeping out in the financial district in New York City putting their bodies where their ideologies are. OWS offshoots like Strike Debt, Occupy Sandy, and Occupy Our Homes continue bringing practical applications of mutual aid to people in need. So yeah, we never came up with our “One Demand,” and maybe we haven’t (yet) succeeded in our goal of totally eradicating capitalism, patriarchy, and racial, sexual, and economic inequality. But anyone who thought those things would be fixed over night had maybe unrealistic expectations? In honor of Occupy’s 2 year birthday on Tuesday September 17th, we’ll skip the earnest singer-songwriter songs about changing the world and holding hands or whatever and get down with 10 songs to fuel the ongoing revolution.


1. The Coup – Long Island Iced Tea, Neat

On this cut from “Sorry to Bother You,” Boots and co celebrate the triumphant feeling after a successful action with a Long Island Iced Tea. “Here’s a toast to the folks who let actions speak.” There’s been a lot of argument over whether #S17 should be a protest or a celebration. Personally? I think we protest 364 days a year. And not to rest on our laurels; there’s obviously so much still to do, but it’s pretty dope that we’re still here. That’s worthy of taking a day to celebrate as far as I’m concerned.


2. Rhetoric – In the Throes of Corporatocracy

But for those who want to see S17 as a day of militant action against corporate greed, there’s the brutal hardcore of Rhetoric. The Springfield band’s lyrics play out as polemics against greed and oppression. “There’s filthy, greedy, hands behind every big scam. We won’t stand for this anymore! It is the power we let them have that they are using to control us all.”


3. Talib Kweli – Distractions

In the early days, it seemed like everyone (myself included) wanted to shoot a music video in Zuccotti Park. This cut from the great Talib Kweli’s latest, Prisoner of Conscious makes killer use of footage of marches and rallies from fall of 2011. “Skip religion and the politics, head straight for the compassion / everything else is a distraction.”


4. Cole Williams – Occupy Yourself

Afropunk member Cole Williams’s track “Occupy Yourself” wins the honor of being one of the few songs with Occupy in the title that doesn’t come off as hopelessly shoehorned. The song puts OWS in a lineage of the centuries long struggle for equal rights and economic justice. “If you’re tired of being paralyzed…occupy yourself”


5. Saidah Baba Talibah – Revolution

If you know nothing else about anarchist icon Emma Goldman, you probably know the quote: “if I can’t dance, I don’t want to be part of your revolution.” Something tells me Emma Goldman would love this track from Saidah Baba Talibah. Few songs can move you to both action and dance so well. “No matter what you say / It’s gonna go our way / No matter what you do / We’re gonna fight for truth.”


6. Evitan – P.T.I.


Folks who criticize the movement continue to cite arrest statistics of occupiers, missing the point that of the thousands of arrests, less than 10 led to any time served. Jarobi from A Tribe Called Quest and Dres of Black Sheep indict the police harassment of OWS. The video predates some of the worst police abuse, but it’s not like there’s any shortage of footage of Winski being Winski… “Fuck the police / no justice, no peace / I’ll be the ulcer in the stomach of the belly of the beast.”


7. Rhiannon Giddens – The Bottom 99

Carolina Chocolate Drops banjo player Rhiannon Giddens belts out this modern reinterpretation of the 1920’s Coal Miner anthem “Come All You Coal Miners.” Singing unamplified in the park, she gives a heartfelt and ear shattering performance. “I know I’m not the only one with trouble on my mind / We have to stand together, we are the 99.”


8. Rejectionist Front – Flush

The video opens with some brutal images of police brutality against protesters, so be warned if that’s triggering. On “Flush,” alt rock / hip-hop band Rejectionist Front breaks down the criminal dealings of Wall St. in straightforward language. “Bank of the Citi is a bird of prey / millions for the bonus, now they’ve stolen everything.”


9. Junkyard Empire – Sabotage

Junkyard Empire makes a call for action in this tight track from their 2012 record “Butt Naked in the Matrix.” It’s a passionate plea to get involved with the fight against oppression. And it gets bonus points for the Terry Gilliam-esque animation in the video. “Sabotage / Awakening of the masses / Sabotage / Conflict of the classes.”


10. Tom Morello – This Land Is Your Land

OK I lied about no earnest folk songs. In this live performance at Occupy LA, Tom Morello sings the classic Woody Guthrie anthem “This Land Is Your Land.” Often misinterpreted as a statement of patriotism, The Nightwatchman sings the rarely performed verses that call for distribution of wealth and an end to private property.


So what did we miss? What are your favorite OWS anthems?

If you’re interested in coming out on the 17th and looking for ways to connect, e-mail me at nathan [at] afropunk [dot] com, and make sure you’re following official OWS channels on Twitter and Facebook. There are a million ways to get involved with the struggle for racial, sexual, and economic justice, and there’s still so much to do.