10 new political albums you'll fall in love with
By Mat Ward
Well, obviously that headline's not true. But hey, this is the internet, so we have to try to distract you from that video of a monkey weeing in its own mouth. Here's this month's political news and all the new albums that related to it. What albums would you suggest? Comment on Twitter, Facebook, or email.
1. Mr CEE - AUSTRALIA'S NIGHTMARE
On February 1, Nyoongar rapper Mr Cee launched his new album of hard-hitting Aboriginal rap, just days before Indigenous man Patrick Fisher died while fleeing from police in Sydney. It followed Malaysian-Australian poet Omar Musa's new album, which features a scorching verse from Indigenous emcee Tasman Keith, who raps: "Genocide and gentrified a country in no time. Trauma pain and loss, I lost my only piece of mind." On February 9, activists protested outside NSW parliament to mark the anniversary of former PM Kevin Rudd's apology to the stolen generation, pointing out that the rates of Aboriginal children being taken away from their families have since got far worse. On February 12, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's "Closing The Gap" speech, blaming Aboriginal people for their own predicament, was blasted by Indigenous activists as more "Turnbullshit". Meanwhile, white Australian rap reached a new low in the widely ridiculed new song from MP Nick Xenophon. LISTEN>>>
2. U.S. GIRLS - IN A POEM UNLIMITED
On February 2, Radmila Stafnovic became the seventh woman to die from violence in Australia this year, bringing little change in Australia's average violent death rate of one woman a week. Hitting back at the worldwide war on women was Meghan Remy with her new album as U.S. Girls, whose song "Pearly Gates" asks how a heaven controlled by men could ever be safe. On album opener “Velvet 4 Sale” she sings: “You've been sleeping with one eye open because he always could come back, ya know? And you’ve been walking these streets unguarded waiting for any man to explode.” But the song ends with a woman telling another how to ensure her male target is dead. As the media fawned over a pending Australian visit from Barack Obama, the album's track “M.A.H.” accused the 44th US president of fraud, charming the world while waging wars that devastate women's lives. It joined other strong feminist albums from inimitable garage rockers Dream Wife and country pop crooner Ruby Boots. MORE>>>
3. BILLY MONAMA - REBOUNCE
On February 15, former mining union leader Cyril Ramaphosa was voted in as South Africa's new president, promising to redistribute land held by white farmers. But activists pointed to the millions of dollars he has made from the country's "new apartheid" and reminded people that as director of mining company Lonmin, he had told police to "come down hard" on striking miners before the cops opened fire, killing 34 and wounding 78. More likely to stay loyal to his people is South African jazz guitarist Billy Monama, with his new album, Rebounce. Monama's self-described "political project" is his Graz Roots programme, which aims to get the indigenous music of South Africa into the school curriculum by reviving genres such as mbaqanga, mgqashiyo, maskandi and African Jazz. "I grew up listening to Simon 'Mahlathini' Nkabinde Mahotella Queens, Zakes Nkosi and West Nkosi," he says. "I asked myself why these people were not in the history books like Louis Armstrong." MORE>>>
4. FEMI KUTI - ONE PEOPLE ONE WORLD
Some of the biggest opponents of South African apartheid were Nigerians, whose fellow countryman Femi Kuti released his new protest album One People One World on February 23. Explaining the title of the album, which rails against corruption, he said: "In terms of climate change, if we don't understand we're all one people living on one planet, we're going to be in trouble, as we're already seeing." It came after Nigerian activist Osayomore Joseph - a protege of Femi Kuti's famed father, Fela Kuti - released his latest album after being taken hostage by kidnappers. The album 30 Days And 30 Nights In Evil Forest, which describes his ordeal, has been released by his record company internationally on YouTube, to garner additional income, however small. "My account is now minus zero," says Joseph, who had to pay off his kidnappers' ransom. "I have nothing left." MORE>>>
5. KENDRICK LAMAR - BLACK PANTHER THE ALBUM
Centred on the fictional African nation of Wakanda, widely-praised superhero movie Black Panther was released on February 16, accompanied by an equally-acclaimed album by political rap superhero Kendrick Lamar. On the title track, Lamar - who has managed to sell millions of politically charged albums without dumbing down his music or message - asks: "What do you stand for? Are you an activist?" Several South African emcees appear on the album, including Yugen Blakrok, who spits: “Crushing any system that belittles us. Antidote to every poison they administer." An equally fierce femcee and political activist, the Anthens, Georgia-based Linqua Franqa, also announced her new album this month. On album track “The Con and the Can” she raps: “Everyone wantin' to complain about the state of the system, congratulate themselves on Facebook for paying attention. And homie, I know you're right, but if nobody mobilises and no one fights, shit, we staying slaves for centuries.” MORE>>>
6. JPEGMAFIA - VETERAN
Satirical rapper JPEGMAFIA, last seen bringing on the orange apocalypse with his lunatic underground hit "I Might Vote For Donald Trump", was back promoting a new album of piss-takes this month, counter-intuitively calling it "garbage". On album opener "1539 N. Calvert" he raps: "Fuck a blog, fuck a fan, hope my record get panned, least I made you niggas dance." But things get a little more serious on "I Cannot Fucking Wait Until Morrissey Dies", said to have been written after the former Smiths singer wore an offensive shirt using the image of African-American social critic James Baldwin. Days after the album was released, Morrissey hit headlines again when he teased a Glasgow audience about Scottish National Party leader Nicola Sturgeon, reportedly causing some fans to walk out in disgust. But on "Baby I'm Bleeding", JPEGMAFIA is back taunting Trump, rapping: "Now I'm at the White House, looking for your President. Hop out the van pointing guns at your residence." LISTEN>>>
7. SOLE - LET THEM EAT SAND
Equally adept at blending hip-hop with humour is hyper-activist rapper Sole, who put out his latest album of provocative prose on February 2. Probably one of the best-read rappers out there, he released Let Them Eat Sand with the words: "10,000 years of the failed experiment called civilization. 80 years till cities start disappearing into the ocean. 15 years till the Oglala aquifer is depleted and America's breadbasket is a desert. 1421 people killed by cops in 2017. 1 year of Donald Trump." Promoting it, he said "global warming is a done deal" and the activist scene is run by cults paralysed by “Identity Politics 101”. Its release came days before climate scientists expressed alarm at "really extreme" temperatures in the Arctic. "To have zero degrees at the North Pole in February - it's just wrong," said Amelie Meyer, a researcher of ice-ocean interactions with the Norwegian Polar Institute. "It's quite worrying." LISTEN>>>
8. SUPERCHUNK - WHAT A TIME TO BE ALIVE
What A Time To Be Alive is the apt title of the acclaimed new album from indefatigable indie rockers Superchunk, who say it took Trump to finally turn them political. "To see the rot in no disguise, oh what a time to be alive," they sing on the title track of the record, which was released on February 16. Inspired by a notorious viral photograph of the Trump Administration signing away women's reproductive rights, the song "I Got Cut" fumes: "All these old men won't die too soon. Closing my eyes, making room, for oh, somebody else." Indie pop chameleons Poliça take the same inspiration on their new album. Lead single "How Is This Happening" was written the day after Trump won the 2016 election to reflect the "strange and sudden darkening in our times". Critics have dismissed it as a "dirge" for daring to be dynamically different, but it's a bold album from a band who aren't afraid to constantly reinvent themselves while the world's politicians seem stuck in a rotting rut. LISTEN>>>
9. THE DERISION CULT - NO ESTEEMED DEEDS
Lone thrash metaller The Derision Cult channels the same malignant energy on his new album, which was inspired by Trump, totalitarian technology and the Manhattan project, the research team that came up with the first nuclear weapons. "The name comes from a place I mountain bike - I live in Chicago," he told Green Left Weekly. "South of the city there's a big forest preserve and about six miles in there’s a big clearing and a monument. They buried all the remnants from the Manhattan project there and the monument is a warning to future civilizations not to dig or mess with the area. One of the lines is 'there are no Esteemed Deeds commemorated here'." Also pumping out radical metal are British anarchists Dawn Ray'd on their new album, The Unlawful Assembly, whose latest video mashes up riot cops with animal liberation activists. To promote themselves, the band have had stickers made featuring the slogan "XLW" - the code police use to target "extreme left wing" protesters. LISTEN>>>
10. HANNAH WHITE - ELEPHANT EYE
Dawn Ray'd's fellow Brit, Hannah White, peddles similar politics in a gentler genre on her new album of conscious country music, launched on February 8. On "Your Country's Not At War" the self-described "vegan and Labour Party member" sings: "Young man why are you shouting? That's not what freedom's for. You're scaring the old ladies and that's against the law. Forces only use their truncheons just to make it clear. Shouting is classed as civil unrest you get up to a year. Holy man why do you grow your beard and dress this way? I ask because it is my job to keep the bombs away. If you argue then in a prison cell you'll be. I don't have to give a reason in this democracy." It came as Britain's Defence Secretary said Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn could not be trusted because he once "met a Communist spy". Meanwhile, up in Sunderland, indie experimentalists Field Music explored the implications of Brexit on their new album, saying "things have been very dark". MORE>>>
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mat Ward has been writing for Green Left Weekly since 2009 and authored the book Real Talk: Aboriginal Rappers Talk About Their Music And Country. He also makes political music and is about to release a future bass album about Elon Musk. Follow him on Spotify here.
Read about more political albums here.
Stream Green Left TV's political music playlist here.
3CR radio's Global Intifada show is a knowledgeable and diverse source of topical political music. Listen to it online here.
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