What makes a song patriotic?
For many people in the U.S., a patriotic song is one that makes them “proud to be an American”. And upon hearing the “Star-Spangled Banner” or “America The Beautiful,” you may be moved to proudly wave an American flag. But let’s be honest here, there are plenty of horrible patriotic songs out there as well.
The fact is that the definition of “patriot” is different for every individual. We all had different experiences throughout our lives that may have shaped how we feel about our country. Regardless of how we’ve became shaped as individuals, I think we all feel a sense of patriotism at one point or another. And, that’s probably the most important reason why Rap music should be considered a genuine form of patriotism. It makes a lot of people feel some sort of emotion.
Some people would argue that Rap shouldn’t be considered patriotic. After all, many believe that Rap artists speak out about the underbelly of America. But that’s no reason to believe that just because some rap music is outspoken that it should dismissed as unpatriotic. Because, the same could be said for any other genre of music.
Some of the greatest songs that speak about injustices have become mistaken as patriotic. Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land” or Bruce Springsteen’s “Born In The USA” are just two examples of protest songs that have become American as apple pie. Pete Seeger and Bob Dylan made their careers by speaking up for the little man. So, why can’t tracks like Ice Cube’s “I Wanna Kill Sam” or Public Enemy’s “Fight The Power” or Big Baby Gandhi’s “American Experience” be considered just as patriotic?
And that’s the great thing about this country. We have the opportunity to voice our differences and grievances. And for a lot of people, Rap gave them voices to speak out on the injustices that can happen in this crazy world.
But rap isn’t all about speaking out on equality and injustice. It’s also supposed to be fun. In the early days of rap, the music came about from block parties in New York. It fit their lifestyle. And old-school artists like Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five or the Sugarhill Gang made music that was fun. We still hear that today. Sometimes people need music to dance to when they’re having a party. And rap provides the perfect soundtrack for that situation.
There are also two more recent events that showed Rap and Hip-Hop artists could be just as patriotic as any other musician. There was of course the 9/ll attacks. Shortly after, the Wu-Tang Clan released Iron Flag with the track “Rules,” which included the lines:
Who the f#ck knocked our buildings down / Who the man behind the World Trade massacre step up now / Where them four planes at / Is you insane b**** / Fly that sh** over my hood and get blown to bits”
And let’s not forget that in the midst of classic rockers during “The Concert For New York” there was Jay-Z performing for the MSG crowd. Moving on to something more joyous, there was the election and reelection of President Barack Obama. Alongside some of the typical patriotic musicians like Bruce Springsteen. Artists like Jay-Z, will.i.am, Bun B, and ?uestlove also proudly supported President Obama. And some artists were so inspired by his historic election that it created music, like “My President” by Young Jeezy and Nas.
America is such a diverse nation that not all patriotic music fits for us all. Some of us can’t relate to Toby Keith or John Mellencamp. And some of us can’t relate to Public Enemy or N.W.A. But there are people that can relate to them. And that’s when Rap anthems become a genuine form of patriotism.
Rap has spoken out about the injustices that some of us will never experience. Rap has been a way for people to rise from the streets and achieve the American dream. Rap has given people the background beats to dance to and have fun. No matter what Rap music you listen to, it makes you feel. And, music that makes you feel, whether it’s pride or anger, in one way, is what makes it patriotic. Because you have the freedom to feel.
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