Challenging authority and bucking the status quo has long been one of the more endearing and powerful qualities of hip-hop. Beginning in the early '80s where artists like Mellie Mel and his Furious 5 would deliver "The Message" to the streets and conveyed through poignant songs like J. Cole's "Be Free," this culture of ours has long been about making brutally honest statements and standing for something.
With the tragic events of injustice, racial tensions flaring and a struggle between the power structures of the world and the people they're intended to serve, the musical battle cries are needed now as ever to rally the troops to fight the power. We've selected defiant and insightful lyrics from hip-hop songs aimed at the politicians that pull the strings, which give renewed meaning to these rappers' words. Here are 12 Notable Rap Lyrics Aimed at Politicians.
"Rebel Without a Pause"Public Enemy
Political Target: Ronald Reagan
"Claiming where we get our rhythm from / No. 1, we hit ya and we give ya some / No gun and still never on the run / You wanna be an S.1, Griff will tell you when / And then you'll come, you'll know what time it is / Impeach the president, pulling out the ray-gun / Zap the next one, I could be your Shogun / Suckers, don't last a minute / Soft and smooth, I ain't with it."
The original most feared rappers on the planet, Public Enemy set the template for many of the socially conscious and call-to-arms music that has helped define the importance of hip-hop over the past few decades. While the group debuted in 1987 with Yo! Bum Rush the Show, the crew truly got the rap world's full attention with the release of their single, "Rebel Without a Pause." This was one of the preeminent rap songs of the '80s. The track was revolutionary in both sound -- with production team the Bomb Squad's use of noise distortion -- as well as message -- frontman Chuck D sent subtle darts at then President Ronald Reagan, who was reviled for his brand of "Reaganomics" and self-serving politics. "Rebel Without a Pause" would be the first track recorded for PE's legendary sophomore effort, It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back, which forever changed the genre, helped shape the culture and is considered one of the greatest bodies of work of all-time.
"Who Got the Camera"Ice Cube
Political Target: David Duke
"Just take my f---in' picture / So I can go downtown and pitch a bitch about / The one that called me a spook / His name is Officer David Duke / If the crowd wasn't around, he would've shot me / Tried to play me out like my name was Rodney / F---in' police gettin' badder / Cause if I had a camera, the s--- wouldn't matter."
Before becoming one of the leading family men in Hollywood, Ice Cube was considered one of the most formidable voices in black America during the early '90s. The prototype for current favorite Killer Mike, between N.W.A's Straight Outta Compton album and his solo efforts -- AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted and Death Certificate -- Cube was a terror on the mic for crooked cops and corrupt politicians as well as sucker MCs. On his third LP, 1992s The Predator, the rapper had more than a little source material to draw from for inspiration, with all of the social, racial and political unrest permeating the country due to the Rodney King verdict and other occurrences of perceived injustice.
"Who Got the Camera," produced by Sir Jinx, was one of the more memorable cuts from the album to touch on these hot-button situations. Addressing the topic of police brutality, Cube went in on police that used excessive force when dealing with minorities and going as far as to compare them to David Duke, a former Grand Wizard in the Ku Klux Klan and the former State Representative for Louisiana. The song was an uncut take on the current climate of relations between law enforcement and young minorities.
Political Target: George Bush
"Rat-tat-tat goes the gat to the devil's face (P Dog) / I hope he think about how he done us when he lay to waste (P Dog) / And get the feeling of the peeling from the other side (P Dog) / From guns given to my people from my own kind (P Dog) / So get with Ollie cause I'm probably fin to make you mad (P Dog) / I'm steady waiting for the day I get to see his ass (P Dog) / And give him two from the barrel of a black guerrilla (P Dog) / And that's real from the motherf---in' Bush killa."
Public Enemy may be the first name when many think of political rap, but Cali native Paris was just as aggressive in his audio brand of raging against the machine. Making his debut in 1991 with The Devil Made Me Do It album, the former Nation of Islam member was hit with backlash due to the controversial imagery in his music videos, not to mention his politically-charged tunes. Releasing his sophomore effort, Sleeping With the Enemy, in1992, no concessions were made, as was evidenced with the album's most eyebrow-raising cut, "Bush Killa."
Featuring audio clips of violent lyrics directed to the original George Bush we loved to hate, the rapper held no punches, dropping brazen lines such as "See, I'ma get em in the crowd with a couple heavies / and lay the barrel to the ground, hold the gat steady" and "'Cause all I wanna see is motherf---in' brains hanging / Another level when it's me and devils gang-banging." Due to the racy content, Tommy Boy, Paris' record label, refused to drop the album, releasing him from his contract. The rapper then decided to go indie and put the album out on his own label, Scarface Records, drumming up a boatload of disdain from politicians and appalled Americans alike.
Political Target: Dan Quayle
"Let 'em come step to a real mothaf---er / Mama ain't raised no suckers / Dan Quayle, don't you know you need to get your ass kicked / Where was you when there was n----s in the caskets / Mothaf---er rednecks all the same / Fear a real n---- if he ain't balled and chained / That's why we burn s--- and wreck / 'Cause the punk police ain't learned s--- yet / You mothaf---ers gonna pay the price / Can't make a black life, don't take a black life, it's on."
Few in rap history have been able to mix social commentary with gangsta ethos as well as Tupac Shakur. The son of a high-ranking Black Panther, fighting the power is in the beloved rapper's blood. Beginning with 2Pacalypse Now and even in his death, his revolutionary bravado and knack for touching the hearts of men is what sets him apart from the pack and played a big part in him being revered as the icon he is today. We could point to many instances when Pac gave a hearty "f--- you" to the establishment, but his song, "Last Wordz," is a poison-tinged dart that is direct and insightful, two of Pac's most indelible qualities.
Appearing on his breakout album, '93s Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z, and featuring Ice Cube and Scarface, 2Pac delivered a heat-packed closeout verse, taking a few shots at then Vice President Dan Quayle -- one of the biggest crusaders against rap music at the time. 2Pac threatened to give him a beatdown and blamed his disregard for the black community as the reason for the L.A. Riots and the civil unrest in urban communities across America.
"We Can Get Down"Phife Dawg
Political Target: Marion Barry
"How can a reverend preach, when a rev can't define / The music of our youth from 1979 / We rap by what we see, meaning reality / From people busting caps and like Mandela being free / Not every MC be with the negativity / We have a slew of rappers pushing positivity / Hip-hop will never die yo, it's all about the rap / So Mayor [Marion] Barry smoking crack, let's preach about that."
A Tribe Called Quest were riding high going into 1993, coming off of two classic albums with their first two LPs, People's Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm and The Low End Theory. One of the most highly regarded rap groups in hip-hop at the time, the anticipation and stakes were high for the Tribe when news of their third long-player, Midnight Marauders, came on the horizon in 1993. The album more than lived up to expectations and is now considered as their best release by most critics.
One track in particular, the drum-heavy "We Can Get Down," was a hit on the streets of New York City for its bass and subtle melodies, making it perfect for the booming systems that were all the rage at the time. Phife Dawg's standout verse didn't hurt matters neither, with the "5 Footer" using his 16 bars worth of air-time to rage against the commercial interests of the industry and the political talking heads slandering the genre of hip-hop and pegging it as an ill of society. In the course of addressing the detractors and setting the record straight about the culture and its message, Phife referenced former Washington D.C. Mayor Marion Barry's controversial drug scandal, in which he was caught on tape smoking crack-cocaine, but eventually returned to office in 1994 following his release from federal prison, holding the position from 1995-1999. Reminding the other side that they shouldn't throw stones when their glass house could certainly crumble, the dynamic diminutive MC put the government's hypocrisy in the forefront, making for one of his finest performances in the process.
"Everyday Struggle"The Notorious B.I.G.
Political Target: Rudy Guiliani
"I'm seeing body after body and our mayor Giuliani / Ain't tryna see no black man turn to John Gotti / My daughter use a potty so she's older now / Educated street knowledge, I'ma mold her now / Trick a little dough buying young girls fringes / Dealing with the dope fiend binges, seeing syringes / In the veins, hard to explain how I maintain / The crack smoke make my brain feel so strange."
The Notorious B.I.G., Brooklyn's favorite son may have never been regarded as one that was particularly concerned with political corruption, but he did have a knack for giving his take on society, which was both observant and wise beyond his years. One of the tracks where this quality in the MC's repertoire shined the brightest was on the Ready to Die fan favorite "Everyday Struggle." Detailing his drug dealing exploits in Medina and out-of-town alike, one line in particular that was a sign of the times was the beginning of the song's third verse, in which he references then New York City Mayor Rudy Guiliani's revival of the Rockefeller Drug Law and crackdown on quality-of-life crimes, leading to the incarceration of thousands of minorities during his reign in office.
Political Targets: Delores C. Tucker, Bill Clinton & Bob Dole
"Delores Tucker, you's a motherf---er / Instead of trying to help a n---- you destroy a brother / Worse than the others; Bill Clinton, Mr. Bob Dole / You're too old to understand the way the game's told / You're lame so I gotta hit you with the hot facts / Once I'm released, I'm making millions, n----, top that / They wanna censor me; they'd rather see me in a cell / Living in hell, only a few of us will live to tell."
Not even a year removed from his incarceration due to a rap charge and out on bond, 2Pac didn't waste any time getting back on his A-game. He released his fourth solo album and his first with Death Row Records, '96s All Eyez On Me. The album may have been light on political observations in comparison to his earlier work, but the rapper still made sure to get a jab or two in for good measure on "How Do U Want It," the third single from All Eyez On Me. Featuring K-Ci and JoJo, the track is more sexually suggestive than anything, but Bob Dole and Delores C. Tucker both get thrown under the bus and ran over during the second verse. And as a rap fan, you can't help but love it.
Political Target: Rudy Guliani
"I ain't on no funny s---, I'm on some 'get this money' s--- / Every four days in PA I move another brick / According to the DEA I sold dope in V.A. / My coupe stay in Queens but the plates read V.A. / I'll show you where I rest at, it ain't hard to find me / Let me buy a brick and get the other on consignment / (Hey, times is hard man) I know, don't remind me / If I catch another case I'ma kill Guiliani / It ain't even safe to sell a pack at night / Got task riding 'round the projects on mountain bikes."
50 Cent is one of the last artists you would expect to find on a list like this, but that would be short-changing the brilliance of Curtis Jackson. Following his unfortunate meeting with gunshots and his subsequent recovery, the rapper went on a rampage on the mixtape market, dominating the scene and building his hype to a fever pitch and considered by most as the hottest unsigned prospect in the history of rap. On his 2002 compilation, Guess Who's Back, the track "Corner Bodega," albeit short, was a dope listen. In the midst of breaking down the culture of the New York City bodega/drug spots, 50 shows disdain to Rudy Guiliani's aggressive tactics against criminals in the city, employing everything from task forces to mountain bike riding local beat cops to do his bidding.
"The Cause of Death"Immortal Technique
Political Target: Dick Cheney
"And Dick Cheney, you f---ing leech, tell them your plans / About building your pipelines through Afghanistan / And how Israeli troops trained the Taliban in Pakistan / You might have some house n----s fooled, but I understand / Colonialism is sponsored by corporations / That's why Halliburton gets paid to rebuild nations."
New York-bred rapper Immortal Technique is one of the rap game's foremost spitters when it comes to politically-charged music, with more than a decade of work put in under his belt to date. Debuting in 2001 with the aptly-titled album, Revolutionary Vol. 1, Immortal Technique started his career on the independent circuit, selling his music hand-to-hand before getting distribution. Following up in 2003 with Revolutionary Vol. 2, Technique showed no signs of letting up, especially on a standout cut titled "The Cause of Death." Referencing the news report of bombs planted on the George Washington Bridge and referring to George W. Bush as "a stupid puppet taking orders on his cell phone," the rapper pulls no punches. But Dick Cheney gets the biggest gas face on this one toward the end, getting called out specifically for his alleged half truths and misdeeds.
"Georgia... Bush"Lil Wayne
Political Target: George W. Bush
"They tell you what they want, show you what they want you to see / But they don't let you know what's really going on / Make it look like a lotta stealing going on / Boy them cops is killas in my home / N---- shot dead in the middle of the street / I ain't no thief, I'm just trying to eat / Man f--- the police and President (Georgia) Bush / So what happened to the levees, why wasn't they steady? / Why wasn't they able to control this? / I know some folk that live by the levee / That keep on telling me they heard explosions / Same s--- happened back in Hurricane Betsy / 1965, I ain't too young to know this / That was President Johnson but now it's (Georgia) Bush."
In 2005, the tragedy that was Hurricane Katrina shook the entire country. The natural disaster ravaged the southwest area of the country, with New Orleans, La. catching the brunt of the damage. Making matters worse, many felt that then President George W. Bush and his staff wasn't proactive enough in handling the situation, to the point of seeming to have a laissez-faire attitude about providing federal assistance to those in need, a majority of which were minorities.The situation hit especially close to home for YMCMB head honcho Lil Wayne, a New Orleans native himself, who at the time was coming into his own as one of the biggest stars in all of music and on a frenetic pace of productivity.
His 2006 classic mixtape, Dedication 2, was a mainstay in most hip-hop fans' iPods, radios or whatever audio device they were privy to at the time. Deciding to spill his thoughts about Hurricane Katrina, Weezy stepped out of the booth with "Georgia... Bush," arguably the most socially aware song he's ever recorded. The song was a direct attack on the prez's delayed reaction, blaming him for the loss of family members and the destruction of the place he called home. Insightful, honest and heartfelt, 'Georgia... Bush' was endearing, with certain lines like the one about proving that beneath the drug and alcohol Wayne was engulfed in was a little knowledge to be absorbed.
Political Targets: Ronald Reagan & Oliver North
"North beach leathers, matching Gucci sweater / Gucci sneaks on to keep my outfit together / Whatever, hundred for the diamond chain / Can't you tell that I came from the dope game? / Blame Reagan for making me into a monster / Blame Oliver North and Iran-Contra / I ran contraband that they sponsored / Before this rhymin' stuff we was in concert."
From day one, Jay Z had been unapologetic about his past as an alleged wholesale drug dealer. Since Reasonable Doubt, hip-hop's favorite mogul has been the genre's resident hustler, dropping countless jewels about the game and a glimpse inside the psyche of a dope boy. But on the American Gangsta cut, "Blue Magic," Jigga gets political with his reasoning behind his illegal, yet capitalistic rise to fame. Name-dropping Ronald Reagan and Republican cohort, Oliver North, Jay flips the finger at America for their hypocritical judgment of his actions and turning him into a kilo-selling monster.
Political Target: Ronald Reagan
"They only love the rich, and how they loathe the poor / If I say any more they might be at my door / (Shhh) Who the f--- is that staring in my window / Doing that surveillance on Mr. Michael Render / I'm dropping off the grid before they pump the lead / I leave you with four words: I'm glad Reagan dead."
Building on the momentum of his 2011 effort, PL3DGE, former Purple Ribbon Gang artist and OutKast affiliate Killer Mike released his acclaimed 2012 album, R.A.P. Music, to much fanfare. The album was a brash tour de force of unapologetic commentary, but the track that caused the most waves was the incendiary selection "Reagan." Taking aim at the deceased former president, Mike breaks down how his tenure in the oval office contributed to urban genocide and his hypocritical war on drugs. The last four bars on the song are particularly scathing, with the ATLien all but taking a dump on Ronald Reagan's grave.