Freedom Music Part III
Throughout the month of July, we have been showcasing songs that speak to the heart of American values and culture. The songs center on themes such as freedom, and independence, themes that are undoubtedly American. In the third edition of Freedom Music we look at songs that represent freedoms unfulfilled, and the American tradition of speaking out against injustice, and questioning authority. War, drugs, sex, capitalism, and violence take centerstage here as Jimi Hendrix exercises escapism, Nas speaks of karma, Bob Dylan critiques manfest destiny, and dead prez moves by any means necessary. The songs can be streamed below, and we highly encourage copping these to add to your collection. Also, feel free to hit us with your own suggestions by sending an email to RubyHornet@gmail.com…
Jimi Hendrix: “Stone Free”
Jimi Hendrix’s “Stone Free” centers on creative and personal control, as Jimi rallies against forces that try to direct his style, music, and love life. While the themes appear to be self-empowering, Jimi raises a dilemma in the way that he chooses to gain such freedoms, through the use of drugs. It is an issue that many artists, and creatives struggle with, as alcohol and drug use seem to go hand and hand with creative expression. The drugs can become a crutch, especially when someone sees them as a necessity for a higher quality product. This is a masterful piece of work from one of music’s greatest performers, however, it is bittersweet given Hendrix’s premature death from a drug overdose on September 18, 1970. He was only 27 when he died.
Nas: “What Goes Around”
Nas is in the news a lot, and has caused outrage due to the provocative title and subject matter of his latest album. But, as any Nas fan will tell you, it’s been with him throughout his whole career, and the ferocity and biting critique of America is perhaps best witnessed on “What Goes Around.” Released in 2001 as part of Stillmatic, Nas’ triumphant return to the upper echelon of Hip Hop, the Salaam Remi production is a powerful song that questions the basis of America’s social system, and points out flaws and contradictions when it comes to the principles that America holds most dear. Nas goes straight for the jugular by pointing out that many of America’s most celebrated achievements have come at the expense of other peoples such as Native Americans, and Chinese immigrants brought over to build the railroad. A heavily flawed education system, dirty politics, negative self-images, and racial identity all enter the crosshairs and Nas lets off verbal shot after shot while declaring that it will get worse before it gets better.
Bob Dylan: “With God On Our Side”
Bob Dylan’s “With God On Our Side” earns some comparisons to Nas’ “What Goes Around” and can be seen as an example of the “mental poison, that’s even worser than drugs.” While Nas takes the perspective of an inner city son battling against a system embedded in corruption and inequality, Bob Dylan takes the voice of a midwesterner brought up to believe that everything in America is good, and that we truly are ‘God’s Country.’ While God’s Son speaks with a tone that represents his long distrust of the U.S. government, Dylan’s tone is somewhat ambiguous. He matter of factly states what he has been taught, and while it is now clear that he sees the flaws in Manifest Destiny, it is somewhat unclear if he is truly ready to give up on it. It is America’s spirit after all that allowed us to win each war, yet it is also a flawed way of thinking has drawn us in. Echoes of “You’re Either With Us or Against” are also present in the song, as that mind state is rapidly accepted throughout the heartland of America. Dylan’s story and history lesson breaks down, in simplest terms, the reasons for wars past, as well as the current religious and ethnic battles that are being waged currently the world over. Nas has listed Dylan as one of his influences, and this track is perhaps evidence as to why the emcee from Queensbridge feels a connection to the Minnesota born Dylan.
dead prez: “Hell Yeah”
The ‘boot straps’ mentality that everyone can succeed if they so chose is put to the test in this song off of dead prez’s 2004 release, Revolutionary But Gangster. While it is a good belief system, it is ultimately false. Inequalities in education, housing, healthcare, and hiring practices have greatly stratified our country, creating a quasi cast system that is disgustingly tied to class and race. Here, dead prez take instead of asking, as they do what is necessary to survive. Keeping with the Revolutionary But Gangster message, stic.man and M-1 bang against the system, rather than each other. This song is social stratification 101, and the vivid images were taken to another level with the group’s video.