Dead Kennedys
Dead Kennedys

The stars and stripes of corruption
Let's bring it all down!
Tell me who's the real patriots
The Archie Bunker slobs waving flags?
Or the people with the guts to work
For some real change
Rednecks and bombs don't make us strong
We loot the world, yet we can't even feed ourselves

From "Stars and Stripes of Corruption" by Dead Kennedys

While rock continued to voice social concerns, in the '80s two new forms grabbed the mike of protest. The punk movement combined anger, alienation and politics in songs like "KYEO" by Fugazi (about the Persian Gulf War in 1991) and the sweeping 1985 "Stars and Stripes of Corruption" by the Dead Kennedys. Later "Riot Grrl" bands like Bikini Kill and Babes in Toyland continued the punk protest tradition, turning their lyrical sights on sexism.

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Rap also emerged as a protest genre, beginning with Grandmaster Flash's "The Message," which offered up a long lament of the harsh realities for poor African Americans. Celebrated rappers dispensed powerful social critique in songs like Boogie Down Productions' "Stop The Violence" and N.W.A.'s "F--- Tha Police," with rappers Ice Cube and Paris directing more pointed protest songs like "I Wanna Kill Sam" and "Bush Killa" about the 1991 Gulf War. Women rappers like Lauryn Hill and Mary J. Blige also offered their own American critiques of sexism, racism and materialism in songs like Queen Latifah's hit "U.N.I.T.Y."

Instinct leads me to another flow
Every time I hear a brother call a girl a bitch or a 'ho
Trying to make a sister feel low
You know all of that gots to go
Now everybody knows there's exceptions to this rule
Now don't be getting mad, when we playing, it's cool
But don't you be calling out my name
I bring wrath to those who disrespect me like a dame

From "U.N.I.T.Y" by Queen Latifah

Flavor Flav and Chuck D

listenListen to a clip and read the lyrics of
"Fight the Power" sung by Public Enemy

(Audio clip from the Do the Right Thing soundtrack. Originally released 1989, Motown)

All lyrics are provided for informational and educational purposes only.
Lyrics are subject to all U.S. copyright laws and remain property of their respective owners.

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