Rhymes With Rage: Hip-Hop Inspired By the Death of Trayvon Martin

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Chuck D
Chuck D famously once said ""rap is CNN for black people." And since his tragic death 16 months ago, hip-hop has filed many a report on Trayvon Martin. If, like many, you spent the weekend glued to cable news during the incredible acquittal of his killer, George Zimmerman, you may be needing some truth from the Rap Channel. Here are some of the most powerful songs hip-hop has made about the shooting death of an unarmed teenager.

We doubt they'll be the last.

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What Ashley Dupré's Song Lyrics Reveal About Eliot Spitzer's Run For Comptroller

Categories: Politics

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Eliot Spitzer has made a dramatic return to New York politics, running for City Comptroller five years after dalliances with high-priced escort Ashley Dupré cost him the governorship.

In addition to her work as a prostitute, Ashley Dupré was a singer-songwriter. We conducted a close reading of lyrics from two of her songs, released in 2008. They reveal trenchant insights about the hurdles Spitzer faces in this race.

See also: The Ultimate List of Free Summer Concerts in NYC, 2013

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Nicki Minaj Is Probably Not Voting For Mitt Romney

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After a year in which her rep as a legitimate rap artist has been dented by an album that split its time between dense rhymes and enormous, danceable beats, America has suddenly decided to take Nicki Minaj seriously. And all it took was her bigging up rich white dude Mitt Romney on a verse over G.O.O.D. Music's "Mercy."

"I'm a Republican, votin' for Mitt Romney/ You lazy bitches is fuckin' up the econ'my," she raps near the end of the verse, which appears on Lil Wayne's Dedication 4 mixtape. The Internet, whose geniuses often struggle with understanding rap lyrics, took her at her word: Google News has blown up with stories about the mention, with Twitter/Reddit/4chan distillery BuzzFeed among many outlets to publish a post to the effect of "Nicki Minaj is voting for Mitt Romney!" without engaging the context of the song.

That bloggers, reporters, and Twitter users would do this is unsurprising—engaging with the context of rap can be difficult!—but taking rappers at their literal word is almost always a no-no, especially when the lines take to the absurd.

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Paul Ryan Fails To Realize That Classic Rock Is Pretty Much The New Elevator Music

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Cute band alert!
Much ink has been spilled on the fact that Republican vice-presidential nominee Paul Ryan is a relative whippersnapper—born in 1970, the Wisconsin representative is 42 years old. Depending on who you're talking to, this makes him part of "generation x," or "the 13th generation," or "that demographic clump that lazy columnists try to simultaneously define by referencing Clerks and Nirvana, even though things like Collective Soul and Forrest Gump were also kind of important cultural touchstones in 1994." Last night, he took these comparisons and, uh, sort of hobbled around the Tampa Bay Times Forum stage with them, zinging his 65-year-old cob nobbler of a running mate for not liking with-it music. Like... Led Zeppelin?

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A Brief History of Dave Mustaine Saying Conservative Things

Categories: Politics

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Courtesy of MSO PR
Political Pundit Dave Mustaine

Last night press representatives of Dave Mustaine sent out a statement clarifying the Megadeth frontman's recent supposed-by-not-really endorsement of Republican Presidential candidate Rick Santorum.

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Let's Stay Together: The Messages Of Barack Obama's Re-Election Playlist

Categories: Politics

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via YouTube
Yesterday, President Barack Obama's team released a Spotify playlist for his 2012 re-election campaign, announcing it via every form of social media imaginable. According to an announcement that accompanied the more traditional means of releasing political information—a leak—the playlist will ostensibly be used "for crowd events (rallies, ropelines, etc.)."

Efforts to decode its message have generally focused on breaking the playlist down by genre, with the assumption that, in the words of the Atlantic's David Graham, "this list is carefully calibrated to appeal for optimal demographic appeal—age, gender, geography, race, and socioeconomics." But such mercenary calculations would be a far blunter tool than what the Obama campaign seems to be doing here. Instead of just trying to signal a cultural affinity with voters through shared tastes in music, this playlist captures the broader cultural identities in which music plays an important part but is far from the whole shebang.

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Six Songs Michele Bachmann Could Have Signed Off With That Weren't Train's Beejers-And-Burning Man Ode "Hey, Soul Sister"

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After a dismal showing at yesterday's Iowa caucuses, one-time Republican Presidential front-runner and "interesting person" Michele Bachmann announced today that she was ending her campaign to be sworn in as Commander-in-Chief next January. Once the brief press conference disseminating the news ended, Bachmann walked off the stage... to the strains of "Hey, Soul Sister," Train's wistful song about hummers and hot chicks at Burning Man that was voted by Chris Weingarten and me to be the worst song of 2010. Perhaps Bachmann was seduced by the idea of seeming "soulful" as she accepted her defeat, or maybe she just really likes ukuleles, but the song choice was most unfortunate—as the opening line that not-so-subtly references a lipstick stain on Pat Monahan's genital area should have told, I don't know, anyone who was working on her campaign and understands the uttered English language? Sure, it was good for a laugh or two, but the six songs below might have been better choices—at the very least, they (for the most part) save the oral-sex references until after the chorus has been run through once.

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Is Perry 2012's "Baby T" The "James Brown Is Dead" Of The 2012 Election (Or Out To Make You Think That It Is)?

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Last night as part of keeping my musical resolution about not falling in the trap of listening to old music and not new stuff I ran a Spotify search for music from this calendar year, and topping the list was a song apparently called "Perry 2012." Being that my roommate is a political reporter who was awash in the news of the Iowa caucuses as I conducted my search, I assumed that the song was actually about Rick Perry, the Texas governor turned GOP presidential hopeful who was in the process of coming in fifth in the Hawkeye State as I typed. And so I hunkered down in my chair and listened, and... the song didn't sound that bad? It melded thumpy chart-pop bounce and the aesthetics of the the label Slabco's charming bedroom synthpop offerings in such a way that it reminded me of a somewhat more twee update of the word-light, yet catchphrase-heavy 1991 techno breakthrough "James Brown Is Dead." Clip after the jump.

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Miss Independent: Why Kelly Clarkson's Ron Paul Endorsement Makes Complete Sense

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For those people who adore Kelly Clarkson and hate Ron Paul supporters, the inaugural American Idol's Wednesday night endorsement of Paul's presidential candidacy was especially painful. The move might have been merely confusing in years past, when Paul was a web-specific phenomenon—the equivalent of Carrie Underwood using a ragecomic as her next album cover, or Perez Hilton having a record label—but the recent exposure of Paul's startlingly racist and homophobic newsletters from the 1980s shifted Kelly's gung-ho Paulophilia from quirky to offensive. It turned out that Clarkson (apparently honestly) didn't know about Paul's issues, but the course of excusing her endorsement raised a host of other problems. The resulting Twitfit played out like a weird kind of crossover special, including a co-sign from Michelle Branch, a sullen @-reply to music critic Matt Cibula, and Clarkson's revelation that she is a pro-Obama Republican. The stormy response was heartening, if also predictable (what books will Ron Paul supporters recommend I read in responses to this post? Leave your answer in the comments!), and both Clarkson's and Branch's responses to the criticism—that whether or not Paul was prejudiced, they certainly weren't—were helpful little distillations of the issues inherent in collectively supporting a presidential candidate who doesn't believe in doing things collectively.

In retrospect, though, the endorsement makes a depressing amount of sense, and not just because Clarkson and Paul are fellow Texans. For all the supposedly progressive politics of rock and pop, the structure of the business is incredibly entrepreneurial, with musicians required to front a remarkable amount of their own money for instruments, travel, and recording before they see any sort of return on their investment. There's no large-scale structure that can provide steady employment (and health insurance) while nurturing innovation, just a produce-or-die ethos that receives no subsidies or grants. In America, at least, one of the few areas of life in which government really does have minimal involvement is pop music.

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The Roots' Walk-On Music For Michele Bachmann Was Ha-Ha Funny, But...

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Monday night the Republican Presidential candidate and frequent source/target of Photoshop japery Michele Bachmann appeared on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon in an effort to promote both her autobiography and her appearance at last night's Presidential debate. As a rebuke to the Minnesota congresswoman's somewhat slippery relationship with the truth, Fallon's house band the Roots—who aren't always into shying from making a "why is this person even here?" counterpoint with their choice of introductory music—decided to dust off an old chestnut by the skacore pioneers Fishbone as she walked onstage. "Aight late night walkon song devotees: you love it when we snark: this next one takes the cake," ?uestlove tweeted before the show aired Monday. "ask around cause i aint tweeting title."

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