Kanye West – New Slaves

Hip hop mogul Kanye West had a laundry list of issues to itemize, along with singer Frank Ocean, in 2013.

Racial segregation in schools is noted to the extent of separate drinking fountains for blacks and whites. Kanye also points to the fashion industry for past racism. It goes on.

A larger theme might be criticizing mindless consumerism, even though West is easily able to afford luxuries and set popular culture trends. Maybe that makes the man a hypocrite, or at least someone who thoughtfully feels conflicted by his wealth given the struggles of his people in the past, and the challenges many of his brothers and sisters continue to face. Whatever, the chorus crudely suggests that for Kanye, its better to lead than follow (or is that, better to give, than to receive)?

This is the type of song that raises many political issues, with individual lines that could be parsed as individual posts.

The song quotes from Billie Holiday’s Strange Fruit. Also by West, reviewed here: Otis

Charles Mingus – Fables Of Faubus

In 1957, Arkansas governor Orval E. Faubus used the National Guard to prevent some African American teenagers from attending a high school populated by white students.

Bassist Charles Mingus had some lyrics for this jazz tune, but the record label, Columbia, only permitted an instrumental version. At least, according to some reports and Wikipedia. It could also be the case that the lyrics came later.

All the same, the song toots and sings against racism and for the integration of schools, which jived with Supreme Court rulings at the time.

With the words:

Related: John Coltrane, Alabama

Moses “Clear Rock” Platt – Run, Nigger, Run

Yes, this song is today unfortunately named.

Around the middle of the 19th Century, black slaves needed passes to leave plantations. “Sneaking off” occurred, though with fear of being whipped if captured or found out later by a patrolman.

Moses Platt, imprisoned in Texas, was recorded by folklorist Alan Lomax. His nickname may have came from killing men with rocks.

The song was used in the 2013 movie, 12 Years A Slave.

Leadbelly – Ain’t Gonna Study War No More

This gospel song was published in 1918. It has been performed by many artists. It also goes by other titles, such as Down By The Riverside. Verses change, are added and deleted, in the manner of a true folk song that adapts over time. Regardless, the message of the song is to lay down instruments of war as a means to secure and maintain peace. The message remains important.

This version is by folk singer Leadbelly (1888-1949), who often played the 12-string guitar. Moby updated the tune many decades later.

Ray Stevens – We The People

Ray Stevens is a comedian with musical credibility, having even played on a recording for Elvis Presley. He somehow manages to appear good-natured even though there is a hard edge to his political commentary that could be seen as too strident and even mean-spirited.

This ditty maintains that U.S. President Barack Obama has not listened to Americans who are against his health care reforms. Thus, he will be voted out. This proved to be wishful thinking, as this song came before Obama achieved a second term in 2012. It still remains to be seen whether the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) will survive, though.

Obamacare is explained with the help of Carrie Underwood and Brad Paisley: Obamacare Morning

Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood – Obamacare by Morning

Country stars roast the U.S. President’s crowning achievement, health care reform, that at this date has yet to be fully rolled out. The 2013 song/skit from the Country Music Association Awards program, pokes fun at the difficulties Americans encountered in enrolling for the new health care program, given a poorly designed and administered registration website.

Officially known as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, Obamacare as it is informally known was passed in 2010 and aims to assist and require more Americans to get health insurance.

States are to create “health insurance exchanges” which is like a few health insurance companies on a list you can choose from. An exchange is not an insurance company. It provides no health care coverage. Like travel websites such as “Travelocity” that allow you to compare flights and hotel costs, you will be able to pick a health insurance plan from an exchange, based on what you think will work best for you.

The companies on the exchange have to offer a certain level of services and there will be different levels of plans and payments. People cannot be denied coverage such as due to pre-existing medical conditions, which is called “guaranteed issue.”

Americans may be able to receive federal money to help pay for the coverage. A person that can’t afford insurance because of their ranking on a poverty level would get an “advanceable tax credit” to help pay for health care. This will be like getting a discount when you actually buy insurance, to the amount of the tax credit you are entitled to. Think of this like having a grocery store coupon when you check out. For example, maybe you won’t pay more than 10% of your income on premiums. Still, there will be deductibles and copayments once you actually start receiving health care.

The exchanges were to start in 2014, but most states aren’t setting them up.

Americans can still buy health insurance outside of the exchange if they don’t like the companies that are available, don’t want the tax credit, or are not going to get this subsidy anyway.

But they will have to have insurance once this is fully up and running. Refusing to get health coverage is to bring fines. These fines are a set amount or a small percentage of one’s income level as an individual. This “forced mandate” is what was challenged at the Supreme Court and survived by being called a tax. Businesses with more than 50 employees must provide health care insurance or also pay a fine ($2,000 per employee at the start – actually lower than buying them health care).

More pokes at Obamacare are made by Ray Stevens, with We The People.

Ani Difranco – Self Evident

Difranco gets a lot off her mind in this 2002 poem of a song. It highlights the anger many artists felt about U.S. policy in the 2000s. It covers 9/11 and terrorism, abortion, energy policy, the media and technology, elections and more… all with a hate on for George W. Bush.

The scope is impressive, though could one wonder if the singer appreciates the depth of detail to be an authority on so much? It could be seen as a laundry list of political issues and areas many of us could be better informed about.

The style is similar to another Difranco song, Amendment.