Where have all the protest songs gone? During the 1960s, folksingers like Bob Dylan, Phil Ochs and others wrote and sang activist anthems that tackled issues of war, racism and political corruption, giving hope to a generation of listeners. These days, some of the strongest message-oriented music is coming from the hip-hop and electronic music communities, as proven by the acclaimed rapper M.I.A. and the “electric pow wow” group A Tribe Called Red, both of whom have new singles out this week.
M.I.A.: “Freedun” feat. Zayn
Maya Arulpragasam, a.k.a. M.I.A., is the rebel princess of pop, inventively mashing up elements of Jamaican dancehall, American hip-hop and British grime with often subversive lyrics that challenge political and social norms. The provocative Sri Lankan artist’s latest doesn’t slam as hard on the beats, taking a slower, more seductive approach with M.I.A singing rather than rapping. She’s also joined by ex-One Directioner Zayn Malik, who lends his sweet falsetto to the track. Plenty of swagger on this one.
Best known for her 2008 hit “Paper Planes,” M.I.A., who is also a visual artist, filmmaker and designer, has been busy on Twitter posting news about her upcoming album AIM, which will feature “Freedun.”
— M.I.A (@MIAuniverse) August 18, 2016
A Tribe Called Red: “ALie Nation” feat. John Trudell, Lido Pimienta, Tanya Tagaq & Northern Voice
The Canadian electronic music group is made up of Ian “DJ NDN” Campeau, Tim “2oolman” Hill and Bear Witness, all from First Nation reservations. By adding pow wow vocal and drumming samples to electronic dance music, A Tribe Called Red has won a wide audience beyond the aboriginal community and lent support to the Idle No More protest movement. On its latest single, the trio teams up with American Indian Movement activist John Trudell and Juno and Polaris award-winning Inuit throat singer Tanya Tagaq on a powerful consciousness-raising anthem.
A Tribe Called Red has tweeted the message of its new album, We Are the Halluci Nation, using YouTube lyric videos.
— A Tribe Called Red (@atribecalledred) September 2, 2016
Hello! music columnist Nicholas Jennings surveys the pop landscape each week to find the most dynamic tracks to add to your playlist.