33 Protest Songs From 2016






It’s time to go left and not right
Gotta get it together forever
Gotta get it together for brothers
Gotta get it together for sisters
For mothers and fathers and dead niggas
For non-conformists, one hitter quitters
For Tyson types and Che figures
Let’s get it together, come on let’s make it
Gotta make it to make it, to make it, to make it, to make it
To make something happen, to make something happen

– A Tribe Called Quest, The Space Program



I recently wrote an article for Billboard about protest music in 2016 and beyond but I’d like to add a playlist and a couple of thoughts here. I hope we’ve seen the last of the “Where have all the protest songs gone?” thinkpieces for a while. It was a fair question five years ago but the length of this list alone shows how much has changed as the world has become harder and crueller.

There are two major trends at work. One is the proliferation of songs about Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Philando Castile, Sandra Bland and all the other African-Americans whose unjust deaths have fuelled the Black Lives Matter movement. These songs started arriving a couple of years ago but there are more than ever this year, from T.I. and Common to Kevin Morby and Drive-By Truckers. Black Lives Matter also provides the subtext for more personal and subtly political albums by the likes of Solange and Blood Orange. The other is Donald Trump, whose campaign an unforgettably blunt response from YG and dozens of contributions to the 30 Days, 50 Songs project. The two streams converged in the year’s two best politically minded albums, both of which gave me some comfort after the US election: We Got It From Here… Thank You 4 Your Service by A Tribe Called Quest and American Band by Drive-By Truckers.

Here are 33 powerful recent protest songs, in no particular order. I’ve created a playlist featuring the 27 songs available on Spotify and chosen two clips of post-election performances which dealt with Trump’s election in very different ways. Plus, courtesy of Beyoncé, the year’s most memorable collision of pop and protest. I’m sure we’ll be seeing and hearing a lot more like this in 2017. Where have all the protest songs gone? They’re all around us.


What the hell, what the hell
This thing’s got us all in its grip
The economy just don’t explain this
This unfathomable, nameless rift
Who knows if it even exists
It just some highly effective rhetoric
Used by perverts who get off on it

But all my friends
Yeah, I’m talking to you
The world won’t end unless we want it to
There’s no one in control
And it’s our life to choose


– Father John Misty, Holy Hell


33 Protest Songs


YG feat. Nipsey Hussle – FDT

A Tribe Called Quest – We the People…

Prophets of Rage – The Party’s Over

Green Day – Bang Bang (Live at the AMAs)

PJ Harvey – The Wheel

Bastille – The Currents

ANOHNI – Drone Bomb Me

Blood Orange – With Him

Michael Kiwanuka – Black Man in a White World

Swet Shop Boys – T5

T.I. – Warzone

Vic Mensa – 16 Shots

Sad13 – Coming Into Powers

Jim James – Same Old Lie

Neil Young – John Oaks

Drive-By Truckers – What It Means

Moor Mother – Deadbeat Protest

Kendrick Lamar – untitled 05 09.21.2014

M.I.A. – Borders

Kate Tempest – Europe Is Lost

Jamala – 1944

Solange feat. Lil Wayne – Mad

Common feat. Stevie Wonder – Black America Again

Kevin Morby – I Have Been to the Mountain

Ed Harcourt – The World Is on Fire

Nicolas Jaar – History Lesson

Moddi – Punk Prayer

Franz Ferdinand – Demagogue

Beyoncé – Freedom

Muse – Drones (Live)

Jamila Woods feat. Noname – VRY BLK

Father John Misty – Holy Hell

Kate McKinnon – Hallelujah (Live on SNL)