After all these ugly months, finally, unbelievably, we’ve reached the heartening part of the Donald Trump death march: the part where rappers talk shit about him. In a couple of new songs—one from young Baltimore kids named Dooley, Tlow, and Lor Roger, and one from California's proud sons Nipsey Hussle and YG—a familiar, edifying sentiment rings out. From coast to coast, they shout: Fuck Donald Trump.
For decades, Trump's name was a national shorthand for gilded grandiosity that was too perfect for rappers to resist. But that era is over. (The official bookend is Rae Sremmurd’s totally great 2015 single “Up Like Trump,” released just months before Trump announced his campaign.) Now we’re here. We got a chopper in the trunk, the Baltimore teens crow, for Donald Trump. Or as YG laments: Don’t let that nigga Donald Trump win, he a cancer.
There is an earned stigma to politicized music. Here's Paul Westerberg (from the recent Replacements biography Trouble Boys) talking in the early ’80s, when anti-Reagan punk was practically its own subgenre: “There’s nothing that bores me more than a hardcore band that says Reagan sucks. That’s about as overused and easy and silly as ‘Let’s make love tonight, baby.’ I mean, yeah, Reagan sucks—so?” Pop songs are a rendering of spare moments of passion (of whatever kind: joy, anguish, horniness, regret; anguished, joyful, regret-filled horniness). That’s not a place for blunt, cumbersome dogma.
So why do I find this new pair of anti-Trump songs so charming? Partially, it's because this is rap music we’re talking about here, which has always been able to hold a conversation (political or otherwise) better than any other genre. And partially, it's because these songs engage with Trump in a very specific way. They’re gut reactions, good and pure and simple. And that, increasingly, seems to be the best way to engage with our surreal national nightmare.
Ever since Trump first started topping the polls, back in the spring of 2015, the media has desperately been trying to answer the question: why him? Why now? The answer remains elusive, the approaches more ambitious and manifold. In the last few weeks alone, FiveThirtyEight threw a “hybrid [of] statistical analysis, political science and traditional reporting” at Trump; meanwhile, the New Republic deployed Patricia Lockwood, a poet.
It makes sense that we keep trying to explain Trump. Because so far, rationality has no sway. To point out his long list of muddled, constantly crumbling opinions—pathetically ineffective. To try to bore down on any one point—comically quaint. “Trump’s Plan for American-Made iPhones Would Be Disastrous,” WIRED writes, calmly and shrewdly, and it lands with all the might of an antebellum quilt.
So what we’re talking about with these songs isn’t delegate counts and brokered conventions and the rest of the nuts and bolts that would actually prevent a Trump nomination. What we’re talking about here is finding a little bit of daily relief as he marches on toward it. For me, that’s come increasingly in the sophomoric stuff.
I love when people on Twitter point out weird details, intentionally skirting any kind of substance like Trump himself so successfully, infuriatingly does.
I loved when John Oliver went at him—not so much for the prefab viral bit, Make Donald Drumpf Again, but for the more inane stuff: “Why did he sell [Trump steaks] at the Sharper Image? That is a weird choice! ‘I will take a massage chair, an indoor waterfall, and eight-and-a-half pounds of the finest meat in America.’”
And I love when someone like Anderson Cooper stoops to his level. “I didn’t start it,” Trump told Cooper of a recent spat with Ted Cruz. And Cooper replied, “Sir, with all due respect, that is the argument of a five-year-old.” I would have loved for him to go farther. I would have loved for AC to mock Trump openly: to say something along the lines of dude, dude, dude—you’re being a little baby. Because that seems to be the only thing that works: fighting his big, roaring, hateful fire with our own.
The Baltimore track is called “CIT4DT,” and is a quick little burst that’s in and out in under two minutes. It’s just the buddies bullshitting. Boy ain’t even white, you yelloowww, the young man known as Dooley shouts. Earlier, a voiceover intones that if Trump comes to Baltimore, he’ll get hit in the head with Moose’s shovel. As the Baltimore City Paper explains, that's a reference to Young Moose, an East Baltimore rapper who often brandishes the tool in his videos. And these guys aren't actually aspiring rappers: as Dooley, a young Muslim born Abdel Rahmin, told the Baltimore Sun, "We don't got no damn chopper! My religion says don't even kill. I wouldn't kill an innocent fly." These are jokes they are making, primarily, for each other’s amusement. But they give me some glee.
For their part, YG and Nipsey take a sneakily bummed G-funk beat and lay out their honest anger and fears. They are astounded by what’s happening, but not cowed. Says Nipsey, You build walls, we gon’ probably dig holes. Best are their claims to solidarity. Hold on, I fuck with Mexicans, got a plug with Mexicans, YG says. It wouldn’t be the USA without Mexicans, Nipsey adds, simply enough.
It’s politicized music, technically, but it’s really more about the odd, specific moment we’re going through together. The Trump-induced anger, the Trump-induced fear, the very understandable desire to just say it a bunch of times: Fuck Donald Trump.
For a lot of America the new morning routine is wake up, drink coffee, read carefully constructed and utterly damning Trump reportage, harrumph at fecklessness. That’s how I’ve been living for a bit. That’s how I’ll probably be living for some time to come. The difference is now, when I’m reading the paper and drinking my coffee, I’ll try and remember to make sure to have my headphones on, too.