Regardless of what the current president thinks about the First Amendment and the press’ right to do their job, musicians have never been shy when it comes to expressing their feelings about the commander in chief.
From Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young‘s vicious slap at Richard Nixon on “Ohio” and Stevie Wonder‘s 1974 broadside against the disgraced Republican on “You Haven’t Don Nothin'” to the Ramones‘ scathing 1985 Ronald Reagan diss in “Bonzo Goes to Bitburg” and Eminem‘s still-smoking Trump takedown “The Storm,” music has often been one of the loudest bullhorns of presidential protest for folk artists, rockers and, increasingly, hip-hop artists.
In light of the bonfire lit by Eminem’s surprise BET Hip Hop Awards freestyle, Billboard is taking a look at 17 harshest presidential takedown tracks from the past six administrations.
Ronald Reagan — Though the B-movie actor charmed millions of Americans with his camera-ready smile and sunny outlook, the former California governor also served as fodder for lots of punks and rockers who took serious issue with his worldview.
Ramones — “My Brain is Hanging Upside Down (Bonzo Goes to Bitburg)”
Known more for their blitzkrieg 2-minute anthems about cretins, glue sniffers and punks, the iconic New York punk quartet could not abide by Reagan’s visit to a WWII-era German cemetery where a number of Nazi soldiers were buried.
Key lyrics: “You’re a politician/ Don’t become one of Hitler’s children/ Bonzo goes to Bitburg then goes out for a cup of tea/ As I watched it on TV somehow it really bothered me.”
Prince — “Ronnie, Talk to Russia”
Prince didn’t typically weigh in on the Washington, but he took a break on his 1981 Controversy album to address Reagan directly in a plea to tamp down the heating up cold war with Russia.
Key lyrics: “Ronnie talk to Russia before it’s too late/ Before it’s too late… Before they blow up the world.”
Violent Femmes — “Old Mother Reagan”
The Milwaukee trio best known for songs about the bedroom politics of onanism, broke out of their quirky lane on the lead track from their 1986 album The Blind Leading the Naked. The song paints the president as a senile granny trying to make it into heaven.
Key lyrics: Old Mother Reagan and her crew took away from me and you!/ I hope she goes far away, she better go far away/ Y’know it ain’t right when it’s all wrong/ This is the Old Mother Reagan protest song/ Old Mother Reagan — she’s so dumb! She’s so dangerous!”
George H.W. Bush — Reagan’s vice president and former CIA head drew fire for pulling the U.S. into the first Iraq War. Lots of it.
Ministry — “N.W.O.”
Following the raft of Reagan blasts, the Bush years brought an increasing amount of flak from the industrial and hip-hop world, including this thundering slap at the commander in chief that used audio samples of the prez repeating the phrase “new world order.” Though Ministry‘s lyrics don’t specifically mention Bush, they allude the the band’s feelings about him and the quick-cut video makes no bones about where its allegiances lie.
Key lyrics: “What we are looking at/ Is good and evil, right and wrong/ A new world order/ We’re not about to make that same mistake twice.”
The Offspring — “Baghdad”
Beloved for bro hymns like “Pretty Fly (For a White Guy),” these So Cal punkers took aim at Bush’s war with a song that questioned the arrogance of getting into a Middle Eastern conflict.
Key lyrics: “The president said let it ride, ride/ Islam be damned/ Make your last stand/ In Baghdad.”
Sonic Youth — “Youth Against Fascism”
The famed New York noise terrorists mostly stuck to fighting wars with guitars, but Sonic Youth took on the man they called a “war pig fuck” in this song from their landmark 1992 Dirty album.
Key lyrics: “You got a stupid man/ You got a Ku Klux Klan/ Yr fucking battle plan/ it’s the song I hate, it’s the song I hate/ A sieg heil-in’ squirt/ You’re an impotent jerk/ Yeh a fascist twerp.”
Bill Clinton — The Arkansas democrat (like most Democrats) tended not to get dinged that hard by mainstream musicians during his two relatively peaceful terms in office. If anything, Clinton got shouted out for his indiscretions and his famous denial of a sexual relationship with intern Monica Lewinsky on countless rap tunes. So, moving right along…
George W. Bush — The second Bush in the White House opened the floodgates, with an endless stream of rap, rock and folk songs aimed at the former Texas governor who started two wars in the Middle East in the wake of 9/11 and, by some accounts, put the nation on a financially destructive path due to his war spending.
Bright Eyes — “When the President Talks to God”
Key lyrics: “When the President talks to God/ Are the conversations brief or long?/ Does he ask to to rape our women’s rights?/ And send poor farm kids off to die?/ Does God suggest an oil hike?/ When the President talks to God?”
Pearl Jam — “Bushleaguer”
Never shy about speaking their minds, Pearl Jam went all in on this track from their 2002 Riot Act album, following in the footsteps of their hero Neil Young on this laconic smack at a president born into privilege who failed at being both an oil man and baseball team owner before reaching the Oval Office.
Key lyrics: “A confidence man, but why so beleaguered?/ He’s not a leader, he’s a Texas leaguer/ Swinging for the fence, got lucky with a strike/ Drilling for fear, makes the job simple/ Born on third, thinks he got a triple.”
Public Enemy — “Son of a Bush”
On this hard-hitter from the legendary hip-hop crew whose lyrics have never shied away from taking on all comers, Public Enemy‘s Chuck D put a target on the president’s back with this deadly lyrical assault.
Key lyrics: “I been thru the first term of rotten/ The father, the son/ And the holy bush-it we all in/ Don’t look at me/ I ain’t callin for no assassination/ I’m just sayin/ sayin who voted for this asshole of the nation/ Deja bush/ Crushed by the head rush.”
Green Day — “American Idiot”
Green Day‘s Billie Joe Armstrong had a lot on his mind on the title track to the punk band’s iconic 2004 album about the failure of the American dream. He didn’t mention Bush by name, but, the implication in the title seems pretty clear.
Key lyrics: “Welcome to a new kind of tension/ All across the alienation/ Where everything isn’t meant to be okay/ Television dreams of tomorrow/ We’re not the ones who’re meant to follow/ For that’s enough to argue.”
Zack de la Rocha and DJ Shadow: “March of Death”
Key lyrics: “Instead I curse at murderous men in suits of professionals who act like animals/ Man child, ruthless and wild/ Who gonna chain this beast back on the leash?/ You Texas Führer, for sure a, compassion-less con usurper/ Lethal needle to the poor/ The cure for crime is murder?”
Barack Obama — Like Clinton, Obama was rarely dissed by major artists during his two terms, often inspiring such laudatory track as Jeezy’s “My President.” There were a couple obvious exceptions, though.
Lupe Fiasco — Untitled
Lupe Fiasco was rushed off the stage of a StartUp RockOn pre-inaugural celebration for Obama’s second term in 2013 when the unpredictable Chicago MC dropped a few bars criticizing the president’s foreign policy.
Key lyrics: “Limaugh is a racist/ Glenn Beck is a racist/ Gaza Strip was getting bombed, Obama didn’t say shit/ That’s why I ain’t vote for him, next one either.”
Hank Williams Jr. — “Taking Back Our Country”
Country rabble-rouser Hank Williams Jr. was no fan of Obama from day one, a stance he made very clear in this track from his 2012 album, Old School New Rules, where he lashes out at environmentalists, political correctness and over-regulation.
Key lyrics: “Don’t tread on me/ Don’t you tread on me/ Hey, are you ready for the good news?/ We’re gonna take back this country/ Hey Barack pack your bags, head to Chicago/ Take a trailer parkin’ with you so you’ll know where to go.”
Donald Trump — The former reality show star and real estate baron had zero public office or military record before taking office, but in less than nine months his relative lack of experience has not stopped an increasing flood of artists from taking wild haymakers at his words, deeds and, if we’re behind honest, looks.
Eminem — “The Storm”
Slim Shady has taken on the last three presidents on wax before, but his scorched earth fusillade at the BET Hip Hop Awards last weekend was on another level.
Key lyrics: “Trump, when it comes to giving a shit, you’re stingy as I am/ Except when it comes to having the balls to go against me, you hide ’em/ ‘Cause you don’t got the fucking nuts, like an empty asylum/ Racism’s the only thing he’s fantastic for/ ‘Cause that’s how he gets his fucking rocks off and he’s orange/ Yeah, sick tan. That’s why he wants us to disband.”
— BET (@BET) October 11, 2017
Fiona Apple — “Tiny Hands”
Fiona Apple has been pretty quiet on the music front for the past few years, but she could not hold her tongue in advance of January’s historic Women’s March, dropping this simple nugget about the president’s legendarily dainty mitts that opens with a recording of his reviled “locker room” talk.
Key lyrics: “We don’t want your tiny hands/ Anywhere near our underpants/ We don’t want your tiny hands/ Anywhere near our underpants.”
YG & Nipsey Hussle — “FDT (Fuck Donald Trump”
Credit where credit is due to these L.A. rappers’ O.G. anti-Trump anthem from 2016 in which he puts his thoughts right there in the title “Fuck Donald Trump.” Any questions?
Key lyrics: “Just when I thought it wouldn’t get no sicker/ I woke up one morning and heard this red ass mothafucka talkin’ out the side of his neck/ Me and all my peoples, we always thought he was straight/ Influential mothafucka when it came to the business/ But now, since we know how you really feel, this how we feel/ Fuck Donald Trump/ Fuck Donald Trump.”