Since the death of George Floyd at the hands of police in late May, tens of thousands of Americans haven taken to the streets to protests against police brutality and the killing of Black and brown men and women by armed officers.
The national uprising has also inspired a number of MCs to jump in the studio and record new songs (or refashion older ones) to react and amplify the moment, as well as shine a light on the Black Lives Matter movement.
Check out ten of the most potent recent protest songs:
“The Bigger Picture,” Lil Baby
Lil Baby takes on police brutality and the nationwide protests on his somber new track with the accompanying video featuring footage from the marches.
Key lyrics: “I find it crazy the police’ll shoot you and know that you dead/ But still tell you to freeze/ F—ed up, I seen what I seen/ I guess that mean hold him down if he say he can’t breathe/ It’s too many mothers that’s grieving/ They killing us for no reason/ Been going on for too long to get even/ Throw us in cages like dogs and hyenas/ I went to court and they sent me to prison/ My mama was crushed when they said I can’t leave.”
The rapper dropped a Black Lives Matter remix of his No. 1 hit “Rockstar” with references to the recent protests inspired by Floyd’s killing.
Key lyrics: “Cops wanna pull me over, embarrass me/ Abusin’ power, you never knew me thought I was arrogant/ As a juvenile, police pulled they guns like they scared of me.”
“Hella F–kin’ Trauma,” Juicy J
The Three Six Mafia MC channeled a lot of “Hella F–kin’ Trauma” for his latest protest-fueled anthem, which he posted on SoundCloud June 7.
Key lyrics: “When they gon’ stop killin’ n—as, man? Enough is enough/ Why they lock up all the real ones man? Enough is enough/…Man, that s–t ain’t right, I know my rights, enough is enough/ I can’t sit back, let ’em take my life, enough is enough.”
“I Can’t Breathe,” H.E.R.
The enigmatic Grammy-winning singer debuted the moving new song “I Can’t Breathe” June 10, with a chorus inspired by Floyd’s last plea as a Minneapolis police officer kneeled on his neck for nearly nine minutes.
Key lyrics: “I can’t breathe/ You’re taking my life from me/ I can’t breathe/ Will anyone fight for me?”
In the epic black-and-white video for the “FTP” clip, YG took to the streets of Hollywood to film during a rally honoring victims of police brutality. It’s intercut with footage from BLM and anti-police violence protests around the nation.
Key lyrics: “Been tired, f–k cardboard signs, we in the field/ It’s the Ku Klux cops, they on a mission/ It’s the Ku Klux cops, got hidden agendas/ It’s the truth, I won’t stop/ Open cases, police already hate me, why not/ Make your rich-a– city look like trash (Look like trash)/ To whoever make the rules, we need answers fast.”
“Blacklist,” Damian Lillard
The NBA All-Star and Dame D.O.L.L.A. rapper speaks openly about Floyd and 99 other black people killed by police on the spoken-word track “Blacklist.”
Key lyrics: “As a rich black man living in this country, it’s hard being comfy/ When the hate your people get is coming from the ones amongst me/ Used to call us ‘monkeys’ and ‘slaves’ and we overcame/ Still our work is just beginning, protests look like parades.”
“Get Up,” T-Pain
The rapper/singer just dropped “Get Up” — which opens with a snippet from a Malcolm X speech on oppression — with the dark video part of Pain’s aim of inspiring others to take a stand an make a difference.
Key lyrics: “Long as my heart beatin’ and I’m breathin’ air I’ll fight for me, you decide, anytime, anywhere/ And I will never back down from it (From it)/ That’s not comin’, I just attack from the front.”
“Killing in the Name,” MGK and Travis Barker
Machine Gun Kelly and the Blink-182 drummer teamed up for a cover of Rage Against the Machine’s incendiary 1993 broadside against racism with a video that reflects on the L.A. protests.
Key lyrics: “Those who died are justified/ For wearing the badge, they’re the chosen whites/ You justify those that died/ By wearing the badge, they’re the chosen whites.”
“Land of the Free,” The Killers
Even rock acts have stepped up, with The Killers turning their “Land of the Free” into a George Floyd tribute by adding new lyrics to address his killing.
Key lyrics: “When I go out in my car, I don’t think twice/ But if you’re the wrong color skin/ You grow up looking over both your shoulders/ In the land of the free/ How many killings must one man watch in his home/ Till he sees the price on the TV?/ Eight measured minutes and 46 seconds/ Another boy in the bag/ Another stain on the flag.”
“People Like You,” Gramps Morgan
Three-time Grammy award-winning reggae artist Gramps Morgan recorded a version of Johnny Reid’s COVID-19 charity single “People Like You” to shed light on the civil unrest and bring hope to people all over the world.
Key lyrics: “If you stand up for those down on their knees/ And lend a voice to those who cannot speak/ If you shine a little light and give sight/ To the ones who’ve lost their way/ There’s a place for people like you.”