You don’t have to ask OTEP — the band and frontwoman Otep Shamaya — what they think of President Donald Trump. “To The Gallows,” the first single from OTEP’s upcoming album Kult 45, and its companion lyric video, premiering below, make it abundantly clear.
The clip offers a quick-paced parade of graphics as Shamaya brands the track “a song for the heretics/to resist the dictatorship.” She raps about Trump as a “traitor” as well as “a morally corrupt demagogue who’s in lust with his daughter so he pays porn stars to dress like her.” The chorus declares, “Blood on your hands/Blood on your suit/Does your necktie/Feel like a noose…We’ll walk you to the gallows, you can choke on the truth.”
Nice and subtle, eh?
“For me this song is a reminder that Trump needs to be held accountable for his crimes,” Shamaya tells Billboard, “and he also needs to be reminded that the American people are the ones that have the true power in this country, and I want people to remember that. My hope is not only does it give people the courage to stand strong but it also gives them an opportunity to feel connected and sing along and feel empowered. Who knows, maybe the next time a rally comes around or a rally needs to be made, they’ll be open to being part of it.”
The always outspoken Shamaya — an activist who’s worked with GLAAD, Rock The Vote and other organizations — adds that she’s not at all apprehensive about backlash to the song. “It’s meant to provoke. I hope it does,” she notes. “I’ve never been afraid to stand by what I say. I don’t worry about what some of his supporters might say. I don’t think they’re necessarily gonna be fans of my music anyway simply because of who I am — a loud-mouthed lesbian radical who’s fighting for the working class. That’s not normally what people who support Trump are appreciative of. I just make sure I’m not just running off at the mouth without actually knowing something about what I’m upset about.”
Fans will find more where that came from on Kult 45, which comes out July 27 (pre-orders here). The set includes songs about school shootings (“Shelter In Place”), immigration (“Invisible People”), gender inequity (“Boss”) and rape culture (“Trigger Warning”), the resurgence of hate groups in America (“Molotov,” “Halt Right”), disenfranchisement (“Brave”) and the need for enlightened political leadership (“Wake Up”). “Cross Contamination” slams the evangelical right for its hypocritical view of Trump’s morality, while “The Tribe Speaks” features voicemail messages from fans about their love for OTEP’s music.
“I’m disappointed a little bit that there aren’t more (artists) doing this,” Shamaya says. “Y’know, I wrote ‘Warhead’ back in 2004, going after George W. Bush. Other musicians who are friends of mine would come up saying, ‘That’s too controversial, what you’re doing. You’re splitting your audience.’ I said, ‘Guys, 10 years from now I’m not gonna care if I split my audience. I’m gonna care whether I can look myself in the mirror and say, Did I say something when I had the chance and had the platform? Did I speak out?’ There are things way more important to me than just being popular or not making enemies out of Trump humpers.”
OTEP will be stirring it up on the road starting July 5 in Las Vegas (check tour dates here). And Shamaya is ready to get the crowds riled up. “Back when we would play ‘Warhead’ in the beginning, around 2004, I would always ask for George W. Bush’s resignation and people would boo,” Shamaya recalls. “In 2005 half the audience would boo and half would cheer. In 2006 everyone would cheer, and now people scream for us to play the song on stage. I used to tease them — ‘I recognize some of your faces. Some of you guys are making a different sound this year than you did last year!’ I think it’s going to be the same this time.”