Get Up, Stand Up

I whipped up my first 'lyrics' video so that I could share this song from Public Enemy's latest release, Most of My Heroes Still Don't Appear On No Stamp, the song is called, "Get Up, Stand Up".

On many occasions, when speaking to a group of youth, I've asked them to shout out what kind of music they think that I listen to. It is a lesson in prejudice. They have nothing to base their decision on but my appearance. It doesn't seem like a big deal, but many times in high school if you think someone else likes different music than you, you may not ever even have a conversation with them because you think you'll never be friends anyway.... the dangers of prejudice... it robs all of us.

It's happened a bunch of times where someone comes up to me afterwards and asks, "So what kind of music do you listen to?" They are missing the point of the exercise, but I always answer, "I like music that has something to say."

Public Enemy, like them or not, has tried to use their medium of music as a conduit for what they view as truth for over 20 years. I listened to a lot of rap from about grade 5 to grade 10 and Public Enemy was among my favourites. The first time I ever joined a band as a drummer, it was a hard rock band, but there I was wearing a Public Enemy t-shirt at my first practice. (Not too out of place considering Public Enemy's famous collaboration with Anthrax).

Listening to Public Enemy turned into listening to Rage Against the Machine; a fairly seamless transition as another group that used their music to proclaim that things were not okay, something better was possible and we would need to fight for that something better if things are ever going to change.

I digress though, this blog is about this song, one in which Public Enemy front man, Chuck D even does a shout out to "Rage" and to the band "Rise Against" in his lyrics; paying tribute to other musical artists who use their music to STAND UP against oppression and injustice.

For me, my favourite part of this song is the guest appearance of rapper Brother Ali.

This track aint asking you a damn thing
Not the brand name bottle with your champagne
Not where you land your private airplane

This part is a reference to the lyrics of other rappers who focus on wealth and the glamour and decadence of their lives.

How many blood diamonds shining in that chain?
How much compromise is tied to that fame?

A brilliant transition that ties their glamorous lifestyle to the oppression that is happening globally. Wearing 'bling' while people are in slavery so that you can have what you have.

How many more times we gotta hear that lame line, "I'm inspiring them"
To do what? Grow better weed and get higher than them?
Feed the needy greedy ass fire in them?

Be the same damn dog but to finer women?

My favourite part of the whole song. Ali still focusing on other rappers. He's asking, "WHAT ARE YOU USING YOUR INFLUENCE FOR?" Rappers trying to say that they are inspiring kids, but what are you inspiring them too? Too get high? Too get rich?

I also love the link here between 'weed culture' and greedy, 'get-more' desire for decadence. Ali wishes that more rappers were using their influence to inspire people to take up a real fight. Fight against oppression and slavery. Fight against decadence. Fight against sexism. It's no sign of a man to have a 'finer' woman but still treat women as if they are objects, like the diamonds on your chain.

Cause I was raised by the enemy
And ever since then that's been my identity
So I'm trying to give back what's was given me
Truth told delivery is my tendency
Youth fold to the spirit of my energy

I relate to Brother Ali in this section. We are inspired by those who come before us and like Ali, I hope to be able to inspire in some small way like I was inspired by the people and music and art in my life. Inspire others like I was inspired, in a way that leads them to question things and take up the battle against the abuse of authority and power and for LOVE

Bottom of my feet is something that you'll never see
That's cause I'm standing singing the anthem
Fist on my hand, and a list of demands

Here is where Ali says, "I'm fighting the good fight too!" This is a dangerous but necessary thing for someone who hopes to inspire. It's not enough to call out others, you're life needs to be a sign of the something different that you believe is possible.

Ali is allowing us to shine the light on him. "I'm STANDING UP," claims Ali, and that is the only thing that gives him the right to suggest that we ought to stand up too!

Chuck D, earlier in the song says, "I'm not mad at evolution, but I stand for revolution." It's a great line. What he is saying is that he knows the times have changed since he first started rapping. He knows that rap is different. He's saying, "I'm not mad that things have changed." He follows it up though by stating, "I stand for revolution!" which means that any rap that isn't pointing the way to change towards something better he has no real time or use for. It's not that it's new or different that is the problem, it's that it is not inspiring people to make this world a better place. It doesn't matter if it has a singable hook, or makes you want to dance and is the more popular song in the club... What are you saying? What's your message? How are you using what you have to raise up TRUE REBELS?

Great song!

Get up! Stand Up!

 
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