Racism in Music

Racism is extremely prevalent in music. Oddly enough, this contradicts the core principles that America was founded upon. Although many people would disagree with this claim, I say they should listen closely because racist references are not always obvious.

Take the song “Hell Yeah” by DEAD PREZ, for example, which features lyrics stating “White boy in the wrong place at the right time soon as the car door open he mine.”

Needless to say, these lyrics promote all the stereotypes that are still present in our communities. The song is referring to black gang members who are planning on mugging a white boy who stepped into their territory. This song highlights the separation and differences between blacks and whites that Americans tried so hard to abandon during the Civil Rights Movement.

Lorde’s new popular song “Royals” has also been under scrutiny and is believed to express a racist message through its subtext. It talks about aspiring to grow rich and successful after growing up struggling and being given absolutely nothing.

It incorporates lyric that state “but every song’s like gold teeth, grey goose, trippin’ in the bathroom” and “but everybody’s like Cristal, Maybach, diamonds on your time piece.”

Many believe this song is deeply racist because its lyrics about gold teeth, Cristal and Maybacks directly points to black rappers. These same people also question why she didn’t critique wealth by referring to old folks taking hits at golf in Ralph Lauren Polos.

It is believed that she is contributing to the gap between blacks and whites through her lyrics, although this may be a bit extreme for a sixteen-year-old girl.

J Cole’s “Sideline Story,” by far one of his most popular songs, features the lyrics “Up in 1st class, laugh even though it’s not funny. See a white man wonder how the hell I got money. While he sit at coach, hate to see me walk past ‘im.”

Artist J Cole often raps about growing up in poverty and building his way to the top. The irony in these lyrics is that J Cole himself is half black and half white, yet he chooses to address the presence of racism in his life experiences. According to an interview with

Cole, he claims that he “can identify with whites, but never felt white.”

This song points out that although in America we are all equal, stereotypes that degrade blacks and make whites superior still exist.

R&B artist Frank Ocean’s song “Bad Religion” directly addresses Islam by stating “Allahu akbar,” meaning “God is Great” in Arabic and “If it brings me to my knees, it’s a bad religion,” which refers to the Muslim act of prostrating during prayer. Taking into account the lyrics and title of the song, it is evident that Ocean is directly speaking upon his disapproval of the Islamic religion.

Evidently, racism is still present in America today. Although it is not always direct, it is often conveyed through music and messages beneath the text. It’s safe to say that everyone loves music, but lyrics that degrade others and convey racist messages simply pull us back as a society and denounces all the progress Americans have made to evade inequality.

While some may argue that freedom of speech is what is at stake here, belittling certain ethnicities or religions through choice of words infringes on those groups’ pursuit of happiness and right to feel safe and comfortable in their environment. Although America continues to progress, Americans still have a long way to go in order to completely fulfill America’s promise of equality.