Warning: As with much contemporary music, this song has some strong and offensive lyrics.
It is common for young voters to lack interest and “tune out” when it comes to politics. According to Harvard’s IOP Poll, less than half of voters age 18-29 are sure that they will vote in the 20121. Many stay home when voting season rolls around because they feel that the political system is so corrupt that their vote doesn’t matter. Several of my friends from home are among these disinterested voters. When I asked them why they don’t plan on voting, they all emphasized that they didn’t feel as though their vote would make a difference. I found this notion incredible as these friends still live in our home state of Colorado, a fiercely contested swing state. It is disheartening to me that even in such a pivotal state, youth voters feel as though their voice is so marginalized that there is no point in voting.
However, one of my friends had a change of heart this morning and told me that he now planned to vote in the upcoming election. Slightly shocked, I asked him what had brought about this sudden change. He told me that after listening to a new Hip-Hop collaboration “Get Free ColeWorld” by rapper J.Cole and producer Major Lazer, he realized that by not voting he was “playing right into the system’s hands.” The song is posted above.
While much of the song isn’t strictly about Politics, the beginning of the second verse exemplifies the sentiment that our Politicians are “fake” and our Political system is corrupt. It reads:
“I smell bullshit, it must be an election year,
The more I listen man the more you sound less sincere.”
However, J.Cole goes on to say that they disillusioned shouldn’t simply give up. He raps:
“Still I’m watching CNN trying to keep up,
In my interviews maybe I should speak up,
Tell the world how I feel like you lying all the time.”
This underscores my belief that staying engaged is the only way to for individuals to make their opinion known and make themselves a force for real change in the world. Although they may feel that voting is pointless, not voting means throwing away a powerful tool as a citizen. The verse acknowledges this, as it notes that that there is something fundamentally wrong with our system while at the same time stressing that individuals must remain critically engaged.
However, the song’s chorus underscores my friends’ shared idea that our political system is corrupt and taking action is hopeless. It reads:
“Look at me,
I Just can’t believe,
What they’ve done to me,
We could never get free,
I just wanna be,
I just wanna dream.”
At face value, this means that because of the way the system is rigged, everything is hopeless and individuals might as well simply laze about and “dream.” However, my friend noted that by assuming this defeatist attitude, they are doing nothing to change the status quo and are “playing right into the system’s hands.” He argued that an alternate interpretation of the lyrics is that instead of brushing Politics aside, one can choose to “dream” of a better world and take action to make that dream a reality. By choosing to be active rather than passive, an individual is more able to take action against the “they” that the chorus references. Voting is one way of fighting back.