In 2017 when LAND OF THE FREE came out I was graduating high school. While that was a significant event in my life, the whole of the United States was going through massive changes and seemed to be breaking apart. 2017 was the year that Trump was elected president and if I, a 17 year old white girl, was sitting there watching the results come in with horror and fear, I am sure many less privileged than me were feeling the same, if not more deeply. Then from there it seemed things got worse and it didn’t stop for four years. This history channel article goes through all the significant events of 2017. After Trump was elected there was the women’s march, the falling of the confederate statues, and the Las Vegas shootings.  Many of these events are still either happening or an object of discussion today. Interestingly enough, this Statista research shows that the number of police shootings for black people has relatively been the same from 2017-2020. We have just stopped accepting that police shootings are okay and as Joey Bada$$ expresses, he’s tired of being a target.


I think the rap genre has a lot of connotations to it. My parents absolutely hate it when I listen to anything that sounds like rap; I couldn’t even get my mother to appreciate Hamilton because it was too much like hip hop, even though it’s rich in history and sheer creative skill.  This NPR podcast discusses the sides of rap music. Many people think that this genre “just focuses on sex, violence, putdowns and materialism” but as a caller points out “there is a whole culture in hip-hop that is completely missed by MTV and the radio.” We typically hear songs about what it means to be a gangster and masculinity, yet that is just a small portion of the genre. There are people, like Joey Bada$$ and the other writers of LAND OF THE FREE, that have something to say. Filmmaker Byron Hurt even states, “I think the consolidation of corporate media and the corporate control of hip-hop is actually killing the music.” The corporate media wants to put the black and Latino population into a very narrow viewpoint. There is much more diversity in those communities and then songs than what we hear on the radio. And I think LAND OF THE FREE is a great representation of that diversity and a great example of a song with something to say.


It seems like every line in this song is filled with some sort of critique. It was written by Joey Bada$$ and two other rappers: Kirk Knight and Adam Pallin who also produced the song. Joey had worked with these two artists before and it wasn’t Kirk Knight’s first time producing an album that spelled America with three Ks. So obviously there is a lot to mention here.  The KKK is a huge critique in this song, even suggesting that all of America is run by the KKK.  There is a great quote here from Joey about how the lyrics were born. He had been watching speeches by Umar Johnson, Malcolm X, and Marcus Garvey. The first line of the song came to him, “We can’t change the world unless we change ourselves”, and from there the rest of the song was born. Throughout the song he discusses what its like as a black man in America and how newer generations should listen to him and be inspired to create change. This song actually originally aired on the day of Trump’s inauguration and has a lyric specifically addressing Trump: “Obama just wasn’t enough, I need some more closure

And Donald Trump is not equipped to take this country over”.  Literally every line clearly shows his disgust with the direction this country is going, from inheriting the names of slave owners to being a soldier to the quote “Religion is the opiate of the masses”.  This song is incredibly well thought out and I am barely scratching the surface.