Promises and Pills from the album Amid the Noise and Haste by SOJA was released on 2014. In 2011 President Obama announced that by 2014 he plans to withdraw all military troops from Afghanistan. The US invaded Afghanistan after the September 11 attacks to the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. It was presumed that these attacks were performed by members of al-Qaeda, a terrorist group based in Afghanistan. President Bush was the one who deployed troops, declared a war on terrorism and invaded Afghanistan.

The song Promises and Pills is a critique towards the lack of support that soldiers received when they return home after fighting for their country. Because this album was released on 2014, we can assume the songwriters –Dwayne Chin-Quee and Jacob Hemphill–  are referring to the veterans from the War in Afghanistan. The song goes, “‘And you say that I’m the reason for the freedom of this land // So I land in their backyard, I’ve got your rifle in my hand, and // They defend themselves, you know of course I do the same, so // We go kill each other while you go about your day”. This stanza from the song tells the story of the life of a solder in combat where he or she just gets dropped somewhere with a gun provided by the US government. Their mission is to survive while Americans go about their day back home. Relating more to the title of the song, the US government aid for veterans was to prescribed them with opiates. There is an NPR podcast below where several veterans tell the story of coming back home, being prescribed opiates and going against doctors’ orders because of the risk of addiction and the feeling the drugs bring them, “feeling like a zombie”. Veterans come back home from war with images of death, bomb explosions, suffering from PTSD, not being able to sleep, suicidal and with a lot of anger bottled up. This song is a critique towards the lack of resources offered to them to deal with the trauma from war,  instead the government prescribes them with “promises & pills”.


Promises and Pills contains two genres: reggae and rap. The rap influence comes from the featured singer Alfred The MC in the song. These two genres have always been known for challenging the status quo, rebelling against authorities, and putting forth what the artists’  think is wrong with the current state of living. Reggae emerged as a form of political protest towards the UK which had colonized Jamaica for hundreds of year and in the late 1960’s Jamaicans decided to become independent. This song exemplifies what both genres stand for. Specifically, reggae ” bore the weight of increasingly politicized lyrics that addressed social and economic injustice” according to Britannica. This song is an example of a social injustice that veterans have to live. As the song says ” Reintegrate me, you made me a killer // Like you could trade me for everything I’ve lost // And look how you made me make me // Think about me taking my own life // When I remember what went down” , these soldiers were trained to go to combat, but were never trained on how to deal with the mental health issues that come after the war. They are deprived from living a life with dignity because of the memories they have from war and no clear direction on how to move forward with their lives after the war. Other than being a genre that rebels against injustices, it is a genre about love, unity and respect, think about One Love by Bob Marley. Interestingly enough rap has some influence from reggae so it is not uncommon that the songwriters mixed these two genres. Rap emerged from Hip-Hop and Hip-Hop became popularized in the streets of New York by DJs and MCs (master of ceremonies) bringing their sound systems and playing music. The use of sound system is the Jamaican influence in Hip-Hop. It is said that rap is heavily influenced by social justice issues as well. Even though it may have a negative association with violence, misogyny, and drug use, rap is also a  “channel for people to speak freely about their view on political or social issues”. In Promises and Pills the first verse is rapped and through the singers voice you can hear his anger towards the situation that veterans are in after coming back home, a social justice issue. And because it is rapped the listener can further understand this is a song that is standing up against something that is incorrect.,and%20aware%20of%20these%20issues.

Hip Hop History: From the Streets to the Mainstream