“Paranoia” by Chance the Rapper (2013)

I had first heard this song in my junior year of high school around 2013. I originally thought that Chance the Rapper was describing his relationship with paranoia. I was not familiar with him as an artist, other than how he portrayed himself in his songs which generally was upbeat compared to other rappers.

The first thing I noticed when listening to Paranoia was the beat, which seemed psychedelic and free flowing, while also having a chaotic aspect about it. The sounds used work well together, but stand out since they seem so different than those in traditional rap. The long chords in the intro pull you further into the song followed by the lull of a repeating chorus which makes you want to sing along. Chance has an interesting cadence when he raps where he often switches up the rhyme scheme, keeping the listener on their toes.

When looking closer, the lyrics which are much darker, with a lot of focus on paranoia, guns and safety. Chance mentions the state of Chicago and the gun violence that surrounds the city, sharing the paranoia of knowing you or a loved one could become a victim.


They murking kids, they murder kids here

Why you think they don’t talk about it? They deserted us here

Where the fuck is Matt Lauer at? Somebody get Katie Couric in here

They be shooting whether it’s dark or not, I mean the days is pretty dark a lot

Down here it’s easier to find a gun than it is to find a fucking parking spot

Spoken by Chance, the words sound poetic, but carry a deeper meaning. They make the listener reflect and think about the issue and why it is not talked about more. The second chorus is what we hear last, with the lines being so honest and vulnerable is makes me feel uneasy thinking about the broader context of gun violence.

I know you scared, you should ask us if we scared, too.

If you was there, then we just knew you’d care, too.

Chance has a unique delivery in Paranoia. As an artist he is very distinguishable with his ad-libs, and raspy,medium toned voice. The mood of the song is very somber so the difference in tone of voice makes it easy for verses to get stuck in your head. The emotion behind his voice matches the mood of the lyrics, as he seems accusatory or upset in the lines “They murking kids […] get Katie Couric in here”.

From what I understand, this song is about Chance’s life in Chicago. The gun violence seems to take place day and night, as he references in the lines “They be shooting whether it’s dark or not”. He talks about how common it is to find a gun in Chicago, and how often people become victims of gun related deaths; the paranoia being it could happen to anybody.

I think this song is more powerful coming from somebody who grew up in Chicago and has worked to give back to his community. Having lived and experienced gun violence in Chicago first hand, I feel he is best suited to share this unique perspective. Given the rise of gun violence in our country it may be important to start an ongoing dialogue.



“American Idiot” by Green Day (2004)

When you first listen to the song, it begins and maintains a very fast pace. The higher beat per minute give the song a higher energy feel, which makes you want to get up and move or tap your foot. The guitar riffs and heavy kicks are repeated throughout the song, which makes it more inviting. The guitar riffs seem to change throughout the song taking on many variations, which keeps the listener interested.

When looking at the lyrics, Green Day is very clear on their position. Essentially it is a protest or a stand against becoming an “American Idiot”, a person that is easily swayed or tricked. It is best summarized in the chorus.

Don’t wanna be an American idiot

Don’t want a nation under the new media

And can you hear the sound of hysteria?

The subliminal mind fuck America

In this context Green day is referencing the government or media and their involvement in spreading “hysteria” or propaganda, in their attempt to justify their actions.


Welcome to a new kind of tension

All across the alien nation

Where everything isn’t meant to be okay

Television dreams of tomorrow

We’re not the ones who’re meant to follow

For that’s enough to argue


The song is very energetic, which is strange considering the angry confrontational nature of the song. Green day mentions a “new kind of tension” in reference to 9/11 and the state of unease in America. This seems to be a message or call to action, for the free thinking people who feel similarly about the spread of misinformation or hysteria.

The delivery of the song as well as the title coincide, and it maintains this uplifting fast pace even with such a heavy underlying themes (terrorism, war, propaganda). It almost seems like an anthem, trying to rally the people

From what I understand, Green Day along with many other bands took part in a movement called “Rock Against Bush” around 2004 which expressed an anti war and pro peace sentiment. The song is a commentary about the United States post 9/11. Terrorism was a growing concern expressed in the media, with news having a constant negative portrayal. Television became “where everything isn’t meant to be okay”. This song is a message to all of the people thinking independently of the hysteria, urging them against becoming an American Idiots.  

I feel both of these songs are very meaningful as they tackle politics, war and gun violence, both providing unique commentaries to the world we live in today.

– Brett