Listen closely, I want to tell you a story…


Flight of the bumblebee, first 30 seconds


Alright, so I didn’t say anything, but I am sure you still got a message. As you may know that was Flight of the Bumblebee by Rimsky Korsakov, and while it was purely instrumental, it carried a message. Maybe you thought it was about a bee hurrying to do its daily chores of gathering pollen for honey, or maybe you contributed it to something in your own life and now you feel rushed to complete a task. I am going to play another song and I want you to think about what it’s telling you.


Land of the free, first 40 seconds then fade


That was Joey Badass’s song LAND OF THE FREE from his album Amerikkan Badass. Joey relays his message to the listener straight away, especially with a lyric like “three Ks two As in America”.  As he says in an CNN article “People have to realize and wake up and notice that the country is not here to benefit everyone that’s living in it.” Hidden within America are the KKK and other white supremists as well as just general bigotry and hatred that seem to never go away. But these topics aren’t new to America at all, they have been problems since America was created. And Joey wasn’t the first to turn these problems into music. Before LAND OF THE FREE there were songs like 


Strange fruit by Billie Holiday 


Strange fruit


Star Spangled Banner by Jimi Hendrix


Hendricks excerpt


So why, amidst thousands of protest songs, does Joey Badass’s Land of the Free still matter and why will songs like his continue to matter?


Since many of these songs talk about the same topics I wanted to learn about why our brains like to talk about things, so I turned to someone who could help


DiLossi: HI I am doctor Jenna DiLossi, I am a licensed clinical psychologist


You may already know that we as humans are very social creatures that need a way to communicate


DiLossi: Communicating with our kind if very central to the human experience- yeah the way we connect to each other, its the way we function, we get by. So when we look at why is talking out our problems so useful  or whats behind that, I can’t help but think back to where psychotherapy was born from, which was developed by Sigmund Freud


While Freud’s work is antiquated now, his discovery of the healing power of talking is still important today


Dilossi: The whole idea was that there was a cathartic healing power to talking. Talking releases the tension that is within. And talking not only releases the tension but it brings stuff to our awareness that we may not have known was there.


When I played the Flight of the Bumblebee in the beginning, there weren’t any lyrics yet you still understood that there was something the music was trying to say, so you could say music is another form of language humans use to communicate. Dan Levitan, the author of “This is your brain on music” did a wonderful lecture on that very subject. In fact, he has been researching how brains connect to music for years


Levitan first 42 seconds, cut out repetition


For many years scientists thought that music and language happened on separate sides of the brain without affecting each other, but Livitan found that entirely false. 


Levitan, 2:08 “instead whats happening” to 2:24 “mapped”


Levitan goes on to say that music is a kind of “fuel” for the brain and gives the example of athletes listening to music before a big game. Even if you don’t consider yourself an athlete I am sure many of us listen to music as a way to inspire or get us pumped so we can perform well.  Even more fascinating is 


Livtian, 7:17 “music does function as medicine for the brain” if you put on the right type of sad music, you go oh this person understands me”


As humans we have the need to feel understood and to belong somewhere. We need to talk about things so our feelings can be valued, so we can push through everything and understand. Ultimately, music is a form of language so we can understand something. In Joey’s case, he wants people to understand that on the other side of the American coin is bigotry and hatred.


Joey interview, Genius Lyrics, 1:06 


Just like everyone who wrote protest songs before him, he is telling us a story through music so we can understand what its like to be a black man in America.




Its becoming a well known fact that America’s incarceration rates are ridiculous, and most of it due to petty crimes or drug related offenses. In 2018 black men accounted for 34% of the total male prison population. And then there are the ghettos that are also a very real problem for many people. Joey speaks about how the projects are basically systems that force you to never leave. 


Joey, lyrics about speeches


Before writing this song joey listened to a lot of speeches by marcus Garvey and doctor umar johnson. By including lyrics inspired by famous activists he’s starting a conversation about the history of where the black lives matter movement began and as well as helping us remember how important those figures were then and today. 


Racism, incarceration, Marcus Garvey, and the black lives matter movement: these are all topics addressed by Joey in his song LAND OF THE FREE. These are all things he has to experience in his daily life and putting it to a beat is his way of talking through the tension. Ultimately, we all just want to be understood


“This person understands me!”


We created a language through speech and music so we could get that satisfaction of knowing that someone out there might hear our message and think “yes I completely understand”. So to answer the question at the beginning, songs like LAND OF THE FREE and other protest songs will continue to be created, even when so many are already around, because its our way to talk through our problems and know we are not alone.