To our knowledge, the first time the word “America” was purposely misspelled “Amerikkka” to point out the country’s toleration of the Klu Klux Klan and racism at large was on Ice Cube’s debut solo album, 1990’s AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted. Cube originally wanted Dr. Dre to produce the whole thing, but N.W.A. manager Jerry Heller vetoed that, so he had to get creative. In an unprecedented move of bicoastal unity, he tapped Public Enemy production team the Bomb Squad for the entire album, essentially folding corners of the U.S. map together so that L.A. and N.Y.C. no longer seemed that far apart.
Pan-regional collaborations are now the norm in hip-hop, but it’s particularly fitting that when crafting a song for his upcoming album, All-AmeriKKKan Badass, Brooklyn’s Joey Badass nabbed South Central’s Schoolboy Q. The two have never made a song together before, but the ominous, fierce “Rockabye Baby” brings out the best in both.
Over a lurching, piano-accentuated beat by longtime Pro Era associate Chuck Strangers and relative newcomer 1-900, the bicoastal brethren locate ongoing inequalities in American society and, importantly, describe what they’re both doing to change things.
For Badass, it’s ensuring that petty neighborhood divides don’t overshadow the larger struggle against police: Peace to my Slimes and peace to my Crips/ Neighborhood police and they always on the shift/ Protect my Bloods look out for my cuz/ When it's all said and done we be the realest there was.
Q’s more positive, but still sees the bigger picture: From gettin' lynched in field into ownin' buildings/ Getting millions, influencin' white children/ And oddly we still ain't even/ Still a small percentage of blacks that's eating.
Badass’ A.A.B.A. is shaping up to be just the political album we need right now. On “Rockabye Baby” and lead single “Land of the Free,” he’s raging against Trump like few other artists are, begging the question: why aren’t more musicians taking explicit stands against an administration that openly loathes them?