The Official Student News Site of Parkway West High


The Official Student News Site of Parkway West High


The Official Student News Site of Parkway West High


Music for a movement

Rapper Macklemore’s ‘Hind’s Hall’ builds the necessary bridge between the worlds of hip-hop and modern activism
Risa Cidoni
Resting on a map of Gaza, surrounded by a littering of lyric cutouts from the recently released diss tracks from rappers Drake and Kendrick Lamar, sits a phone playing rapper Macklemore’s newest single “Hind’s Hall.” Dedicated to student protesters in the United States and current victims of the conflict in Gaza, the song addressed national leaders who ignore the current conflict as well as the public community in a message of resistance. “Art, in its purest form, is resistance. Art, in its purest form, is from the heart, and it connects with people. It brings people together. The day that I stop following my heart and talking about things in the world that matter is the day that I don’t need to be on stage anymore. Today is not that day,” Macklemore announced at a live concert in Wellington, New Zealand on March 13.

Disclaimer: Some links in this article contain explicit lyrics or profanity. 

The age of peak modern hip-hop controversy has begun. 

Arguably, the most thrilling topic in music news amidst the new year has been the infamous rap battle between rappers Drake and Kendrick Lamar. Through a series of new tracks, some dropped within 24 hours of each other, the two hip-hop sensations have drawn all the eyes of the internet towards dramatic production, clever lyrics and backhanded comments. 

But as the internet obsesses over the intricacies of a reborn hip-hop battle straight out of the ‘90s, our world continues to face a battle much greater than our sources of entertainment. As we analyze the lyrics and flow of new diss drops, the other side of the planet suffers at the expense of catastrophic weaponization. The death toll in the Gaza Strip is in the tens of thousands and counting, yet we continue to discuss a musical endeavor that is simply too frivolous in relevance to what we know others presently encounter.

To say that we should be able to enjoy the music culture of our side of the world in peace, while the other side of the world encounters one of the largest humanitarian crises of our decade, is a regurgitated, ignorant statement. Yes, music is a part of our culture and a source of entertainment – but music is also a mode of expression, and in some cases, a method of calling for change. The music that we listen to strikes us in ways that simple words cannot. The music that we listen to connects us under shared interest. The music that we listen to reflects who we are, both as individuals and as collective communities. 

So why are we so quick to send backlash at music that speaks directly for a group’s echoing political protests?

The first songs began, not as chart-topping, gossip-stirring hits, but as storytelling mechanisms used to pass on memorable lessons. Music cannot — and should not — stop doing that for people. The ridicule that songs made solely for political expression face leaves us consistently forgetting the basis of music’s intent. With the growth of aversion to political music, we’ve been limited to tracks like singer Taylor Swift’s “The Man” — recognizable pieces that address conceptual politics in a palatable manner, but lack direct calls to specific organizations or people perpetuating them — in contrast to the Billie Holidays of our history.

It’s okay to listen to music that simply makes you happy; it’s not okay for that music to be the sole genre you are provided to digest. While listeners are limited to apolitical pop tracks, musicians are abusing their platforms and ignoring their abilities to empower marginalized voices. We can never forget that, silly as it seems, it is a privilege to be analyzing new rap battle drops in the comfort of our homes. Because they have a platform that others don’t, artists have an obligation to create music that supports those who cannot speak for themselves. They have the voice that so many others have been stripped of — it’s essential to use it. 

This is an argument to bring forth, not as much to the listeners, but to the ones creating the music that the public listens to. Music is part of so many of our daily lives, so the impact of an artist who broadcasts a message for the good of a group of people can be seismic. And who would have guessed: our strongest example of this necessity would be none other than a 2024 protest single from Mr. “Thrift Shop” himself, rapper Benjamin “Macklemore” Haggerty.

A message for the people

On May 6, Macklemore released the standalone single “Hind’s Hall,” a distinct, politically charged rap track about the current Israel-Palestine conflict, which quickly stirred much political controversy. The title “Hind’s Hall” pays homage to the actions of Columbia University student protesters, who assumed control over a university building on April 30 and informally renamed it Hind’s Hall after Hind Rabaj, a Palestinian girl killed by Israeli troops during an attack in January. Consequently, the track echoes the goals of pro-Palestinian student protesters through lyrics that target several organizations complicit in Israel’s invasion. 

“Hind’s Hall” opens with a striking sample of “Ana La Habibi” by Lebanese singer Fairuz, a traditional Arabic minor melody that quickly establishes its place beneath Macklemore’s otherwise isolated vocals in his first verse. The opening lyrics “the people, they won’t leave” summarize the underlying theme of Macklemore’s new track: citizens won’t hesitate to continue fighting for justice in the face of adversity. 

Rooted in its defense for student protesters, the track portrays Macklemore’s approval of the actions of Columbia University’s – and various other colleges’ — student populations protesting war in the Gaza Strip. In the third line, the rapper asserts “the problem isn’t the protests, it’s what they’re protesting,” implying that the freedom of speech outlined in our First Amendment is often limited by public institutions when that speech interferes with their values. In a standout bar later in the track, Macklemore continues to call out university administrators who have threatened the student protesters: “If students in tents posted on the lawn occupying the quad is really against the law/And a reason to call in the police and their squad/Where does genocide land in your definition, huh?”

With a blare of horns and a kick drum beat drop, Macklemore’s second verse serves as an extensive tirade against U.S. government officials, complicit organizations and their general lack of response to foreign crises. The lyrics “you can pay off Meta, you can’t pay off me” and “you can ban TikTok, take us out of the algorithm” refer to recent government restrictions and censorship on controversial topics similar, but not constricted to, the Israel-Palestine conflict. The issue has left many social media users complaining of a lack of pro-Palestinian representation in the media due to the effects of shadowbanning or even outright censorship. 

A symphony of horns midway through the verse embellishes this track into a musical blend of classic hip-hop rhythm with cultural undertones that leave an impressively haunting tone — the sound of a warning to the public. The composition is heightened with the incorporation of various minor string melodies throughout the song, which often cut to a stripped beat at Macklemore’s most direct lines. “I want a ceasefire, f*ck a response from Drake” being a clear example, Macklemore references the rap battle overtaking the internet as an attempt to avert social attention from such trivial matters towards acts of political uprising and social justice. These movements leave a much more perpetual impact on how our country functions; Macklemore doesn’t aim to minimize the validity of rap battles, but instead distinguish their relevance in the context of current world affairs. 

“Hind’s Hall” concludes with the devastating, departing words that “if the West was pretending that you didn’t exist, you’d want the world to stand up, and the students finally did.” And while the student protesters Macklemore refers to have been true representation of this particular freedom of democracy, the release of his track solidifies Macklemore as part of that world that is standing up. It’s the history of what he concludes in “Hind’s Hall” that signifies its intent: a digestible method of political expression that will secure “Hind’s Hall” as a musical legacy for years to come.

Music as the vessel of change 

“Never be defeated when freedom’s on the horizon/Yet the music industry’s quiet, complicit in their platform of silence.” 

This last statement of “Hind’s Hall”’s third verse contends what we’re truly meant to take away from Macklemore’s latest release. It is no secret that the music industry has a history of stirring up controversy with extreme political statements. The concept has been prevalent for a long time; jazz singer Billie Holiday took heavy blowback in the 1930s after the release of her controversial song “Strange Fruit.” The topic of concern — racism in America after emancipation — was depicted in the song with graphic verbal descriptions of lynchings of Black Americans in southern states. The emotional, haunting melody quickly garnered public aversion after its release, resulting in most radio stations banning the song and nightclubs shutting down Holiday’s performances.

Holiday wasn’t the first of her time, and she most definitely was not the last. But in the light of music’s effect on the economy, and particularly how much it can provide to corporations supporting certain musical artists, it has grown increasingly difficult to continue with political expression in music. We can see it in Holiday’s catastrophic response after releasing “Strange Fruit” when the U.S. government set up an operation to arrest Holiday for drug possession: alignment with a controversial political viewpoint can lead to detrimental effects for an artist. 

The specification that comes from announcing a political viewpoint can also ostracize a musician from listeners, especially when the media works to downplay or even demonize such music. Add in the influence of commercialization and the rise of statistical awareness with the prevalence of streaming services, and speaking up about politics can become a matter of choosing between a secure dream job and unemployment. 

In fact, “Hind’s Hall” reflects that ostracization, coming with respective challenges and community discourse. Upon its initial release, the track was only available on YouTube due to streaming service limitations; however, even on YouTube’s platform, the song was facing its own subtle version of limitation. Marked for ‘graphic and violent content’ and restricted by an age limit, the song was accused by many of being shadowbanned or even censored by YouTube — wrongfully so, when compared to various freely available YouTube videos that echoed pro-Israeli sentiments. “Hind’s Hall” is now available on both streaming platforms and YouTube, but the audience lost from the momentary restrictive censorship has likely affected the scope of the track’s outreach. 

Though differing from Holiday in severity, the restriction placed on Macklemore’s release retraces the stages of old history, stages that need to be broken down to make room for modern reform. In the face of backlash, some historical songs have found ways to express political opinion on global matters in the past, examples of a necessary battle to endure in the attempt to emphasize public voice. But this doesn’t mean that there isn’t much more change to be done; the treatment of “Hind’s Hall” is simply another verification of that. 

Soundtrack of social justice
"Nelson Mandela" by The Specials

In 1984, former South African president Nelson Mandela was convicted for sabotage after challenging the prevalent apartheid system in South Africa. English ska-punk band The Specials released "Nelson Mandela" in hopes of providing clarity on Mandela's efforts during an era where the public was given an image of Mandela as a man of treason. The song's success in creating protest unity is credited to its catchy rhythmic pop bounce and the repetitive, distinct message: "Free Nelson Mandela."

"Idioteque" by Radiohead

English rock band Radiohead's "Idioteque" falls under the category of protest songs in an unconventional way. Though the song doesn't feature outright lyrics in favor of a social movement, "Idioteque" lyricizes a story of a fictional apocalyptic wasteland, with various references to nuclear war and human destruction. The track is often associated with the climate crisis movement, indicating a warning of a future after the growth of excessive global extremes in temperature.

"Ohio" by Neil Young

Released in 1984, "Ohio" is a classic political protest track that centralizes one particular attack into a nationwide call for action. After the tragedies of the Kent State University school shooting, where four students lost their lives, Young recorded "Ohio" as a reaction to gun violence growth and an anthem of justification against moving forward with the Vietnam War. The result is the peak of politically active songwriting, a piece that remains relevant in ethics even today.

"American Idiot" by Green Day

After the events of 9/11, a detrimental effect of the nationwide fear of terrorist attacks was racism against citizens of Asian descent. In response, George W. Bush led America into the Iraq war, furthering existing tensions within the country. English rock band Green Day's "American Idiot" attacks the consequential ideas of fear and xenophobia that ran prevalent in America due to biased media coverage of the Iraq war. The band has been known for its political activism, often using its music to directly promote political movements.

"W.M.A." by Pearl Jam

The rock track "W.M.A." by alternative rock band Pearl Jam, released in 1993, discusses the brunt of police brutality and systemic racism in the American justice system. The acronym "W.M.A." stands for 'White Male American,' a character portrayed to have inherent privilege based on the color of his skin, particularly when it comes to encounters with the police. Lead vocalist Eddie Vedder wrote the song after witnessing some Black and Indian men getting harrassed by police in the street outside Pearl Jam's studio; in the song, he declares "police stopped my brother again" in alliance with those fighting stigmatization by the police.

Macklemore’s past in vocalizing his support for racial and social justice grants him an experience of activism unlike most modern music artists. His greatest participation in political activism reaches as far as marching in protests himself; most notably, Macklemore joined protesters in Seattle who were condemning the shooting of Michael Brown as a result of police brutality. The rapper has also continuously posted and vocalized his criticism of former president Donald Trump. Social media posts and protest participation aren’t Macklemore’s only medium, however: he also has a history of creating songs made solely to spread a political message. 

In 2005, Macklemore released the track “White Privilege,” which was met with varying levels of praise and condemnation. Its follow-up, “White Privilege II,” produced by Ryan Lewis, analyzes the perspectives of the responses to the first track in a raw, vulnerable manner. Macklemore references sentiments others have expressed about his role in the Black Lives Matter movement, interrupted by his own inner dialogue attempting to consider how he can be a better social justice activist while acknowledging his inherent privilege as a white man. Years later, in 2016, the rapper collaborated with Lewis again in “Same Love,” an unapologetic, pro-LGBTQ+ rights anthem that advocated for same-sex marriage equality.

Macklemore’s history of activism is proof that politics and music — specifically hip-hop — are inherently aligned. His mistakes and successes reveal that putting politics into a widely public art form like music may not always work, but simply attempting to spread a message that starts conversations can end up making a difference. 

Proclamation enacts discussion. Whether you agree with the rapper’s consensus in “Hind’s Hall” or not, Macklemore should be applauded for one thing at the very least — standing up to generalizations that restrict music and activism from creating impact. The track has, and will continue to, receive extreme responses from the public — praise, anger, or even outright censorship — but that’s just an unfortunate result of artists proclaiming their political views in music. As the clamor grows louder, protest music develops into more and more of an anomaly. Amidst apolitical pop hits or internet-capturing feuds, to be a Macklemore is to truthfully establish yourself as someone unafraid to position yourself between worlds. Politics and music can unite, and truly should in a genre like hip-hop, rooted in self-expression through lyricism. So rather than press play on the next diss track, shuffle out of your comfort zone and through some political playlists. Don’t be afraid to embrace the music of a movement.       


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Risa Cidoni
Risa Cidoni, Features Editor
Pronouns: she/her Grade: 11 Years on staff: 3 What is your favorite piece of literature? "Where the Crawdads Sing." Who is your hero? My grandma. If you could only eat one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be? Green grapes.
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    Will GonsiorMay 29, 2024 at 3:21 pm

    A well-considered silence is always okay, but it’s also good to take a stand for what you believe in. Nobody knows how many people are dead in Gaza, and the only ones who know how the Israeli targeting priority system works are the Israelis themselves. We don’t know if there’s a genocide. Considering what happened when we last saw mass student protests (we elected the worst president of the modern era in Richard Nixon), I doubt the efficacy of protesting now. However, this article reminded me that, whatever else goes on, it’s important to make your voice heard. And, frankly, I love it. It’s good. Thank you, Risa.