Ed. note: As long as humans have been making music, it’s been used as a form of protest. As part of KQED Arts’ 100 Days project, documenting artists’ responses to our new administration in its earliest days, I’ve asked musicians to get in touch with songs they’ve written or recorded that serve as reactions to our current political climate. Over the next couple months, I’ll be highlighting the most compelling entries I receive, along with a few words from the artist about their inspirations and intentions.
Las Cafeteras, "If I Was President"
In 2004, halfway through then-President George W. Bush's first term, Wyclef Jean released "If I Was President." Over an acoustic guitar riff, the Haiti-born rapper predicted dryly what might happen if he, a black man advocating for free education and services for the homeless, were elected president: he'd be assassinated immediately.
Thirteen years later, one could say a lot's changed. Not only did the U.S. elect a black president twice, Barack Obama turned out to be one of the most celebrated presidents in modern history. And yet, just a month into Pres. Donald Trump's administration, the lyrics to Las Cafeteras' new single "If I Was President" -- in which the six-person Los Angeles band sings in Spanish and English about reducing incarceration, providing free education, and mandating a living wage -- sound at once fresh and all too familiar:
On our current situation
When we pay a living wage
We’ll have less incarceration