A peek into the dark side: The inevitable musical response

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Chester Toye

Chester Toye

A few weeks ago, Donald Trump was elected as the 45th president of the United States of America. When I went to sleep on Election Day, it looked as though he would win, but I decided to hold on and wait until the morning to see if by some miracle Hillary Clinton could somehow pull it out. A few hours later, I woke up with a feeling in my gut that Trump had been elected.

A quick check of Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat immediately confirmed this feeling. After checking several forms of social media I was met with a barrage of emotions, which included but weren’t limited to outrage, fear, confusion, depression and excitement. For some, Trump’s election meant America would be on its way to becoming “great again.” For others, myself included, it meant a dramatic increase of insecurity and uncertainty in America.

After learning of the election results on that gray, rainy Wednesday morning, I stayed in my bed for the majority of the day. I wasn’t sure exactly how I felt, how I wanted to react and what this election would mean for me and others like me during the next four, possibly eight years.

The only thing that kept me thinking and kept my spirits somewhat together was music.

Music and other forms of expression serve as a great barometer for the status and feeling of different groups and communities within our larger society. While I am distraught over the election of Trump as president, a part of me is excited to witness and participate in the artistic revolution that will follow in the coming years. People are upset, and the arts will reflect this.

Whenever the going gets tough and I’m unable to figure out what I’m feeling, music is my first resort. My time in bed was spent listening to Common’s new “Black America Again,” Kendrick Lamar’s “To Pimp a Butterfly,” Solange’s “A Seat at the Table” and Robert Glasper’s Black Radio albums to name a few.

Some common themes of these projects include self-care, black love, black struggle and oppression, black frustration, black liberation and black power. This music served as a reminder of the many institutional and individual injustices against blacks in America, and it also preached messages of hope and optimism epitomized by Kendrick Lamar’s hit single “Alright.”  Although these projects were all released before Trump’s election, and some were even years before his announcement to run for president, the themes couldn’t have been more relevant.

In addition to listening to these examples of politically and racially conscious music, at some points throughout the week I knew I needed to listen to music that simply made me feel good — music more about the beat and groove rather than being about the “woke” thought-provoking lyrics. Whether it was strictly instrumental genres of music or just songs with less serious themes, I knew I had to give my brain and heart a break.

My time last weekend at the Camp Flog Gnaw music festival in Los Angeles served as a great balance between feel-good music and more conscious music. While most of the musical performances during the weekend made no reference to the election, many of the artists took time out of their sets to comment on the election. Rap trio Flatbush Zombies preached that we should all take care of one another and spread love in this time of hate. Neo-soul artist Erykah Badu told fans we must take time to reflect and think about how we are feeling and not jump into protest out of pure anger. Rapper and festival founder Tyler the Creator took a different approach and chose to bring out West Coast rapper YG to perform his blunt, inflammatory song “F–k Donald Trump.”

Immediately following Trump’s election, protests erupted around the country. From the hearts of our nation’s cities to our college campuses, people organized and expressed their feelings on Trump’s election and the state of our country. I know for a fact that musicians around the country and world are picking up their instruments, getting in the studio and putting their pens to paper to try to make sense of what has happened to our nation, what it means and what we must do now and in the future to improve our country.

This period of “post-Trump election” expression will be one to remember.

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Chester Toye, ’19G, is a columnist for The Brown and White. He can be reached at [email protected]

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