Day 25: "Georgia… Bush" – Dedication 2, 2006
Kyle: "This song right here is dedicated to the President of the United States of America." Just hearing those words come from Lil Wayne was stunning. Wayne made party music—to this day, this is probably his most political song—and was, it's easy to forget, only a few rungs above Lil Bow Wow as a child rapper in many people's eyes, even though by this point he was 24. At the time, public opinion was pretty strongly against Dubya, but it still felt huge to have someone make a song about Hurricane Katrina, especially the most famous rapper from New Orleans, who also happened to be in heavy rotation on the radio at the same time with a song called "Make It Rain."
Lawrence, you brought up this song right away when we mentioned doing this blog project, so I want to know your thoughts on it.
Lawrence: I thought this would be a good song, thinking about where we are in America right now and how many "Fuck Trump" songs we've gotten this year. This song takes a similar route.I've been talking to some non-American friends, asking do artists where they're from feel pressures to insert themselves into the political climate of their countries. I've gathered, though I probably haven't talked to enough people, that in this country our musical figures are much more likely to take these kinds of stands. I assume because of the First Amendment but also our racial disparity is so blatant that, as a black person with a grand platform, it has to eat at you to not say something.
I grew a deeper appreciation for Wayne when I heard this song and even more as I look back as an adult. Other than Tha Block Is Hot's "Fuck The World," I hadn't heard Wayne get too serious on a regular basis, if hardly ever. Here, his pain and frustration jump out of the song. "The white people smiling like everything cool / But I know people that died in that pool / I know people that died in them schools." That contrast is something that I, and many other black people feel today and have for generations: seeing joy on the faces of those who do everything in their power to take yours away, voluntary or not. If this song came out today and Bush was replaced with Trump or whoever, it'd be just as on point and I'm glad Wayne let the world see this side of him.
Kyle: It's weird, now, a decade later, to consider how deeply the George W. Bush presidency defined where this country is today. Obama has a few policy shortcomings, but I've almost forgotten what it was like to have a president who was so totally incompetent, who generated such animus, who we needed art to rail against. I think we're just beginning to see how the latent rot of the aughts came to characterize our generation and shape our worldview, but it seems significant to have lived through a period in which American exceptionalism meant that things were exceptionally shitty. Bush's failings were myriad, but perhaps none felt as grievous and personal to the citizens of the country as Katrina, a total feat of mismanagement that among other things exposed the intensity of the nation's pervasive racial sore. To a society coming from the feel-good ethos of 90s multiculturalism, images of black people being branded as "looters" while white people were simply "scavenging" for supplies were a sharp reminder of a racial ugliness in our national character that most people preferred to ignore (not to mention, as Wayne does, the images of people on the news smiling and saying everything was ok when the reality was anything but), soon borne out in the horrifically slow logistical response. It wasn't much of a stretch to believe there was a deliberateness to just how badly everything was handled—Wayne even notes here that he knows people who think the government destroyed the levees on purpose, and he also points to people he knew who died in the schools where people were evacuated. Wayne goes after Bush, but the song is also about how the system is complicit from top to bottom, whether in the racist voter with a Confederate flag or the extra bureaucratic hurdles facing victims of the hurricane. No event captured the full extent of Bush's failures quite like Katrina—from cronyism to misleading the public to sheer ineptitude—so it's fitting that not only was this the moment that Wayne stepped forward but that he did it with such devastating thoroughness.
- Wayne going political/taking him seriously - he's also the biggest from NO at the time, huge star - Make It Rain/Stuntin Like My Daddy - nobody had really made music about Katrina
- GWB totally defined that era in a way that's easy to forget about
Kyle Kramer is an editor at Noisey. Follow him on Twitter.
Follow Lawrence Burney on Twitter.