Last month, we published a think piece titled, “Trump’s Dallas Rally Proved One Thing: Conservatives Need to Promote Better Music,” which argued that the music that conservatives are using to advance their cause isn’t championed on the basis of artistic merit.
Since we ran that piece in mid-October, Kanye West released Jesus Is King, a polarizing praise and worship album that Donald Trump Jr. lauded as “the epitome of fearless creativity.”
If you’re the type of person who looks at politically outspoken musicians as chess pieces in a large ideological war, then it stands to reason that conservatives have on their side a highly respected hip-hop artist who has dropped some of the most acclaimed music of the past decade. If you identify with the spirit of this piece and try to observe music with little regard of its political leanings, you may have a hard time remaining completely impartial to some of the latest exports in conservative hip-hop, as it is all political in a cartoonish way.
On Sept. 14, rapper and conservative Internet personality Bryson Gray started a Twitter campaign called the #MAGACHALLENGE, where right-wingers spit some pro-Trump bars to “make liberals cry.” On Friday, the president himself promoted the campaign in tweeting, “I will be announcing the winners of the #MAGACHALLENGE and inviting them to the @WhiteHouse to meet with me and perform. Good luck!”
Now, it would be easy for us to clown on this campaign and make fun of its participants, but in fairness, we did beseech Trump supporters to champion better music after pointing out that good conservative artists do, in fact, exist. Since Trump himself is clearly being the talent scout for that endeavor, we figured it would be appropriate to listen to the most popular entries and review them on their artistic qualities.
Bryson Gray (@SuriusVsVodka)
Gray sounds almost exactly like Drake and even takes on a similar flow, but this 40-second snippet is actually quite catchy. We’re not exactly sure if he took this beat from another song, or if it was produced for this particular track, but the bass has the right amount of compression, and while the hi-hats are a bit drowned by the other instrumentals at times, they certainly add to the quality of the production.
Still, Gray seems to be dwelling heavily on the fact that people don’t like him for being a Trump supporter, and in the same breath, he brags about getting the largest “Make America Great Again” hat he could find so he could piss off liberals. Seems like he’s engaging in a self-fulfilling prophecy: He fixates on the backlash he’s getting for being a Trump supporter, so in response, he tries to make himself the center of attention to get even more backlash. Rinse, wash, repeat.
Yes, people rap about “haters,” but respected rappers normally devote only a handful of bars to them before moving onto something else. It seems like Gray is trying to be cavalier about the criticism coming his way, but the longer he talks about being criticized for being a Trump supporter, the less convincing it is.
Ricky Rebel (@RickyRebelRocks)
The production of this track has a Dr. Luke and J.R. Rotem feel to it. It’s rather saccharine for a hip-hop song, but Ricky Rebel’s voice does convey some personality. The auto-tuned falsetto vocals during the hook are simply horrendous, and something about the whispered ad-libs makes it even more obnoxious.
On the lyrical front, Rebel at least talks about something more substantive than people not liking him. We’ll ignore the “Trump’s helping the economy” sentiment, but dropping what is bad hyperbole at best and explicit falsehoods at worst makes it even more unbearable. The bar, “President Trump’s gonna stop the spread of HIV / And decriminalize homosexuality” is obviously inaccurate, as criminalizing private homosexual activity between consenting adults was declared unconstitutional in the 2003 Supreme Court decision Lawrence v. Texas.
We’re not going to sit here and fact-check this entire song, but it’s hard listening to someone trying to sell Trump as an ally for the LGBT community. It’s like listening to B.o.B rap about the Earth being flat.
LiL Trump (@yuhboyLilTrump)
Sure, it’s gimmicky, but the name “Lil Trump” is actually a lil funny, and judging by this video, the rapper seems to have a better sense of humor than most of the people participating in the #MAGACHALLENGE in good faith. I mean, let’s be honest — the idea of someone carrying a Glock inside a Chick-fil-A bag is rather nonsensical, and as far as meme rappers go, this guy is at least more listenable than Lil Dicky (that’s an exceptionally low bar, but we’ll take what we can get).
On the other hand, this song is way too compressed, and the “New York Slimes” T-shirt is wholesale cornballs.
“MAGA Teen” (unknown handle)
This just feels mean.
James McCoy Taylor (@james_mccoy_t)
This song definitely has a country twang to it, but there are enough elements of hip-hop to satisfy the arbitrary rubric of the #MAGACHALLENGE.
If people like Luke Bryan and Kane Brown are your speed, you might find something favorable about this song. If that brand of country music repels you, you’ll obviously hate this. You either like country-pop or you don’t, so if you’re in the latter camp, there’s really no sense in listening to this with a critical mind.
From a musical perspective, that’s the most in-depth analysis that can be provided. About 15 seconds in, James McCoy Taylor sings, “And if you voted for Hillary, that’s cool / Ain't nobody here gonna hate on you / I just wanna keep my freedom, keep my kids in church.”
It’s great that Taylor is trying to uphold a tone of cordiality with this line, but it’s more accurate to say that if you voted for Hillary Clinton, people on Twitter are going to create rap videos that are aimed at “triggering” you.