Originally published at Ongoing History of Protest Songs
Between COVID-19 and the current political climate, there is a lot to make you frustrated and anxious. We all need outlets to cope. If you are a musician, it is only natural that your outlet will involve creating music.
Singer and rapper Jesse Jett is an example of someone who has consistently created music during the pandemic to help him cope. Back at the end of May, he released his first album “The Virus.”
The 90-minute album featured 24 protest songs that were recorded between mid-March to mid-May, with a cellphone and microphone in his car.
It is a powerful documentation of a difficult two-month period, which highlights the government’s failed COVID response and how the virus exposed the failures of capitalism. It also decries a two-party system that is failing to offer a true alternative.
He released several singles since that album and is reportedly working on a new album. One of those songs is “Amendment 13 (Homo Detritus)” which equates forced prison labor to slavery and highlights the injustices of the carceral system.
One of the issues addressed in the lyrics is the horrid conditions of prison, which include providing inadequate virus protection (“They won’t lift a finger if your warden goes overboard and makes the common area an unspoken COVID ward”), as well as the inherent racism in sentencing (“And you can spend 8 years if you’re black cause you burned up a trash can, but you won’t see any time if you rape when you’re young and you’re white”).
Outside of this song, Jett is a vocal supporter of police and prison abolition. He contributed vocals and production to the recently released song “Ten Demands” by rapper and activist Awkword. The tune explains the mission statement of the Ten Demands for Justice initiative which works to provide a roadmap towards abolition.
Jesse Jett is an example of how protest music can play such an important role in these difficult times. It not only helps us process current events, but it also helps people express the collective anxiety and frustration they are experiencing.