Don’t Disrespect Our Anthems: 6 Black Songs Off-Limits to Taylor Swift and Other White Musicians

Illustration for article titled Don’t Disrespect Our Anthems: 6 Black Songs Off-Limits to Taylor Swift and Other White Musicians
Graphic: Michael Harriot (The Root; photos via Getty Images)

When I first called the Department of Homeland Security to report Taylor Swift for suspected terrorist activity, the federal agents hung up on me just as I was explaining why I didn’t consider Swift’s remake of “September” an attack on the legendary band Earth, Wind & Fire so much as I regarded it an assault on the entire planet Earth, the movement of air and the chemical process of combustion.


After my patriotism was so rudely dismissed, I finally understood why some people interpreted Colin Kaepernick’s NFL protest against injustice and inequality during the national anthem as disrespectful toward the troops, the flag and—by proxy—all things America. As the great philosopher and wordsmith Amos Definitely (I’m pretty sure that’s Mos Def’s real name) once said in his musical sonnet “Got”: “Certain shit you just don’t do.”

Over the past two years, many of us couldn’t quite grasp why football players silently kneeling in protest caused Caucasian anuses to constrict tighter than Donald Trump’s vagina grip. But after Taylor dipped one of black America’s seminal cookout songs in a vat of organic, cage-free mayonnaise, wrapped it in banjo-flavored kale and served it on a bed of bluegrass, we finally came to realize the source of all your butt-hurtedness.

Apparently, white people’s love for the national anthem is so strong, they are willing to collude, banish and blackball to protect it. And while it seemed ridiculous at first, Taylor Swift’s rendition of “September” made us want to boo her and tell her to “Go back to Wypipostan!” for disrespecting the elements.

In the wake of this controversy, white people have been quick to point out the fact that black artists have often covered white songs, even though our displeasure has nothing to do with race or cultural appropriation. Pointing out that Whitney Houston sang “I Will Always Love You” better than Dolly Parton overlooks the fact that Taylor Swift turned one of the blackest songs of all time into an Appalachian square dance ditty.

Earth, Wind & Fire isn’t just a band and “September” is not just a song. It rises to the only level of songs more important than anthems. EWF is a choir and “September” is a spiritual.


However, I don’t blame Swift for any of this. There was no way she could have anticipated raising the ire of an entire population with her supposed tribute. But to prevent this from happening, in addition to “September,” I have compiled a list of five other songs that should be off-limits to white people.


“Before I Let Go” by Frankie Beverly and Maze

I recently did a radio show on which I ran down the top five cookout songs of all time. The host, a white woman who swears she’s embedded in black culture, went on and on about how she loved this song, but during her diatribe, the black people in the room kept giving one another the secret black side-eye; none of us believed her because she kept telling us how she was such a huge fan ...


... of “Frankie Beverly and the Maze.”

Look, I’m not one of those black supremacists who pepper their conversations with references to “the white devil,” but if Nickelback tries to remake “Before I Let Go,” black people are going to need some reparations. The brave men and woman of Maze didn’t sacrifice their lives for Frankie Beverly’s right to wear a white painter’s cap, only to have his legacy marred by rockabilly bands who want to remix our music for a rodeo after-party. Frankie Beverly didn’t die for this.


You’re probably saying to yourself: “But Frankie Beverly isn’t dead,” and you’re right. But I can’t be certain that hearing Vince Staples sing this tune wouldn’t kill Beverly. While that might sound like hyperbole, how can you be so sure?

I don’t think we should take any chances.

“Back Dat Azz Up” by Juvenile

Notwithstanding the fact that, statistically speaking, there is often very little azz for non-Kardashian wypipo to back up, you can be sure that some alternative band with a frontman whose hair is matted into dreadlocks that smell like gym socks and navel lint will One Direction-ay try to do a hipster version of this anthem.


This is why we need our best and brightest scholars to go into the fields of science, technology, engineering and math. For the sake of black national security, there needs to be some kind of network to prevent this from happening.

I’m not suggesting that we racially profile white musicians or limit the speech of white lead singers. I just think we need to monitor the metadata of any group that calls itself funk/rock because—if we aren’t careful—our kids will grow up singing, “The Red Hot Chili Peppers taking over for the 9-9 and the 2000s.”


“Formation” by Beyoncé

I don’t even want to go to YouTube to see if there’s an acoustic cover of this song, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there is. Taking black music, removing the soul and calling it a “cover” has been a habit of white performers since before Elvis Presley stole his entire catalog.


I want you guys to promise me something: If you ever hear a Becky singing “Formation,” I want you to steal her purse and empty its contents onto the ground. If she doesn’t actually have hot sauce in her bag, smash her guitar to smithereens.

Also, if Beckyoncé’s mother is from Louisiana and her daddy’s from Alabama, she’s probably going to call you “nigger.” But at least you can protect yourself with those guitar shards.


“Lift Every Voice and Sing” by James Weldon Johnson

Since Beyoncé shut down Coachella with this song, I bet Miley Cyrus is trying to do her own version called, “Raise Every Tongue and Whine.” She probably thinks Marvin Gaye’s version of “The Star-Spangled Banner” is the real black national anthem and doesn’t see anything wrong with “paying tribute” to what she considers an obscure poem.


Billy Ray’s daughter might twerk the raisins off her Little Debbie cakes when she bellows to an EDM version of our sacred song surrounded by big-booty backup dancers dropping it low to the part where everyone gets loud.

You know which part I’m talking about. The “Sing a song full of the faith that our dark past has brought us” part. That’s my favorite part and probably the biggest reason I hope Cyrus doesn’t try to cover this song.


I couldn’t help but sing along.

“Reasons” by Earth, Wind & Fire

Under no circumstances can we allow this to happen again.

Let Taylor Swift’s first act of aggression serve as a warning to us that nothing is safe. When we hold the candlelight to remember the 21st day of September and recount where we were when we heard about the worst remake of all time, we should all be reminded of our loved ones we lost on 4/12 and how Donald Trump didn’t even send us thoughts and prayers.


Never forget.

“Flashlight” by Parliament-Funkadelic

This song is last on the list because I don’t think anyone could actually remake it. In fact, I don’t even know if George Clinton could remake this song without the exact combination of marijuana, mushrooms and angel dust he was probably taking when he first created this funk classic. (No, he wasn’t on PCP. He was snorting actual angels who had been ground into a fine powder.)


But just to be sure, I put it on the list because I don’t want any white musicians breaking their brains trying to cover “Flashlight.” They wouldn’t know what the lyrics mean because no one knows what the lyrics mean. I’ve read an explanation and I still don’t understand.

Like edges, Second Amendment rights and Brooklyn, N.Y., neighborhoods, we must take a stand to protect these songs because, if we don’t, they will slowly fade into oblivion. Some people might call this racist. Others will say that “September” is just a song and we all have the freedom to do whatever we want as long as it is legal and doesn’t infringe on the rights of others.


After all, with so many problems in the world, how the hell could any adult human being be outraged by what someone did to a goddamn song?

“Exactly,” said Colin Kaepernick.


World-renowned wypipologist. Getter and doer of "it." Never reneged, never will. Last real negus alive.


Gameface doesn`t play nice with others

For my submission of why remakes shouldn’t be done. Exhibit a.

I didn’t even realize that this was a Ludacris song until I realized that she said “You’re going to make me act a fool. Up in here. Up in here” with perfect articulation. The spirit of Pat Boone (I know he is not dead - yet) continues to abuse music.