9-5ers Anthem

Submitted by Matthew on 13 June, 2012 - 9:20

While perhaps less accessible than some of hip-hop’s more obvious “protest songs” (Public Enemy’s ‘Fight The Power’ or KRS-One’s ‘Sound of da Police’, for example), this brooding, imagery-heavy piece from Aesop Rock’s seminal album ‘Labor Days’ finds the rapper in his most explicitly “political” register.

The “We the American working population” chant (performed acapella on the recorded track) is a stark, no-frills attack on the shackling effect of work on human creative potential, and contrasts brilliantly with the dense, figurative content of the song’s other verses.

Even in the verses, couplets like “Trying to guard the fortress of a king they’ve never seen or met / But all are trained to murder at the first sign of a threat” brilliantly encapsulate the alienating irrationality of working, and indeed killing, to serve the interests of “a king [you’ve] never seen or met”.

One perhaps couldn’t imagine chanting “let’s display the purpose that these stilts serve” on a picket line, but I think “we hate the fact that eight hours a day / Is wasted on chasing the dream of someone that isn’t us” would sound pretty powerful shouted across a barricade.

The Ruby Kid.

(Hip hop artist The Ruby Kid will be speaking about protest songs with author Dorian Lynskey at Workers’ Liberty’s Ideas for Freedom on 30 June).


It’s the Year of the Silkworm.

Everything I built burned yesterday.

Let’s display the purpose that these stilts serve.

Elevate the spreading of the silk germ.

Trying to weave a web but all I believe in is dead.

Nah brother, it’s the Year of the Jackal.

Saddle up on high horse.

My torch forced Polaris embarrassed.

Shackle up the hassle by the doom and legend marriage.

I bought some new sneakers,

I just hope my legacy matches.

It’s the Year of the Landshark.

Dry as sand, parched, damn, get these men some water.

They’re out there being slaughtered

In meaningless wars so you don’t have to bother

And can sit and soak the idiot box, trying to fuck their daughters.

Man, it’s the Year of the Orphan.

Seated adjacent to the fireflies, circling the torches on your porches.

Trying to guard the fortress of a king they’ve never seen or met

But all are trained to murder at the first sign of a threat.

Maybe it’s the Year of the Water Bug.

Cockroach. Utter thug specimen.

Fury spawned from dreaming of your next of kin.

I’m still dealing with this mess I’m in.

I’ve been the object of your ridicule.

You’ve been a bitch lieutenant.

God, it’s the Year of the Underpaid Employee

Spitting forty plus a week

And trying to rape earth in my off time.

You bored dizzy, I can’t keep myself busy enough

So you can run, run, run,

And I’ma let you think you won.

Everybody…

We the American working population

Hate the fact that eight hours a day

Is wasted on chasing the dream of someone that isn’t us

And we may not hate our jobs,

But we hate jobs in general

That don’t have to do with fighting our own causes.

We the American working population

Hate the nine to five day-in/day-out

But we’d rather be supporting ourselves

By being paid to perfect the pastimes

That we have harboured based solely on the fact

That it makes us smile if it sounds dope…