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“We the People” is a song by the hip-hop group “A Tribe Called Quest”. The song is from the group’s album, “We Got it From Here…Thank You 4 Your Service”, which was released in November 2016. The song is both a social and political commentary on the recent developments in the United States. Consequently, the predominant themes in this song and the whole album, in general, are intolerance and fear. “A Tribe Called Quest” was a famous rap group, especially during the 1990s. However, this song is one of the newest materials that the group has put out since 1998. Other than the veiled political messages in this song, there are various sociological concepts within this song. The song comes in the backdrop of the 2016 election campaigns in the United States and increasing incidences of terrorist attacks in Europe. This essay presents an analysis of how different sociological concepts relate to “We the People” and why these ideologies are relevant.
Sociological Concepts Relating to the Song
One of the sociological concepts that apply to this song is ethnocentrism. This sociological concept relates to the habit of one culture judging or evaluating another using the fundamentals of its own beliefs and customs. The other applicable concept in the context of this song is competition. Competition is closely related to the concept of cooperation. In most modern societies, the element of capitalism has heightened competition within society. Status differences are also a by-product of competition within a society. Another relevant concept for this case is accommodation and it is closely related to assimilation in the context of this song. Accommodation depends on the manner in which tolerance is fostered within any society (Sociology). On the other hand, assimilation can be caused by a number of factors within society. Social systems and social groups are also pertinent to the context of “We the People”. Social interaction is the defining factor in these two sociological concepts. Other relevant sociological concepts include cultural relativism, conformity, and sociology of media.
Exploration of the Song’s Lyrics
Some of the lyrics in this song carry a lot of sociological weight and they explicitly or implicitly connect to basic concepts. The song’s chorus addresses some common sociological concepts. The lyrics of the chorus mention different races, social groups, and demographics. Some of the mentioned groups include “black folks…Mexicans…bad folks…Muslims…and Gays” (Genius Lyrics). The title of the song is also repeated in the first stanza of the song. The musicians allude to the fact that the people doubt the sincerity of an unnamed entity because their situation has not improved and they are all backward. The lyrics of the song also allude to the social status of the group that refers to itself as “the people” by claiming that they are afflicted by several challenges. The ‘we versus them’ concept is adequately represented in the first stanza of the song as the people continue to suffer from the actions of their perceived liars. The direction of the song changes when the lyrics start addressing basic social problems such as dishonest relationships, the television culture, guilty pressures, and consumerism. The song’s lyrics also address the role of news media in the society, especially its increasing unreliability. In the last stanza, the song’s lyrics urge people to embrace cultural collectivism in their consideration of art. Furthermore, the rapper rebukes people for overlooking street art in a bid to interfere with genuine competition.
Discussion of the Sociological Concepts
Ethnocentricism is a prevailing concept in this song as indicated in the chorus. According to the musicians, all the people with different social and racial outlooks other than what is common in America must go. The sampled cultures include those of Mexicans, Black folks, and gays (“We the People”). It is important to understand that this song coincided with Donald Trump’s campaign for the Republican presidential ticket. Trump’s campaign was synonymous with various ethnocentric notions including his calls for a border wall to keep the Mexicans out of America. Furthermore, as a presidential candidate, Trump promised his supporters to ban all Muslims from entering or living in the United States. “A Tribe Called Quest” might have felt compelled to address the issue of ethnocentrism because for the first time it became an openly acceptable concept in mainstream America. The chorus reiterates that all the misunderstood cultures have to leave. The presumption is that when these cultural groups leave, they will give room to the predominant white culture in America.
Ethnocentricism is closely related to the concepts of accommodation and assimilation (Rapport 34). Accommodation is lacking in the context of this song where different groups are being pushed to leave America. On the other hand, assimilation is also lacking in relation to the context of this song. For instance, the group’s political message in this song is similar to that of the albums that they released in the 1990s. The assumption is that the groups that have been living in America for centuries should be assimilated by now. For example, the message in the song indicates that Mexicans, African Americans, and Muslims are outsiders in the context of American society. Assimilation and accommodation have been running themes in America’s social and political rhetoric. However, even the current society is yet to embrace these concepts.
Although the sociological concept of competition is merely alluded to in this song in these lyrics: “…y’ all know about the true competition?” (Genius Lyrics). These lyrics indicate that the type of competition that dominates modern society is skewed and unauthentic. According to the song, the main culprits when it comes to distorting competition are numbers and statisticians. This is a deep sociological issue because it is presented using the background of capitalism whereby everything is about numbers. The problem with this approach is that numbers are infinite. The musicians’ sentiment is that a lot of value is lost through competition. Social groups are closely associated with the concept of competition (Sociology). The most prominent group in this song is the poor population, which is subjected to a myriad of issues including capitalism, political exclusion, and guilty pleasures that help people to avoid reality. The music also alludes to conformity and stereotyping by declaring that the composers of this song are “not just nigga rappers” (Genius Lyrics). The singers claim to carry with them a powerful message that can elicit visions among listeners.
“We the People” is a powerful commentary on social and political issues. Nevertheless, the song appears to be mostly targeted at Trump’s America where the sociological concepts of ethnocentrism and accommodation are well documented. The politically incensed hip-hop group does a good job of outlining some of the issues that apply to the 2017 America. Overall, the song is a deeply veiled vision for the society where equality and social accommodation are the norm.
Rapport, Nigel. Social and Cultural Anthropology: The Key Concepts. Routledge, 2014.
Sociology Guide. Sociologyguide.com, 2017, Web.
“We the People…Lyrics”. Genius Lyrics, Web.
“We the People”. YouTube, Web.