Aux Cord Chronicles XIII: 28 songs that could replace the national anthem
What if we switched from ‘Star-Spangled Banner’ to something from Aretha Franklin, Dipset — or Kendrick and Beyoncé?
Congratulations, America. You’ve successfully stiff-armed Colin Kaepernick’s original protest, meant to shed light on police brutality and systemic injustices against people of color, from the national conversation. Now, despite the fact that Nate Boyer, a retired Green Beret and Seattle Seahawk, suggested that Kaepernick and teammate Eric Reid take a knee as a sign of respect, the national discussion is centered on the supposed disrespect of the flag, the men and women of our military and the national anthem.
So let’s be proactive. “The Star-Spangled Banner” was penned in 1814 by Francis Scott Key. On March 3, 1931, President Herbert Hoover signed a congressional act officially declaring it the national anthem. Well, 86 years is quite the lifetime, but everything deserves a revamp — or at least an alternate. Below are 28 possibilities. (Aside from the obvious choice, John Rosamond Johnson’s musical adaptation of his brother James’ poem “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” otherwise known as the black national anthem.)
Aretha Franklin — “Respect” (1967)
Franklin has a legion of iconic records to her name, but this is the zenith. Want to win a free round at the bar? Ask who sang the original. The answer is Otis Redding, who wrote the song and dropped the original in 1965. Franklin’s version put the song into another stratosphere, becoming an anthem for black America in the process.
Maze featuring Frankie Beverly — “Before I Let Go” (1981)
Imagine it’s Friday night. It’s been a long week at work. You and your co-workers are this close to quitting and traveling the country and living off of your savings. Then you realize you absolutely suck at saving money, so there’s that. But you’ve got tickets to the big game this weekend. And when the announcer tells everyone to stand for the national anthem, they play this. For about three minutes, nothing else in the world would matter. Vote Maze Featuring Frankie Beverly 2020.
Kool & The Gang — “Get Down On It” (1981)
If you play this around your parents, aunts and uncles, they will immediately break out into a two-step and reminisce on what they were doing when this killed at the clubs.
The Gap Band — “Outstanding” (1982)
Is there any self-respecting human being who doesn’t love this song? I mean, other than this guy. This technically already is the national anthem, if you’re familiar with black cookouts and family reunions.
Will Smith — “Fresh Prince Theme Song” (1990)
I couldn’t recite the current national anthem without looking at a cheat sheet. But I could absolutely recite this — arguably the most iconic theme song in the history of theme songs. I’m not the only one, either.
Public Enemy — “Fight The Power” (1990)
Pretty self-explanatory, if we’re being honest.
Queen Latifah — “U.N.I.T.Y.” (1993)
“Unity” is a great idea, but in this case it sidesteps the original point of Kaepernick’s protests. But since we’re on the topic of unity, 1993 was a good year for Queen. This song dropped (and eventually won a Grammy), as did the classic ’90s sitcom Living Single.
Bone Thugs-N-Harmony feat. Eazy-E — “Foe Tha Love of Money” (1994)
Because C.R.E.A.M:. Cash Rules Everything About America.
DMX — “Ruff Ryders’ Anthem” (1998)
Stop. Drop. Shut ’em down, open up shop. Francis Scott Key couldn’t hold a candle to Earl Simmons.
Lauryn Hill — “Ex-Factor” (1998)
Just don’t have L-Boogie sing this Miseducation standout for Sunday Night Football — she might not show up until Thursday night. #AligningMyEnergyWithTheTime
Juvenile — “Back That Azz Up” (1998)
1. See my signature at the bottom of this post. 2. MAKE AMERICA TWERK AGAIN.
C-Murder feat. Magic & Snoop Dogg — “Down 4 My N—” (2000)
One thing for sure. Two things for certain. This beat will always be hard enough to convince a person he or she can run through a brick wall. And while it may sound odd to nominate a guy with a first-degree felony in his name for national anthem consideration, I’d argue this country has had far more head-scratching moments.
Sunshine Anderson — “Heard It All Before” (2001)
Because, being black in America, you actually have heard it all before.
Lil Jon & The Eastside Boyz — “Get Low” (2002)
You know how the “land of the free, and the home of the brave” part gets everyone riled up? Hear me out. Imagine if it were To the window!/ To the wall!/ Till the sweat … well, you know the rest. Plus, Chris Rock and Dave Chappelle would agree. Just look at how sad this guy got:
Jay-Z — “PSA” (2003)
It’d be fire to be at a New York Knicks game and the announcer says, “Everybody please rise for the singing of our national anthem.” And the next thing you know, over the PA system, Allow me to reintroduce myself/ My name is Hov!/ H to the O-V/ I used to move snowflakes by the O-Z …
The Diplomats — “Dipset Anthem” (2003)
I’m on the west side of Chicago, lookin’ for a bust-down/ To make me put my two arms up, touchdown!/ You stay in touch now, but when I touch down/ I’m like Buckshort shorty, you better duck down/ Yeah I must clown/ I’m from Harlem, uptown/ Where we flash money, take your b—- and ask you what now?
Cam’ron is an American institution and should always be respected as such. Also, my request of the National Museum of African American History and Culture still stands.
UGK feat. Outkast — “International Players Anthem” (2007)
Most songs on this list you can play for a verse and a hook and be fine. But this one? You play all four verses. You rap all four verses with as much conviction as you’ve ever done anything in your life. In particular, like Jay-Z said at Made In America a few weeks ago, you rap Pimp C’s verse loud enough so he can hear it in heaven. This is a perfect song. And no, it’s not up for debate.
Foxx feat. Lil Boosie and Webbie — “Wipe Me Down” (2007)
It’s not even a question I’d pledge allegiance to a song where a man got to the club with gas tank on E, still gets in VIP and proclaims all drinks on him. I’m proud to be a (trill) American.
F.L.Y. — “Swag Surf” (2009)
It’s a song that requires you to put your arms around the shoulders of your fellow man or woman. How much more unity do you need?
Gucci Mane feat. Ester Dean — “I Think I Love Her” (2009)
I’m all about ending gender discrimination. I’m all about ending the pay gap women face every day. And I’m all about gender equality. Hence our inclusion of this Gucci Mane classic. And, yes, while it is his song, everyone knows why we’re here: Well, my name is Susie and Gucci think I love him/ That sucka think I’m loyal but I f— with all the hustlas/ I be wit all the ballas/ I be at all the spots/ I might be in yo’ kitchen n—- cooking with yo’ pots. What a woman … **swoons**
DJ Khaled — “All I Do Is Win” (2010)
America has always operated under the Ricky Bobby gospel: “If you ain’t first, you’re last.”
Rihanna feat. Calvin Harris — “We Found Love” (2011)
My all-time favorite Rihanna song. It doesn’t have to be on your list, but it’s staying on mine.
Drake — “Started From The Bottom” (2013)
I just think it’s funny how it goes … that Kaepernick’s original protest was gentrified and had a Whole Foods move into its neighborhood.
Travis Scott — “Antidote” (2015)
Have you ever seen him perform this live? In fact, let’s give it a test run. For the Houston Rockets’ home opener, let’s do this song before tipoff.
Future — “March Madness” (2015)
Because Dress it up and make it real for me is now etched into America in much the same way as JFK’s “Ask not what your country can do for you” quote. If we’re being honest, too, this has been the national anthem since the summer of 2015 anyway.
Beyoncé feat. Kendrick Lamar — “Freedom” (2016)
Can’t have a list like this and not include Blue, Rumi and Sir’s mom. And while I’m sure the #BeyHive will tell me I omitted 240 other songs that fit the list, it’s hard to deny this Lemonade standout and its soulful, uncompromising hook. Having Kung Fu Kenny on it doesn’t hurt either.
Cardi B — “Bodak Yellow” (2017)
Since it’s currently No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, it technically is the national anthem.
Kendrick Lamar — “DNA” (2017)
When you think about it, Kendrick resurrected the pride of James Brown’s “I’m Black and I’m Proud” and gave it a bounce.
In all seriousness, if none of these selections works and we stick with the current iteration we do have, might I suggest the only version that even matters. Francis Scott Key could never …