Song Analysis: “President” – Wyclef Jean

Artist:

Wyclef Jean

Album:

Welcome to Haiti/Creole 101

Title:

President

Wyclef Jean, a hip-hop singer, formerly with The Fugees, is a Haitian-American. He is named after John Wycliffe, a 14th century English theologian who tried to reform Catholicism. The song “President” came out in 2004, around the time of the U.S. Presidential election that pitted John Kerry against George W. Bush.

Yea, election time is coming
Who you gonna vote for? Yea…

[Wyclef puts a critical question in layman’s terms – “Who you gonna vote for? The common man isn’t asking who has the best energy policy or who has the superior ten-point plan for education. He’s simply asking around, “Who you gonna vote for?”

[Chorus]
If I was president, I’d get elected on Friday
Assassinated on Saturday
Buried on Sunday
They go back to work on Monday
If I was president (If I was president)
If I was president (If I was president)
If I was president (If I was president) yea…

[Wyclef is hypothesizing about what would happen if a black man like him were elected president. This question is even more relevant today than it was four years ago, as we are now facing the very real possibility of a black president. He doesn’t say that America would never elect a black president. But he says that he would be elected one day and killed the next. It is a cynical view, but when one considers the history of racism in the U.S. and the short-lived presidency of John F. Kennedy, the nation’s first Catholic president, it doesn’t seem that implausible. He knows that we are a fickle country. And we are also a country where disagreements often end in violence. I love the line, “They go back to work on Monday.” It is a reminder that as Coolidge said, “The business of America is business.” Nothing stops the corporate machine, not even the death of a president.]

[Verse One]
Instead of spending, billions on the war
I can use that money, so I can feed the poor
Cuz I know some so poor, when it rains that’s when they shower
Screaming “Fight the power”
That’s when the vulture devour

[He is talking about the war in Iraq, a costly endeavor which is draining the monetary and human resources of this country. How can we spend so much on a useless war when people in our country are homeless and hungry? Can you imagine being so poor that your only chance to shower was standing in the rain? I think here vulture refers to people who prey on the poor like thieves and bad cops.]

[Chorus]

[Verse Two]
I know some soldiers, that sleep but they can’t dream
Wake up with screams, sounds of M16’s
So take this Medal of Honor, for you bravery
I wish you the best care, for you and your family

[Many soldiers are returning from Iraq and the forgotten war in Afghanistan with a host of physical and mental problems. What good is a shiny medal when your mind is not intact?]


[Chorus]

[Verse Three]
But the radio won’t play this, they call it rebel music
How can you refuse it? Children of Moses
Tell the children the truth, the truth
It’s not all that bling that’s diamonds
Tell them the truth, the truth
Most of y’all wear cubic zirconium

Tell them the truth, the truth, YEAH!
Your soul is worth more than diamonds

[Wyclef predicted that this single would not be popular on commercial radio. He was right. When is the last time you heard an overtly political song on the radio? (John Mayer’s milquetoast “Waiting on the World to Change” doesn’t count.) When he calls on the “Children of Moses” he is referring to Jews, specifically the powerful Jewish figures in the music industry. Cubic zirconia are cheap diamond substitutes formed from zircon, Zr, rather than carbon.]


If I was president
All blacks would have reparation no segregation
Feed the nation so there’s no famine
Muslims, Jews, Christians, would all hold hands
Every week on the beach, party by the sand
Word up, take trips on Air Force One
Only to bring the homeless with no sneaks the Air Force Ones
Better schools in the hoods, better teachers in the classes
Making money paying no taxes
Find the best scientists, tell them come up with the answer
I want the cure for AIDS and cancer
But I gotta watch my back
The sniper’s on the hill, with the still
Waiting to JF kill

[Reparations are payments given to an injured party to compensate them for damages. Many people have suggested that either the U.S. government or American corporations ought to pay African-Americans reparations for slavery. Air Force One has two meanings. One meaning is the private plane reserved for the U.S. president. The other is a popular sneaker manufactured by Nike. I do like the idea here of teachers not having to pay taxes. J. But a president who promoted policies such as this would earn a lot of flak and could even be a target for assassination, i.e. “JF kill.”]


[Chorus]

I feel the rain coming
Let me play my guitar for them right now, let’s go
Refugees
YEAH!

[Wyclef often uses the term “refugee” to refer to himself and other blacks. As mentioned before, he was once part of a group known as “The Fugees.”]

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  1. #1 by Domingo Stinar on April 3, 2010 - 8:14 pm

    There is obviously a lot to learn about this. There were some pretty good points.

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