These Politically Charged Music Videos Had Us Screaming "Do It For the Culture!" in 2018

YouTube | Beyoncé
YouTube | Beyoncé

Let's not mince words: 2018 was a year of major political and social conflict. There were hundreds of mass shootings in America, hate crimes were on the rise, we witnessed horrific acts of violence against marginalized groups, and the very cornerstones of democracy were threatened in myriad ways around the globe. But with every voice that's suppressed, another rises up to speak against inequality, call out social injustices, celebrate our differences, and advocate for change. And that, my friends, is what we call "doing it for the culture."

This year, countless musical artists used their platforms to not only address political and social turmoil, but uplift and encourage underrepresented groups. Childish Gambino hurled us into a gyre of "shook" when he dropped the music video for "This Is America" in May, and Beyoncé and JAY-Z practically stopped time when they released the video for "Apesh*t" in June. They weren't just clips imbued with spectacles and impeccable production value; they were powerful commentaries on hot-button issues that we've been forced to confront in recent years: gun violence, racism, and sexism among them.

While many music videos placed politics and social justice at the forefront this year, some stood out as especially impactful. Read on to see a few of the videos that generated constructive conversations, all while providing the masses with some serious bangers.

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“This Is America” by Childish Gambino

You could almost feel the Earth quaking when Childish Gambino (aka Donald Glover) dropped this moving video. With imagery that references police brutality, gun violence, white supremacy, and viral dances, there's quite a bit to take in. The use of graphic violence in "This Is America" was controversial, but what was clear was that Glover's latest video was an attempt to force America to face ugly truths about racism, capitalism, and pop culture.

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“Apesh*t” by The Carters

The fact that Beyoncé and JAY-Z, a black power couple, were able to shut down the Louvre in Paris already speaks volumes. But the substance of the video is even more powerful. In the video, Bey and Jay are surrounded by high art that exalts whiteness — but the mere presence of them, dressed to the nines, swaying with black dancers, and looking like nobody can reach their level, completely juxtaposes their images against classical Western art and reshapes how we perceive blackness and art by highlighting the beauty and artistry of black culture.

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“Pynk” by Janelle Monáe

Janelle Monáe actually turns into a dancing vagina in this video. Yes, really. The queer queen embraces female genitalia in a vibrant ensemble intended to encourage women everywhere to be proud of their bodies and celebrate their sexuality.

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"Liberated" by Dej Loaf and Leon Bridges

In this video, Dej Loaf and Leon Bridges embolden people to celebrate who they are. They emphasize that you deserve to love everything about yourself: your race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, and any other identity.

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“Nice For What” by Drake

Drake's "Nice For What" is an example of what allyship can look like. In this video, Drake features a whole host of powerful, butt-kicking women while rapping about female empowerment and gender equality.

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“All the Stars” by Kendrick Lamar feat. SZA

If you're unfamiliar with the concept of "Afrofuturism," may we refer you to this music video? Kendrick Lamar and SZA are featured in a setting that melds African culture with African-American culture, technology, and science fiction. The song, which was featured on the soundtrack for Black Panther, aligns itself with film's notion of black prestige, which counteracts baseless, and often ignorant, perceptions of African inferiority.

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“East Atlanta Love Letter” by 6lack

6lack (pronounced "black") and Future penned this ode to their hometown of Atlanta, GA. Rather than turning their backs on the city that often faces racist characterizations, they embrace it for making them who they are.

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“Fall in Line” by Christina Aguilera feat. Demi Lovato

These two powerful singers join forces for a feminist anthem that reminds women they have full control over their minds, bodies, and destinies. In the video, Aguilera and Lovato break free from their literal chains and enter a brighter world with a promising future for young girls.

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“Fun!” by Vince Staples

Staples released the video for his jam "Fun!" — perhaps one of the most creative videos of the year — in November. It's shot in the style of Google Maps as Staples shows various scenes in a predominantly black neighborhood: fights, people getting arrested, kids playing in the street. It seems like there's a lot going on, but it's just Staples showing viewers what it's like growing up in the Ramona Park area of Long Beach, CA.

At the end of the video, it's revealed that the person watching them on Google Maps and scanning through the neighborhood is a young white teenager named Lucas. One interpretation of this is how technology has allowed an interconnection of cultures to develop. Lucas is able to get a first-hand look at black culture without actually being within that demographic. Another interpretation is that black culture is often examined and consumed by white viewers, mostly for entertainment purposes. Either way, Staples venerates black culture while also acknowledging that it is constantly being watched and scrutinized.

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“Love It If We Made It” by The 1975

The 1975's video for "Love It If We Made It" strikes a major political and social chord, as it addresses a number of topics, including immigration, climate change, sexual assault, and racism.

The video may potentially trigger seizures for people with photosensitive epilepsy, so please be cautious when watching it.

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“Mary Don’t You Weep” by Prince

Spike Lee directed this posthumous video for Prince's song. It tackles both gun violence and police brutality and how it affects American youth. Before his death, Prince was an outspoken advocate for gun reform, notably after the murder of Freddie Gray in 2015. Lee made sure to echo Prince's sentiments in the tear-jerking video.