If you don't pay too much attention to the lyrics, there's not much to distinguish the music video for the song "Gun Totin' Patriot," by rappers Bryson Gray and Forgiato Blow, from others of the same genre.
There are the big SUVs, even bigger guns, a healthy contingent of video hoes, a red "Make America Great Again" bucket hat on top of Gray's head, a lifelike mannequin of former President Donald Trump in military fatigues…OK, it's actually not much like your typical rap video.
Rather, you're watching what might be considered the anthem for the niche subgenre (fans and performers might claim they're a silent majority) of "MAGA rap"—a collection of Trump-worshiping artists who've come to life in YouTube videos and hours-long Spotify playlists. They're only gaining steam in the aftermath of Trump's failed reelection bid.
Musically, there's not much to distinguish these MAGA rappers. The beats are all pretty generic. The use of autotune is generous. Instead, it's the lyrics that really elevate the listening experience.
Your average MAGA rap track sounds like N.W.A. and OANN had a baby. The songs are dense with Trump-world conspiracy theories that only the really online will know about, served up alongside the standard mythology that fans of "45" are the real victims of censorship and oppression.
A representative snippet from "Gun Totin' Patriot":
This for free thinkers only you ain't got no membership
They free General Flynn out the cage 'cause he innocent
Pardon Roger Stone cause the world know that he innocent
We need to kick out every single illegal immigrant
Mandatory voter ID laws we need to implement
Tell Jesse Smollett that I know this MAGA country
Tell China we know they tryin' to play us like some dummies
The political context in which this music has been created serves as another draw for the genre.
Take Forgiato Blow's track "We Outside" about the artist's attendance at the January 6 "Stop the Steal" rally-turned-riot. The music video, also filmed at the rally, features Blow walking around downtown D.C. and the Capitol grounds, ranting about antifa and cavorting with fans and compatriots seemingly as smitten by the rapper's presence as they are riled up about keeping Trump in the Oval Office.
It's a ridiculous spectacle made no more serious by Blow's bright red Skittles-branded jacket. There's still something seriously menacing and rebellious about the song when one considers the context and intended target of lyrics like we outside, whole gang outside.
That makes the subgenre controversial, to say the least. Yet that same controversy is perhaps the best thing MAGA rap has to offer the genre it's descended from.
For much of its history, rap and hip-hop drew a lot of their identity and energy from slaughtering the sacred calves of mainstream taste and opinion with songs laden with themes of violence, drug use, and gratuitous sex. Today, the same images fail to ruffle the feathers of polite society. Instead, they're embraced by those with power and influence.
N.W.A.'s famous song "Fuck tha Police" was once shocking and offensive enough that the FBI tried to stop its release.
Today, that same line is practically mainstream. The "defund the police" movement that sprung up in the summer of 2020 even converted that once-underground sentiment into a respectable progressive policy goal. Cardi B's near-pornographic single "WAP" horrified a handful of conservative commentators. It also earned a glowing write-up in The New York Times.
In this new reality, it seems, embracing anything remotely related to right-wing politics is one of the few ways rap artists can kick up controversy like they used to.
This is even true for artists who are in no way conservative. Lots of people might disagree with the socialist, pro–gun rights politics of Killer Mike, one half of the Run the Jewels rap duo. Yet it wasn't until the artist decided to air his views on NRATV that people really got upset.
Still, one shouldn't single out MAGA rap for undue praise. Much like Trump himself, the genre's rebellious nature is a lot more heat than light. Take Blow's song "Ashli Babbitt"—named after the woman shot by Capitol Police on January 6. It tries to both lionize rioters while also making clear that Blow himself did not engage in any specific criminal activity.
"I was on a battlegrounds," he says in the song. "I was not in no Capitol though. Never went up in the Capitol. I was just there seeing it firsthand."
"Fuck tha Police," people might recall, came with fewer caveats about the band's criminality.