Opinion: They Got Us A hip-hop editorial on our times

By Marcos Cabrera
Photo by Ken Lagudas

I wrote this in the days after the 2016 presidential election. My group, Baktun 12, had a group text and we were talking about how scared and unnerved we all were in the aftermath of that shocking result.

The song was written with a lot of pain and frustration but also, with the aim of trying to synthesize some of that negative energy into a focused response. On the one hand, they got us fucked up with this result, but on the other hand, they got us ready to fight back.
Hip-hop isn’t the political blowtorch it used to be when I was a teen. And that’s just fine. I can’t expect millennials to latch on to message-driven art the way I was at that age. I still use it as my tool to process anger and comment on the current state of emergency we all live in. I performed the song as a spoken word piece in September at a poetry slam and got a positive response in a room full of poetry heads, ranging from teens to elders.
Recently, I performed it for the first time with the beat at a hip-hop show. Being the old head on the mic was a terrifying experience, but again I got a positive response. Hearing a room full of 20-somethings chant the chorus in response to my breathless call was a relief as much as anything. Can’t thank them enough for letting an old man rock with them like that.

They Got Us

They got us stressed out
Chest out
Looking for the best route
Out this blimey mess now
To Canada or Mex now?
Look at how they got us
While they hating on our daughters
Grab em by they crotches like they got us
where they want us
Khaled tried to warn us to stay away
From they quarters
Now they promise borders
Now they gon deport us
Now they got us nervous
thinking somehow we deserve this
Shoulda been more urgent
Coulda protest with more purpose
Coulda been prepared
shoulda seen this thing evolve
Now they got us scared
to rock kufi’s and hijabs
Now they got us teary eyed
screaming oh my god
I thought this shit was rigged?
Now you saying problem solved?
Sorry I’m not sorry
but if you voted for that fraud
When the nation falls
I’m gon say it’s all your fault
Every kid that cries
when they scream build that wall
every gay suicide
that results from your call
That blood is on your hands
that stain won’t go away
Cause you took a stand
with Putin & the KKK
now  they evil plan will come to light
Plain as day
Christian Right doesn’t get the chance to pray
their Shame away
Future generations will learn your
Racist ways
That’s why the got us funked up in a major way

Questioning our faith
That’s how they got us
Struggling to maintain
That’s how they got us
Using the lord’s name in vain
That’s how they got us
11/9 was insane
That’s how they got us

They got us energized
Eyes on the genocide
Minds on a better time
Trigger finger neutralized
fist clenched and soon to rise
Unified and grooving while
We Chanting we gon be alright
Down to fight and read to die
Every time they test our stride
They find out they done messed up right?
Now they got us extra hype
To flex one time and testify
Now they got us spreading love
as if it were the end of times
And our chance to survive
Is to hold each other tight
Now they got us training like
it’s the fight of our lives
Now they got us praying night
And day for the other side
Now they got us teaching all our babies
don’t be terrified
Cause mom and dad love you
and we’re gonna make it through the night
Now they got us certified
To emphasize their messed up lies
Now it’s time to empathize
Muslim pride and gay rights
Now we must exemplify a country
That’s prepared to rise
Above all of this nonsense
Cuz now they got us

Holding family close
That’s how they got us
Spread love doing the most
That’s how they got us
Yell until a sore throat
That’s how they got us
We will not let this one go
That’s how they got us

Marcos Cabrera

About Marcos Cabrera

Marcos Cabrera is a writer born and raised in Salinas. He reps Baktun 12 and founded the Monterey County Youth Media Project.