New Music Reviews

Ani DiFranco’s Do or Die: Music as Political Activism

First off, Ani DiFranco is my hero and a major inspiration in my life. She is creative, brave, empathic, talented and kicks ass. With that out of the way, she is back with original music. In 2019 she released the No Walls Mixtape in 2019 where she revisited some of her old tracks and gave them a fresh look. So, her last original work was on her 2017 record Binary. Therefore, it is great to get some new music from Ani and much like her entire career, Do or Die is a hard edged piece of social / political activism.

Ani is known for courageously taking on social / political issues in her music. She has fought for LGBTIQ+ rights, gender rights, social aid programs and voters’ rights. Perhaps she is best known for her feminist / intersectional feminist stances, which have connected with millions of women across the world. Moreover, Ani is one of the most prolific singer songwriters in music history. She started Righteous Babe Records in 1990 in order to have complete control of her music and not be beholden to corporate labels. Since then, she has recorded 25 studio LPs and EPs (including 2 with Utah Phillips) and Righteous Babe has grown to house a number of artists and has spearheaded a number of social programs / protests. Sufficed to say, Ani is extremely creative and hard working artist who is not afraid to tackle big issues.

Her latest track Do or Die is a call to action for the 2020 election. She sings about being surprised about “what people are used to” and “foxes in the henhouse.” Ani continues to explore white supremacy and racism coming from the Oval Office when she sings about “the sheetless KKK.” For Ani, the rhetoric coming out of the White House from Trump and his colleagues is divisive, hateful and race based. For her, and many others, Trump is an example of Chuck D’s lyric “now the KKK wears three-piece suits.” However, Do or Die is a call to action and she reminds us that the power for change is in our hands and in our vote. Ani sings, ” And if you think your vote doesn’t matter / Then you’re not paying attention.” So, we can’t become apathetic or let our rage and disgust towards Trump and his white supremacist rhetoric consume us, we need to regroup and have our voices heard.

Musically, Do or Die reminds me a lot of Erykah Badu’s Real Thang from her record New Amerykah Part One. Ani has an Erykah Badu twang in her voice, which gives the track a jazzy note. Speaking of jazz notes, this track is straight out of an afro-jazz 1970s club, complete with some jazz flute. Keyboard, bongos, shakers, guitar and flute give the track and afro – jazz note found on Jorge Ben’s iconic 1976 record Africa Brasil. Even though the tempo is a bit faster, a lot of the same notes and structures in Ponta De Lanca Africano are evident in this Ani DiFranco track. I love it. Ani has always been open to changing her sound and keeping it fresh. Most people know her for her acoustic guitar based singer songwriter indie-folk, but Do or Die shows how she can adapt different musical structures with great effect.

Ani DiFranco is a shining example how one person can make a difference. She did not like the status quo on how society viewed women, so she started her own record company and did something about it. She found an outlet for her voice and has inspired millions of people to do the same. Now she is imploring people to have their voice heard in the 2020 election for the good of the country. Answer the call.

Listen to Do or Die

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