“It’ll kinda be like Jurassic Park,” my dad told me. During the summer of 1993, that was a powerful selling point for a 10-year-old boy, and those words were just enough incentive to get me to go with him into The Hall of Presidents attraction at Disney World’s Magic Kingdom. Animatronic dinosaurs, animatronic presidents. Same difference, right? Uh, no, Dad.
More than 20 years later, you have my dad’s cunning ruse to thank for this feature, which, ironically, I’m now trying to convince you to click on and enter. Truthfully, it’s nothing like Jurassic Park. But I do remember those presidents, in all their herky-jerky robotic glory, coming to life on that stage, and I also recall thinking, “What would they think about stuff like Super Mario Bros. or my new sneakers with the pumps built into the tongues?” That’s pretty much the gist of this feature.
For the Fourth of July this year, we decided to downplay burgers and fireworks and hark back to the seven men — George Washington, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, and John Jay — who we know as the founding fathers. Our question: If they were around today, what would be shuffling on their iPods and pumping through their Beats? It’s sort of like Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure. It’s definitely a chance to show off for our old history teachers. But, really, it’s just a bit of historical fun.
So, have a happy and fruitful Fourth. Save room for your Cousin Reba’s soggy pretzel Jello. And check out our Founding Fathers Playlists. What the hell … It’ll kinda be like Jurassic Park.
1. P.O.D. – “Revolution”
This one is a no-brainer. George Washington was Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army during the American Revolution, leading the forces that would pry colonial control from King George III. He definitely could’ve bumped this crossing the Delaware.
2. Rage Against the Machine – “Freedom”
G.W. and Rage Against the Machine are a match made in opposition to oppressive governments. Seriously, what better song for the ultimate freedom fighter than the raucous “Freedom”, right? It’s perfect fuel for bayoneting redcoats.
3. Clipse – “Virginia”
The first president of these great United States of America was born and raised on a plantation in colonial Virginia. The duo Clipse was born there nearly three centuries later. The former harvested tobacco; the latter cooked coke. (Both kill.) George would be all for this anthem devoted to his commonwealth.
4. Lil Wayne & DJ Drama Ft. Detroit Red, Freeway, & Willie Da Kid – “Cannon” (Remix)
During the Boston Campaign, George Washington commissioned Con Henry Knox to retrieve cannons lost in fallen forts. The cannons helped fortify Dorchester Heights, and it was a major victory for Washington and the patriots.
5. Fort Minor – “Remember the Name”
George Washington is far and away the most recognizable figure in all of American history. Good luck finding someone who isn’t familiar with his résumé. He earned his rep. Pay homage.
6. J. Cole – “Dolla & A Dream II”
This song is incredibly relatable for the inaugural POTUS who is also the face of the U.S. dollar bill. Additionally, he dreamt of a republic free from British tyranny. Safe to say he got his wish.
7. KT Tunstall – “Black Horse & A Cherry Tree”
When he was a kid, George allegedly chopped down a cherry tree and admitted to his father that he’d done it, proclaiming, “I cannot tell a lie,” further cementing his legend. His horse was white, but whatever.
1. Dropkick Murphys – “Shipping up to Boston”
John Adams was born in Quincy, MA., just south of Boston. He attended Harvard and cut his teeth as a politician in Boston before ascending to the presidency. After his defeat for reelection, Adams “shipped back up” to Quincy, where he eventually died in 1826.
2. Rick Ross – “White House”
Rick Ross has always had high aspirations for power (also see: “Presidential”), and in this cut from his debut album, Port of Miami, Ross imagines his life at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. Adams also dreamed about the POTUS’ residence while living at a local hotel because construction on the White House was being finished for most of his term. Adams eventually moved in and became the first president to live there.
3. Blink-182 – “Aliens Exist”
Tom Delonge worried about green men in flying saucers; Adams worried about European immigrants. Nevertheless, both agree: aliens exist. In the wake of the French Revolution, Adams signed into law the Alien and Sedition Acts, which sought to protect national security (although historians now say it was a veiled attempt at voter suppression against immigrants, who tended to support his opponent, Thomas Jefferson).
4. Jay Z – “Takeover”
In that late ’90s and early ’00s, Jay Z and Nas had one of the most famous beefs in hip-hop. Adams’ greatest political enemy was fellow founding father Alexander Hamilton. After he failed to be reelected president, Adams spent three years writing and having his letters published in a Boston newspaper (the 19th century equivalent of a diss track) to disprove Hamilton’s previous attacks on his character. Over 200 years later, Jay Z’s line rings true — “Your chest in the line of fire with your thin-ass vest” — especially with regard to Hamilton’s famous death.
5. Kanye West – “Big Brother”
’Ye is to Jay as Thomas Jefferson was to John Adams, as the young up-and-comers knocked off the established veterans. (Like Kanye West and Jay Z, Jefferson and Adams were separated in age by seven years.) In “Big Brother”, Kanye struggles with his relationship with Jay Z as both mentee/mentor and as competitors. Similarly, Jefferson ousted Adams for his bid to be reelected as president, but after retiring, Adams rekindled their friendship in a correspondence that would be compiled as the much-revered Adams-Jefferson Letters—call it their Watch the Throne.
6. The Game ft. Busta Rhymes – “Like Father, Like Son”
The Game goes sentimental about his dad in “Like Father, Like Son”, but it’s Busta Rhymes’ hook that captures the essence of the track: “I hope you grow up to become that everything you can be/ That’s all I wanted for you young’n, like father, like son.” “Like father, like son” must’ve been a mantra in the Adams household as well, as son John Quincy Adams would follow his father into politics. Before his death a little over a year later, John Adams got to see John Quincy Adams become the sixth President of the United States.
7. Ice Cube – “It Was a Good Day”
Ice Cube wrote this track as a positive reflection on life, which stood in contrast to the violence of South Central that often inspired his lyrics. Despite still being bitter about losing the presidency to Jefferson for the rest of his life, Adams seemed at peace on his deathbed when he heard that it was July 4th. (Jefferson actually died that very same day.) Upon learning the date, Adams reportedly replied, “It is a great day. It is a good day.”