“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.”
1. Puff Daddy ft. The Notorious B.I.G., The Lox, and Lil’ Kim – “It’s All About the Benjamins”
Hard to imagine this track not finding its way onto Franklin’s iPod mix. Franklin, the original baller/shot-caller, was the Chuck Schwab of managing Benjamins before there even were Benjamins and could drop a dope rhyme to boot, as evidenced on his Poor Richard’s Almanac mixtape: “A penny saved is a penny earned/ If a hussy be a spendthrift/ That harlot get spurned/ Early to bed, early to rise/ Makes B. Diddy healthy, WEALTHY, and wise/ It’s all about the Me’s, baby.”
2. Thomas Dolby – “She Blinded Me with Science”
Franklin was the original American Renaissance man and, as we all learned in elementary school, an accomplished inventor and scientist. Granted, if you took him to the children’s section of your typical science center, he’d likely drop a deuce after seeing what any modern eight-year-old knows about the natural world. So, if you happen to be a co-ed with a thing for balding, paunchy deists, you could probably get into those founding father pantaloons right quick by cooing about DNA or dropping a little basic string theory on Ben. He’d be putty in your hands … or burn you at the stake for being a witch.
3. Benjamin Franklin – “My Name Ben Frank”
Come 5 o’clock, founding fathers are just regular dudes, like you and me. And which one of us wouldn’t peep out a song with our name in the title? I once shelled out for a José Melis record called Christmas with Melis just for that reason. Never played it once. Best five dollars I ever spent.
4. Daft Punk ft. Pharrell Williams – “Get Lucky”
As the first United States Ambassador to France, Franklin would’ve been privy to France’s best export (since black, scratchy, wool sweaters, anyway) before any of us. Hell, the punks daft would’ve probably gotten old Ben fitted for his own honorary group helmet. And even though Franklin’s well known for his “early to bed, early to rise” axiom, exceptions to bedtime would undoubtedly be made if Ben was “up all night to get lucky.”
5. Margot & the Nuclear So and So’s – “I Am a Lightning Rod”
Before Franklin invented the lightning rod (also dubbed the “Franklin Rod”), structures of any considerable height (e.g., a church or town hall) were basically bonfires waiting to be lit by Mother Nature. Of course, Ben might be a little put off by this Margot feller singing, “I will be your lightning rod/ Delivering sound to you.” “No, no, no. That’s not what my Franklin Rod does at all!” “Delivering sound to you.” “You’re still not understanding the rod’s primary function … just, ah, let your damn house burn down, Margot! Ben Frank out.”
6. Bruce Springsteen – “Streets of Philadelphia”
Long before becoming the celebrated statesman and quintessential American we know him as today, Franklin was just a poor 17-year-old runaway who landed in Philadelphia hoping to cut his teeth in the printing business. Actually, because he had abandoned an apprenticeship with his brother without permission, Franklin was technically a fugitive. Surely, he would’ve found some of Springsteen’s lyrics about being down and out in Philly relatable: “Oh brother, are you gonna leave me/ Wastin’ away/ On the streets of Philadelphia?” That’s why we call him the Boss, Ben.
7. The Marvelettes – “Please Mr. Postman”
Franklin held down a number of government gigs. One of his lesser known appointments was a 15-month stint as the first United States Postmaster General. Even though Franklin barely had time to develop a comfortable butt contour in the chair behind his Postermaster’s desk, we’re sure he would’ve done well to heed The Marvelettes’ advice: “Deliver de letter/ The sooner de better.”
1. Lil Mouse – “Get Smoked”
There is no doubt that someone at some point teased Madison for his Earl-Boykins-at-best size, commonly estimated to have been 5’4, 100 lbs. Said teasing probably bugged the hell out of him after a while whether we have record of any fuming or not. Lil Mouse’s “Get Smoked”, then, deserves a spot on Madison’s proverbial iPod because of the disturbingly precocious Chicago rapper’s aggression.
2. Bruce Springsteen – “She’s the One”
Madison had little apparent interest in the opposite sex until he was 31, when Catherine “Kitty” Floyd, the (um) 15-year-old daughter of New York delegate William Floyd, caught his eye. Accordingly, Springsteen’s imminent-monogamy track off Born to Run would’ve been relatable for Madison at least until the younger Floyd finally broke his heart. (Madison also went to Princeton in Springsteen’s home state of New Jersey.) Thankfully, Madison would later find love with the bubbly Dolley Payne Todd.
3. Funkadelic – “Can You Get to That”
Madison’s first VP was named George Clinton, same as the Parliament/Funkadelic pioneer. Relative to those bands’ penchant for sprawling and occasionally spooky grooves, the breezy progressions of “Can You Get to That” would be accessible for Madison (and GC1) if he were resurrected today without being acquainted with experimental music.
4. T.I. – “Motivation”
Perhaps unfairly, George Washington is considered to have been the finest of the early presidents. When Madison’s first term came, he had a more formidable list of tasks at hand. Unfortunately, he failed to prevent the War of 1812, much to the dismay of many New England officials. That’s a lot of stress, so the transcendent power of T.I.’s Southern rap banger would’ve been a perfect selection to get Madison hyped in the face of adversity. Hell, today’s politicians and government employees should bump this every once in a while to get psyched about upholding the Constitution.
5. Mac DeMarco – “Ode to Viceroy”
Madison spent much of his time on his family’s Virginia tobacco farm, Montpelier, throughout his life. As a grinning, sweetened pledge to the pros of Viceroy cigarettes, Mac DeMarco’s earworm reflects the relatively optimistic attitudes toward tobacco of the 18th and 19th centuries.
6. The Notorious B.I.G. ft. Puff Daddy and Mase – “Mo Money Mo Problems”
Madison’s face covers the $5,000 bill, the third-largest denomination in the history of U.S. currency. But as The Notorious B.I.G., Puff Daddy, and Mase famously postulated, wealth and baller-isms aren’t all you need in life. Madison had a largely successful career, but his presidency posed a particularly challenging list of obstacles.
7. Neil Young – “Old Man”
Madison lived an incredibly long life for his time, making it all the way to 85. The scope of Neil Young’s folk-rock classic “Old Man” seems to store the wisdom learned from dozens of profound experiences. In addition to his presidency, Madison was also the fifth Secretary of State, a member of the House of Representatives, and a delegate to the Congress of the Confederation of Virginia. Also, like Young, Madison’s impact is due in large part to his writing, except that the latter penned essays (see the Federalist Papers) and is known as the “Father of the Constitution.” Young merely brought poetic legitimacy to rock ‘n’ roll.