Happy Birthday Mr. President: The Official Playlist for Our Commanders in Chief

In honor of President's Day, Will Hagle picks the official anthem for each American leader.
By    February 19, 2018

Will Hagle aimed at the king.

Happy President’s Day. I don’t know what that means, but I know that I mean it (see #21). President’s Day has never been a holiday that made much sense. Some people don’t have to go to work. Many people do. I don’t know or remember whether schools are open or closed. It is a “holiday” in the thinnest sense, especially when the current leader of the executive branch thinks every day is his day, and leaves us with nothing to be happy about.

This playlist is something to be happy about. It contains 44 songs, one for each of our esteemed national leaders. There’s a video and blurb for each. I spent a good 15 minutes fact-checking this, trying to figure out why I only had 44 people’s names on the list. That’s how much Trump’s “45” rhetoric has been etched into my brain and how little I know about Grover Cleveland and the history of U.S. government. I don’t know if any of this makes any sense at all, but that’s the beauty of this holiday. Have a happy one.

George Washington

The first song on this playlist is “George Washington” by WHY? Why did I include this, you might ask? ‘Why not?,’ I might respond. I cannot tell a lie, though. I don’t have a good reason other than it was the first song that appeared when I typed “George Washington.” Why do so many people make terrible “Why?” jokes with the band WHY?’s name? Because it’s easy.

John Adams

John Adams is my least favorite president ever. I hate him. His policies were totally backwards and he failed to live up to the prestigious precedents set by our first president, good old George. That’s why the second song on this playlist comes courtesy of my least favorite rapper ever: Sam Adams. Sam Adams happens to be the name of another founding father, who technically was the second cousin of our second president.

I never understood the popularity of this song. The meaning behind Asher Roth’s “I Love College” was “I hate college, but love all the parties.” This added nothing new to the equation, aside from worse rapping. Sam Adams capitalized on the Great White Douche Bro Rap Movement Of 2010 and probably made enough on this one song to pay off the average student’s debt. I don’t actually know anything about John Adams or his policies, though.

Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson was the first president from Virginia. If you go to Virginia now, everywhere but Trump Winery still thinks Jefferson is king. His name is all over the place. They still really like the guy.

Pusha T isn’t the only rapper to hail from Virginia. That state also gave us great rappers like Malice and No Malice. But Pusha T is the only VA rapper to become President. Of GOOD Music. And also declare himself king.

James Madison  

James Madison was also from Virginia, but the people there don’t remember him as fondly as they do Thomas Jefferson. Perhaps that’s because he liked slavery so much, led the nation to the Three-Fifths Compromise, and was instrumental in the colonization of Liberia. Though those all sound like things people in Virginia might still like.

Trapo is one of the only rappers from Madison, WI, an extremely cold city in the Midwest that’s named after our fourth president. Also, in this painting, James Madison is wearing a blue coat. Close enough.

James Monroe

I was going to put a Lola Monroe song here, but instead, I’m bringing it back to King Push. James Monroe was the third president in a row to hail from Virginia, a period of time which Wikipedia refers to as the “Virginia Dynasty.” President Monroe also apparently ushered in something called the “Era Of Good Feelings.” Since President Pusha T brought us an “Era of GOOD Music,” it only makes complete, not-contrived-at-all sense that he would represent James Monroe. Also, we are all nostalgic for James Monroe, or something. I don’t know. “King Push” was already taken and this song is still great.

 John Quincy Adams

Subscribing to SiriusXM has made me realize that there are certain artists who appeal to the “Sway” market but gain little attention outside that show. They are typically technically-skilled rappers that know how to freestyle and tend to choose production that would have also worked in the ’90s. Quincey White is one of those artists. “Los Scandalous Times” is a good song. It’s the type of thing you want to hear when you’re driving to work at 8 AM. Quincey White is a fine rapper. I don’t know what he’s lacking in terms of breaking out past the Sway audience, but it must be something. I don’t know what John Quincy Adams did as a president, but it must have been something.

Andrew Jackson

I was going to say this song is a lot better when you imagine Andre 3000 and Big Boi are apologizing to Andrew Jackson instead, but it’s not. It’s way worse.

Martin Van Buren

The Midwest thanks Cam’ron for making this anthem for the “fourth coast.” At one point he mentions “Van Buren,” which I’m pretty sure is a reference to Chicago, but could also be a reference to our eighth president. It is insane how great this song is.

William Henry Harrison

William Henry Harrison died of pneumonia only 31 days into his presidency. That reminded me of this song from the Deltron 3030 album, which I thought was 31 seconds, but is longer.

John Tyler

When people say the words “John Tyler,” this song’s name is the most common response. Also, our tenth president ran on the Whig Party ticket and Tyler, The Creator is not only rap’s most well-known Tyler, but also a well-known wearer of wigs.

James K. Polk

This song, from Chance the Rapper’s 10 Day mixtape, gives a “shout out to Polk St.” It’s a reference to a street in Chicago, but that street is probably named after James K. Polk. Maybe?

Zachary Taylor

I like to imagine that Wiz Khalifa smoked so much weed he invented time travel and went back to 1849. When he got there he found Zachary Taylor on the campaign trail walking out to Chopin. Wiz pulled Taylor, a slave owner, aside. He told him he had a couple ideas. They went back to the booth and created the best campaign anthem of all time. Then Wiz brought it back to 2011 and released it as a mediocre rap single.

Millard Fillmore

Tyler, The Creator is a well-known wearer of wigs, but Sia is the greatest. Millard Fillmore was the last president to run and be elected from the Whig Party. Sia seems like the last person you want to run into at a party. Nah, she seems alright. Millard Fillmore, unabashed nativist, seems like an asshole though.

Franklin Pierce

Franklin Pierce was a terrible pro-slavery president and I can’t think of anything to represent him aside from this terrible band Pierce The Veil.

James Buchanan

J-j-j-j-ames Bu-CANNONNNNN!

Abraham Lincoln

One of my friends growing up in the land of Lincoln had a drawing of Honest Abe he made in Kindergarten hanging in his basement. Beneath it, he had written: “Abraham Lincoln. He freed the slabs.” Sometimes I wonder what Paul Wall would think of that statement. But rather than impose a Paul Wall song on you so soon after a Wiz Khalifa one, I decided to give you that old Danny Brown.

Andrew Johnson

IDK. Andrew Johnson is a president that never should have happened. Like this song. IDK.

Ulysses S. Grant

Let us all pause on this President’s Day for a 45-minute reading from James Joyce’s Ulysses.

Rutherford B. Hayes

2Pac’s “Me Against The World” samples Isaac Hayes’ “Walk On By.” Plenty of other rap songs sample various Isaac Hayes tracks, but this is the best, especially because 2Pac has always been our real president. Read about Rutherford B. Hayes on Wikipedia, though. He seems like a pretty good guy.

James A. Garfield

This is surprisingly good.

Chester A. Arthur

This is unsurprisingly good.

Grover Cleveland

Childish Gambino says the word “Grover” on a couple songs, and Machine Gun Kelly is from Cleveland, but I felt like listening to Kid Cudi rather than those two. Grover Cleveland is the only president to serve two non-consecutive terms in American history, if you were curious.

Benjamin Harrison

Darius Harrison, likely of no relation to our 22nd president, co-produced this hit. That’s the thin connection between this song and Benjamin Harrison, but it felt right. I think if Benjamin Harrison were alive today, he would like it.

William McKinley

Kevin Gates went to McKinley High School in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. He references his high school days on many songs, including this one. Also, William McKinley led the nation to victory in the Spanish-American War and annexed Hawaii, so, you know, he’s The Truth?

Theodore Roosevelt

Theodore Roosevelt infamously said, “Speak softly, and carry a big stick.” While that would make SahBabii’s softspoken “Pull Up Wit Ah Stick” perfect for Teddy’s spot on the playlist, I went in the exact opposite direction instead. One of Theodore’s nicknames was The Rough Rider, so it only makes sense that the song representing him should be his anthem. Hopefully Wiz Khalifa made a time travel pitstop in 1904 just to drop this track off for Teddy on the campaign trail.

William Howard Taft

No matter what William Howard Taft did during his tenure as president, he will always be remembered for one thing and one thing only: being fat. Also, if America was anything like it is now in the early 1900s, a lot of innocent people probably went to prison under Taft’s presidency. The Fat Boys are known for being good early rap innovators as well as being fat, and “Jail House Rap” is an undisputed classic.

Woodrow Wilson

I googled “Woodrow Wilson lyrics” to see if the nation’s twenty-seventh president has been mentioned in any songs. This song was the first result. I figured Vic Chesnutt was a Chicago rapper. I was wrong, but this song is still kinda good.

Warren G. Harding

Warren G for president.

Calvin Coolidge

Snoop Dogg is arguably hip-hop’s best Calvin. I correctly guessed that he had a song called “Cool.” I didn’t listen to any of Ego Trippin’ besides “Sexual Eruption” and “Sensual Seduction,” so I have no idea if this song is good. But if you Google “what was Calvin Coolidge’s favorite color?” the response is “If you speak of Calvin Coolidge, my best historical guess would have to be blue, as many colorized photographs of him show him in a blue suit or dress-shirt.

Herbert Hoover

According to a local alt-weekly that does not currently need web traffic, Los Angeles’s Hoover St. was named after a winemaker named Dr. Leonce Huber. No one talks about that street more than Schoolboy Q. Herbert Hoover the president caused a huge economic crash, was a raging conservative asshole like the new owners of the aforementioned alt-weekly, and supported prohibition. That has nothing to do with Schoolboy Q, but I felt like it should be mentioned.

Franklin D. Roosevelt

I’ve never really known whether the “New Deal Crew” was a group of people or just Chris Crack. Many of his releases are titled “Chris Crack and the New Deal Crew,” but consist of mostly just him rapping. Franklin D. Roosevelt is responsible for the New Deal. Both Chris Crack and FDR, Japanese internment camps and other atrocities excluded, have done some great things for this country.

Harry S. Truman

Got the girlies in the coupe like the colonel’s got chickens/ And I’m always going out dapper like Harry S. Truman.” — The Beastie Boys

If you can’t convince them, confuse them.” — Harry S. Truman

Dwight D. Eisenhower

While the title of the song could work for Abraham Lincoln or any of our other unfortunately assassinated presidents, the lyrics in Jay-Z’s freestyle over the Biggie beat find him comparing himself to Dwight D. Eisenhower. He says “I’m like Dwight D. Eisenhower/ My life can move a thousand miles per hour.” I don’t get it.

John F. Kennedy

Actually, I should have chosen “Who Shot Ya” for JFK. That would have made sense.

Lyndon B. Johnson

Lyndon B. Johnson’s nickname was LBJ. So is Lebron James’. LBJ #2 rapped Tee Grizzley with his shirt off for social media. If LBJ #1 was alive today, he would have, too. Tee Grizzley is just that good.

Richard Nixon

Common namedrops dead president Richard Nixon on this song. Then he explains that he’s not a “gay MC.” Homophobia aside, it’s still a pretty good song. Which is kind of like saying: Watergate aside, Nixon was a pretty good president.

Gerald Ford

I hated this song when it came out, but can’t deny that every once in a while I find myself casually saying “Tom Ford” in Jay-Z’s cadence. If this song was called “Gerald Ford” instead, I would have loved it from the beginning. And it would have been even more amazing to watch him perform it in Paris like above. Because the mp3 of this song does not exist on Youtube.

Jimmy Carter

Pre-bad era Lil Wayne for president. Even though this song is post-bad era Lil Wayne.

Ronald Reagan

This song is a dark dismantling of the Reagan regime and also feels way too timely.

George H.W. Bush

This guy doesn’t even deserve a song.

Bill Clinton

Lil B releases so much music that it’s easy to forget he found new fame when he was making a ton of these songs in which he compared himself to celebrities in a repetitive manner. “I’m Bill Clinton, fucking all these women” is still a classic hook.

George W. Bush

If Lil Wayne didn’t make this undisputed classic track, HW’s son wouldn’t deserve a song either.

Barack Obama

There are many songs that reference Obama but this feels like the most triumphant. The mood is all hope and change and 2008 feels more distant than ever.

Donald Trump

Just kidding, obviously.

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