Bryson Gray’s “MAGA Ain’t Got No Color” is half an hour of beats and rhymes dedicated to praising President Donald Trump and insisting that the rapper is special and brave for doing so.
With track titles like “45,” “MAGA Boy,” “Black Not Democrat,” “Trump Is Your President” and “Trump Is Your President (Remix),” Gray makes it clear that he’s not a fan of subtle.
The current presidency has created a whole ecosystem of “artist-preneurs” eager to get their products in front of Trump, who has been known to promote those who flatter him. That’s why we have the Deplorable Choir, which makes catchy ditties about building the wall, or the work of Jon McNaughton, whose elaborate MAGA paintings should come with a ketamine prescription.
Enter Bryson Gray.
Over 12 tracks and 29 minutes, the rapper — who sparked a minor online sensation last summer when Trump retweeted his challenge to write lyrics that “make liberals cry” — spits a grab bag of conservative grievances collected by someone who clearly spends a lot of time arguing online. (Democrats are “snowflakes,” and CNN is “fake news.”) Think of a bot forced to listen to 1,000 hours of the Fox News prime-time lineup and then regurgitate it with a decent producer and ability to ride a beat.
About those beats. They hit hard enough to make you bob your head and are clearly influenced by the last half decade of southern rap. (Gray lives in North Carolina.) They are bass-heavy with stuttering hi-hats and melodic piano lines — Metro Boomin would be proud — but they aren’t dynamic enough to garner repeat listens, which is the main problem here.
Most of Gray’s rhymes are pretty boring. There’s no real storytelling or conflict. For instance, he finds nothing to criticize Trump about. Even Matt Gaetz, one of the president’s fiercest boosters in Congress, doesn’t agree with Trump 100 percent of the time.
The most incendiary moments come straight from the president’s own insult playbook. On “All-American,” Gray raps “1A, I can say whatever the hell I want” before a featured rapper named “DCTheCapital” tests this theory by going after Michelle Obama:
Manly face, manly shoulders, bigger hands than Trump in fact,
Don’t you question gender, gender’s infinite,
They’ll tell you that.
Not to be outdone, Bryson saves his most provocative lines for the pro-life tune “Save the Babies,” where he excoriates single women who get pregnant but curiously avoids scorn for their male partners:
You tell me I’m being mean, I just think I’m being real,
If you say you don’t wanna get pregnant,
Don’t be out here bustin’ it open,
And if you gon’ bust it open, then use a Lifestyle or a Trojan.
Released Friday, “Maga Ain’t Got No Color” made the top 10 in iTunes’ hip-hop and rap album category. Over on the general album chart, it hovered somewhere in the vicinity of both Journey’s greatest hits and Creedence Clearwater Revival’s.
So who is this album for? Probably someone who doesn’t usually listen to rap but is fine with using it to virtue-signal — pretty much the same audience that got behind Gray’s #MAGAChallenge when it went viral.
Last summer we learned that Gray is under 30 and wears a comically oversized foam MAGA hat, and this album doesn’t tell us much more. Despite an OK flow (especially that triplet one popularized by better rappers like Migos), Gray doesn’t have a lot to say. Anyone who’s listened to black conservative media figures like Candace Owens or Larry Elder (who gets a shout out) will be familiar with the talking points. Black voters should leave the “Democrat plantation.” Abortion is “black genocide.” Black Republicans are “free thinkers.” Black people should love Trump because unemployment is low.
I lost count of how many times he says he doesn’t have to be a Democrat just because he’s black. It’s strange to call the album “MAGA Ain’t Got No Color,” considering he seems to believe the most interesting thing about him is that he's a black person who supports Trump.
Trump won 8 percent of the black vote in 2016, while the average Republican candidate won about 12 percent from 1968-2004, according to The Washington Post. So yes, being a black Republican is rare. People like Owens (a former Democrat) tend to describe their conversions as if they were on the road to Damascus — or coming out of the closet, a metaphor Owens used in a 2017 video.
Gray didn’t always support Trump, as The New Yorker pointed out last year. After liking Barack Obama, he was a Bernie Sanders fan. More than any ideology, he seems to be attracted to politicians with strong personalities and passionate followings. His Trump fandom is defiant.
Gray admitted as much during a recent interview with Newsmax. He thought Trump was entertaining, and after researching his positions in 2016, he “started supporting him full force, especially since people told me not to.”
Pre-politics, Trump was one of the most name-checked public figures in rap, consistent with its built-in entrepreneurial spirit. Things have changed since Trump ran for president while using racially divisive rhetoric. Now Kanye West is one of the only rappers to defend him, which leaves an opening for someone like Gray.
Most rap is about rebelling against authority, Republican or Democrat. There is a notable exception: Young Jeezy’s track “My President Is Black,” a 2008 ode to Obama made as the future president was wrapping up the Democratic nomination.
Gray didn’t just release a track in praise of Trump; he dropped an entire album. He isn’t nearly as transgressive as he thinks he is.