10 of the Best Star Wars References in Music
From The Mountain Goats to Kanye West, here are a few of the many Star Wars moments in popular musicMusic Lists Star Wars
Star Wars is as much a part of the collective American consciousness as national sports leagues or Tom Hanks. Whether you’re a ride-or-die fan, a casual appreciator or an active avoider of the Star Wars universe, you probably have an opinion on it, and news flash: You’ll never be able to escape it. Since Disney bought the rights to Star Wars, a whole new slate of films and TV shows have arrived, giving new generations all the more reason to love (or hate) the stories and characters that first attracted widespread devotion decades earlier—and they’re not showing signs of slowing down any time soon (Just this morning it was announced that Taika Waititi will direct a feature-length Star Wars film).
Being the pop culture giant that it is, Star Wars is referenced a lot in media other than film. From Saturday Night Live spoofs to dedicated meme accounts to the odd mention in interpersonal conversation, it’s everywhere—in music especially. Darth Vader is name-dropped in rap songs so frequently that George Lucas should probably have a credit somewhere. And while hip-hop definitely has the foothold on incorporating Star Wars puns and similes into lyrics, there’s no shortage of Skywalker, Yoda and Vader nomenclature in other genres, either. So, in honor of Star Wars Day (May 4, aka “May The Fourth Be With You”), we decided to list a few of the best Star Wars moments in popular music. Like many of our niche lists here at Paste, this is by no means a comprehensive list of every Star Wars-mentioning song out there, so, please, don’t be offended if your favorite Weird Al Yankovic number didn’t make the cut. This list also excludes music from the actual Star Wars franchise, so while we’d be content to dance around all day to the absolute banger that is the cantina song, you won’t find it here. So, block out any disturbances in the Force and tune into these 10 Star Wars-honoring songs and albums, listed in no particular order.
Wilco: Star Wars
This Wilco album from 2015 has absolutely nothing to do with Star Wars—Jeff Tweedy confirmed this himself in an interview upon its release. The choice of title was as meaningless as the choice of album cover, which is just a random painting of a cat that was hanging in the Wilco loft at the time of recording. “It just makes me feel good,” Tweedy told Rolling Stone in 2015. “It makes me feel limitless and like there’s still possibilities and still surprise in the world, you know?” I’m not exactly sure I follow his thought process here, but Star Wars does capture a certain kind of infinity. Thankfully, the band never got sued for titling their album after one of the biggest franchises in the world, and even though there are no actual Star Wars references within it, Star Wars is a great moment of crossover between the beloved universe and indie rock.
Kanye West: “Guilt Trip”
Kanye West has made more than a few mentions of Star Wars throughout his career (including Late Registration’s “Gone”), but this Yeezus cut is the definitely the most noteworthy, since it features actual blaster sound effects. The reference to the film arrives in this verse: “On to the next saga / Focus on the future and let the crew knock her / Star Wars fur, yeah I’m rockin’ Chewbacca / The one Chief Rocka, number one Chief Rocka.”
Missy Elliott feat. Big Boi: “All N My Grill”
On this Missy Elliott classic, the rapper creates a relaxed mood with her lyrics about Trix and paying the bills, but Big Boi’s feature is where the Force comes into play. “Why you all in my grill?” he asks before adding, “And people around me is tellin’ me that you’s a stalker / Like Darth Vader takes a Skywalker / I told you I was the street talker.”
The Mountain Goats: “The Ultimate Jedi Who Wastes All the Other Jedi and Eats Their Bones”
The Mountain Goats are never ones to shy away from waxing poetic about various fantasy lores (Their 2019 album was literally called In League with Dragons and featured references to Dungeons & Dragons), but 2017’s Goths may be one of the most uninhibitedly nerdy. From that same era arose “The Ultimate Jedi Who Wastes All the Other Jedi and Eats Their Bones,” which is the product of an actual Twitter exchange between John Darnielle and The Last Jedi director Rian Johnson. The Mountain Goats released the goofy song as a one-off, but it’s also a fairly truthful account of the questions all “young Jedi” must ponder. The Rise of Skywalker could never.
The Hold Steady: “The Swish”
While Yoda, Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader usually get all the spotlight, this classic Hold Steady song actually mentions the unsung heroes/bandits/hooligans of Tatooine, the Tusken Raiders (aka the Sand People). During this boozy account of a conversation overheard on the subway, Craig Finn spits out the line, “It was a bloodsucking summer. / I spent half the time trying to get paid from our savior / Swishing though the city center / I did a couple favors for some guys who looked like Tusken raiders.” His mistake: The Sand People cannot be trusted!
Nas: “Star Wars”
A bonus track from Illmatic: 10th Anniversary Platinum Edition, “Star Wars” Nas is a self-declared “prophet” from the crime-ridden streets and the competitive nature of rappers. Despite the recognizable title, the subject is very serious in nature as Nas describes the violence that makes up “headlines” broadcasting that “another rapper was slayed.” The hook is undeniably catchy, though, as Nas compares hip-hop “beef” to space battles: “The shots ring out, whenever we clash it’s Star Wars.”
OutKast: “Happy Valentine’s Day”
From their epic double album Speakerboxxx/The Love Below, “Happy Valentine’s Day” is OutKast’s ode to a jipped holiday. In addition to name-dropping the Easter Bunny, Santa Claus and leprechauns, André 3000 also mentions another make-believe character: the earnest and subtly heroic Han Solo. “But if you ain’t a sweety indeedy, I won’t endorse Han Solo’ till I’m hit by the bullet,” he sings. “So may the force be with you, and I’ll hit you when better time permits.”
Red Hot Chili Peppers: “Californication”
Undoubtedly one of the most famous but also easily-missed Star Wars references in popular music, “Californication” is all about the illusion of Hollywood. The mention of Star Wars geography is a blink-and-you-missed-it moment and follows a one-two-punch verse that references both Kurt Cobain and David Bowie: “And Cobain, can you hear the spheres singing songs off Station to Station? / And Alderaan’s not far away, it’s Californication.” Princess Leia’s home planet does not fair well in the movies, and the “dream” of California success is just as doomed in the story of this song.
MadeinTYO feat. Blood Orange: “Margiela Problems”
One of many Star Wars references in 2010s trap, “Margiela Problems” gets an added dose of soul thanks to Blood Orange’s Dev Hynes. A song about wealth and the issues that come with it, it’s appropriate that the Star Wars reference here is one in honor of a certain green Jedi Knight: “Green, yeah, green, yeah / Like I’m on Yoda, man green, yeah, green, yeah.”
Beastie Boys: “Do It”
The Beastie Boys also made more than one Star Wars mention throughout their discography, but the smooth-gliding “Do It,” which features Biz Markie, is the only one that comes with the incredible analogy, “Like gravy to potatoes, Luke to Darth Vader(s) / I’m a souped-up sucker and I’ll see you all later.” It’s also worth mentioning that Rian Johnson drops a slew of Beastie Boys Easter eggs into The Last Jedi, including the character Slowen-Lo (named for their song “Slow and Low”). The pilot Ello Asty from The Force Awakens is also said to be a nod to the Beastie Boys (their 1998 album Hello Nasty). Now there’s some Beastie Boys/Star Wars crossover content you didn’t know you needed!