Sure. You can rap about politics (ask Chuck D.), but can you make anyone listen? Rappers have been dabbling in the social relevance of politics since “The Message” with mixed results. For every valiant effort at voter registration and education, there’s some troglodyte in a “Vote Or Die” T-shirt who isn’t even registered to vote.
The Snob is a member of the much maligned hip hop generation (as I remember when it was actually good!), so here’s The Black Snob’s top ten moments in the conjunction between politics and hip hop.
10. P. Diddles, “Vote Or Die”: It seemed like a good idea at the time. After all. It was a bit like the state motto, “Live Free or Die,” but that’s a pretty extreme state motto. There were plenty of young folks who didn’t like President Bush, but no one was necessarily afeard of spontaneous combustion if he got re-elected back in 2004. Vote or Die was supposed to be non-partisan but as this joke illustration below attests, some people didn’t really buy that. And considering Democratic challenger John Kerry lost, the youth vote never showed up and Paris Hilton rocked a “Vote Or Die” T-shirt (one assumes out of “irony” as her ass did not vote), this whole thing was a legendary fail in the Hip Hop to politics axis of history.
9. Russell Simmons and HSAN: I make fun of Big Russ a lot, but before P. Diciulous was “votin’ or dyin’,” Russ was creating the Hip Hop Summit Action Network to educate young voters and get them registered. With the ability to throw a decent party and having Dr. Benjamin Chavis on hand for the assist, Simmons gets the win here.
8. Hilarious rappers for Obama: So many rappers for Obama, so little time. What was hilarious about rappers for Obama was that once the election got heated he couldn’t actually be near any of them. (Lest their felonies and raunchy lyrics rub off.) Many of these rappers wrote or performed songs that offended Clintonistas and womenfolk (see Ludacris) or Bill O’Reilly (see Jay-Z and Young Jeezy). But TI, who’s in prison now, did endorse a Democrat running for senate in Georgia that Obama supported. Sure, dude didn’t get elected, but not for TI’s lack of prison-bound enthusiasm.
7. DMX doesn’t vote (but he’ll give you his opinion anyway): DMX, a convicted felon who is allegedly going back to jail, does not vote, but he still took the time out to tell The Source about the ills of Obama … even though he admitted to the interviewer he had no clue who he was. Bucking the pro-Obama rapper trend, DMX shat all over everyone’s hope parade with a big dose of cynicism. Why so dour, DMX?
6. 50 Cent endorses Hillary … kinda: I think the funniest moment of Campaign 2008 for me was when 50 Cent came out for Hillary Clinton. This was just after Obama had won Iowa and everyone had Hope Fever but super genius Fiddy read the tea leaves wrong and came out for Clinton … kind of. Well, he was so obtuse, who knows what he really meant by this remark:
“For President, I’d like to see Hillary Clinton…I just think she could do a good job. I mean Obama, ain’t nothing bad about Obama in my eyes either. I just think Hillary — that would be my choice.” Adding, “I’m not sure America’s ready to have a black President…I think they might kill him.” (Politico)
5. Ice Cube hellps George Clinton paint the White House black: “Talking about the real Clinton, not Bill Clinton. Talking ’bout George Clinton.”
4. Paris is banned: Unlike now in the age of commercialized rap, it was a badge of honor in the 90s if you did something so insane it got you on an FBI watch list. Rapper Paris did that with his inflammatory, anti-Bush 41 album, “Sleeping With the Enemy.”
When his second album, Sleeping with the Enemy, was ready for release in 1992, Paris was dropped from now-defunct Tommy Boy Records and distributor Time Warner when they discovered its incendiary content – content which includes fantasy revenge killings of then-President Bush and racist police officers. Also problematic was the album’s insert, which features the artist waiting behind a tree, holding an Tec 9, as the president is waving to the crowd. (Wikipedia)
3. Eazy-E kicks it with the RNC: What? They invited him. It would have been rude not to attend that fundraiser. What was hilarious was did Poppy Bush and the senatorial committee know this was the same cop-hating, drug-dealin’ dude “Straight Outta Compton?”
2. Kanye West “George Bush doesn’t care about black people!”: The video speaks for itself. This “what the hell just happened” moment will live on FOREVER!
1. The Sister Souljah Moment: Very few rappers get the infamy that rapper, activist and author Sister Souljah has. The only song I know by her was the too-hot-for-MTV “Slavery’s Back In Effect,” but Bill Clinton blew her spot up during the 1992 campaign when he essentially labeled her a black supremacist. Yeah, that’s not really apropos, but it doesn’t matter. She was so edgy she got a political meme named after her! From now on when anyone kills a controversial, sacrificial lamb from their voting base to appease the middle it’s called a “Sister Souljah Moment.” Now every person running for high office has to have one. You can’t get much more influential than that.