In 2008, Barack Obama not only became the first African-American President, but he was the first politician of his stature to make politics even remotely “cool” in the hip-hop community. President Obama looked like us, and embraced the culture by gestures like mentioning Lil’ Wayne in a speech and inviting rappers like Common to perform in the White House. The country is obviously in a different place, but the hip-hop culture has been engaged in the political process more than ever.
Not only are rappers and those with influence in hip-hop speaking about injustices and getting the word out to vote, but they are taking political action a step further by endorsing candidates beyond Barack Obama. In 2016, it was guys like Jay-z, Diddy, Pusha T, and many more who campaigned on behalf of Hillary Clinton. She may not have looked like us, but to have someone that represents us (or at least pretend like they are going to) matters!
In 2018, Hip-hop has taken its political engagement further by campaigning in the midterm elections. Guys like T.I. and Killer Mike have been on the front lines campaigning for Stacey Abrams to win the Governor’s race in Georgia. Beyoncé and Travis Scott were both vocal in their support of Beto O’Rourke in Texas.
Rapper’s activity in the political process has opened the eyes of many people in urban communities in America who may not have otherwise cared about midterm elections.
Among rappers who were getting the word out to vote, some of hip-hop’s biggest platforms dedicated entire segments to these latest midterm elections. The Breakfast Club broadcasted live from Miami just days before the election in support of Andrew Gillum. The popular morning show also interviewed politicians from both parties to bring awareness to the elections.
Hot 97’s Ebro In The Morning radio show has had numerous segments discussing elections in detail regarding platforms of different candidates, and what these elections mean for America going forward. Joe Budden’s State of The Culture podcast also included many discussions about the importance of local elections and how they directly impact our communities.
Hip-hop has always been political, as the essence of rap was about highlighting injustices that were/are happening in communities in which people have felt neglected. However, educating rap fans on the importance of elections shows how far the influence of hip-hop culture can reach.
Hip-Hop’s Involvement In Politics Reflects It’s Maturation
While hip-hip has grown to become the most most popular music genre, it’s influence has started to spread beyond clothing trends and music into social issues. This is directly related to the fact that hip-hop artists are more mature themselves.
There was a time when rap was considered a “young man’s sport”. Most rappers at this time were 20 year old kids, so it was unlikely for a rapper to even be knowledgeable about politics. Especially since the culture as a whole already felt like politicians were not speaking to them.
Now for the first time time in hip-hip history, we are seeing rappers continuing their careers well into their 30’s and 40’s. As they mature in age, so does the content of their music and how they use their influence. As these leaders of a music genre have become leaders in their community over the years, it is no surprise that they are on the front lines of many political campaigns.
Efforts of more seasoned rap artists to get the hip-hop community involved in the elections process has not only impacted people in urban areas, but the younger generation of rappers as well. So when you see Travis Scott, Vic Mensa, Chance The Rapper and other young artists speaking out on politics and social issues, know that the way was paved by some of hip-hop’s greatest to ever do it.
Making Change Through Hip-Hop
“You never thought that hip-hop would take it this far.” -Biggie
For a long time, the relationship between hip-hop and politics has been each group talking to each other rather than with each other. In the eyes of politicians, most rappers were viewed as thugs. Through the eyes of hip-hop, politicians were white people out of touch with the realities of what goes on in urban areas. In 2018, both hip-hop and politicians are using each other’s platform for the greater good of America.
The fact that politicians are willing to work with influencers within the hip-hop community shows that they are interested in the concerns of a group of people who have felt neglected by the political process. The fact that hip-hop culture has embraced the political process as of late shows how that same group that has felt neglected is now beginning to realize it’s political power.
Despite the divisiveness often highlighted by mainstream media, rappers and politicians working together reflects the beauty of America’s diversity.
Though the political landscape in America feels more turbulent than ever before, out of that chaos, a political awakening has emerged. More Americans are keeping an eye on what is going on in Washington, and in hip-hop it is no different. Rappers are not only seeking change in their community by making songs about it, but engaging with those that shape public policy.
There was time in hip-hop when it was not cool to talk politics. There was a time when politicians would not reduce themselves to engaging in dialogue with a rapper about public policy. There was a time when rappers would not stand next to politicians. There was a time when politicians wouldn’t dare stand next to rappers.
Today is a new day in America, where hip-hop culture and politics can coexist for the best interest of only one race…the human race.