Saturday, June 4, 2016

Politics as [un]usual: Quietly, Hip-Hop's anti-Trump voice grows louder ahead of 2016 presidential election

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I can't put my finger on the exact moment when hip-hop music and culture took a decided departure from weighing in regularly on the state of American politics, but suffice to say that time has been upon us for at least the past 15 years. And that's probably a generous estimation.

Even with the historic election of President Obama -- a moment which the Commander In Chief would later say could not have happened without the help from the hip-hop community; something that both Puffy and Jay Z each promoted heavily, the latter of whom was inspired by the momentous occasion to record a classic verse -- rappers have largely stayed away from any lyrics centered on politics.

Yes, of course, rappers have made vocal their political stances all along. Most recently, a spattering of rap songs honoring victims of police brutality followed a series high-profile instances of police repeatedly killing unarmed black people.

But many voters who look like the vast majority of rappers -- skin tone-wise, at least -- have similarly high stakes in life as those presented by recurring police brutality that's lopsidedly against minorities. And considering the portentous political proposals put forth by the presumptive Republican presidential nominee -- one Donald J. Trump -- it's borderline inexplicable why rappers would stand by silently.

That's why they're not. Sort of. Well, it's complicated.

The thing is, the casual listener probably won't pick up the rappers' messages, which are largely weaved in-and-out of random verses instead of devoting entire songs to said political issue. Aside from one song and a small handful of outspoken voices on social media, rappers seem to have only given about a half-a-bar's worth of effort, respectively, to confronting what could turn out to be a Trump White House.

It wasn't too long ago that rappers openly revered Trump. Probably blinded by the billions like most of us, hip-hop never seemed to take notice of Trump's actual politics. Hell, why would they? A lot of what rappers hold near and dear to their hearts is an image and lifestyle Trump has embodied for decades now: money, fame, private jets, mansions around the world. Oh, and how could I forget the obligatory "I won at life trophy" of a model for a wife?

Hell, Trump even said on live TV, during a presidential debate, no less, that he has a big dick. You know how many rappers have said or rhymed about that same sentiment? The list is endless. Trump, it  would appear, is actually very, very hip-hop! (By popular definition, at least.)

Enter the 2016 election, and Trump immediately launches war against Mexicans, Muslims, women, and people of color overall. Considering that, why are rappers not feeling more of a sense of urgency now than they did when Obama was first ran for and then became the president? Both are important for black people, the group that hip-hop music was created by and is mostly comprised of. But it's arguable that a Trump presidency would do more to hurt black people than an Obama White House did to help them.

Where is Puffy and his Vote Or Die initiative? Where is Jay Z and his high-profile appearances in favor of a candidate? Where is Kanye? Way before declaring his candidacy for 2020 bid, didn't he make one of the most bad-ass political moves in modern history?

Chuck D -- he of a bevy of past and present political statements of all types -- may not have recorded a song shining a light on what a Trump presidency would mean for black people. But what he lacks lyrically he more than makes up for on Twitter. Other notable rappers have joined in the political conversation on social media, too. But where's the music?

Trump even came after Jay Z following "Solange-Gate." It would seem Jay might, as they say, feel some type of way about Trump. Maybe even compelling him to start growing his hair out and his the booth to record a classic piece of anti-Trump poetry.

So why aren't more rappers galvanizing and organizing musically against Trump?

Ok, you got me. No, I don't think Killer Mike's support for Bernie Sanders is worth mentioning in this blog post. Now if it was Outkast, hell even just Big Boi himself, then you're talking to me. For those Killer Mike fans who were likely seething before reading this paragraph, allow me to explain myself.

Killer Mike supports a candidate who can't win. And when I say can't win, I mean the Democratic Party's nomination. It is literally just not going to happen. And because of that fact, why can't Mike -- much like most of the Democratic establishment is urging Sanders to do -- take his support behind who will become the party's presidential candidate and join in the anti-Trump chorus?

Yes, the polling says Sanders would beat Trump in a general election, but since Sanders won't be in the general election, shouldn't that just be classified as an unfortunate circumstance for his campaign? But I digress...

In recent months, a growing number of rappers have been lacing their verses with a line or two of darts aimed at Trump. It'll be interesting to see whether that trend continues to pick up as the primary season gives way to campaigning for Election Day.

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