Kendrink Lamar has earned the respect of a few politicians and one happens to be the Leader of the Free World, President Barack Obama. Being allowed to pay a visit to oval office, having our Commander and Chief say give a nod to your lyricism and being given a key to Compton demonstrates the magnitude of Lamar’s career. However, not long ago Common was being portrayed as a thug, 2 Live Crew was fighting for their rights to say what they please, regardless of how nasty it was, and Eazy E was having poached salmon and roast beef with George H.W. Bush and Bob Dole. So what’s the deal with hip hop and politics. In short, they either hate it or they love it.
Back Then They Didn’t Want Me
Democrats and republicans can not agree on much these days. If one says “throw”, the other would quickly refute with “wrong, catch” and a filibuster will occur. Back in 1990s, the same could be said but there was an agreement that hip hop had to die. It was an easy target and a perfect scapegoat. Hip hop allowed many politicians to gloss over poverty and unemployment as factors for the higher violence rate in inner city and instead point their manicured fingers at hip hop. At the time, Democratic presidential nominee Bill Clinton, Vice President Dan Quayle, President Bush, the first one, and Tipper Gore, wife of Al Gore, were vocal about their displeasure in rap music and the industry that allowed it.
The most known naysayers with a solid vendetta against hip hop was Tipper Gore and C. Delores Tucker, founder of National Congress of Black Women, Inc. and the first black female Secretary of State. Tucker disliked hip hop strongly and spent a great deal of time protesting its misogynistic nature and threat against the very foundation of the African American communities. Tucker and Tupac also had ongoing beef with Tucker even suing the late Shakur for defamation, though the case was thrown out. Tipper crusade against hip hop resulted in more action with the creation of the The Parents Music Resource Center that brought forth the introduction of the famed “parental advisory” stickers by the RIAA. In terms of number of stickers, hip hop albums beat out all other genres. To think it all started because of a misguided purchase of a Prince album.
Then came the arrest of the 2 Live Crew for violating obscenity laws in Florida based on a suggestion of then Florida Governor, Robert “Bob” Martinez. This changed the game for hip hop with it being the first time an artist was arrested for lyrics and arrested again for performing said lyrics. They were acquitted of all charges after international exposure and gained supporters who advocated freedom of speech. A local music retailer who was arrested for selling their As Nasty As I Wanna Be to an undercover cop also had his charges overturned. And that marked the the saddest charge in hip hop history and the saddest undercover assignment in cop history.
While politicians and housewives were condemning rappers for their actions, rappers, like Ice T, KRS One, Public Enemy and Tupac, were condemning politicians for their inaction against poverty, unemployment and class struggle. That transition from the cute breakdancers in McDonald’s commercials to N.W.A saying “fuck the police” was quick and shook up the homes of suburbia. There was no hiding from the problems faced by black America and skirting around the issues required more than an alternative route home. Both sides were collectively, for lack of better words, sick of this shit.
Now I’m Hot, They All On Me
A lot has changed with hip hop being as mainstream as ever and EDM and dubstep being the bane of suburban housewives’ existence. Jay-Z is being tooted by Obama and, Republican presidential candidate #46, Marco Rubio. Democratic presidential candidate that’s not Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders is having a sit down discussion with Killer Mike. Obama doing the “brush that dirt off your shoulder” motion during a primary campaign rally in 2012 made the crowd roar. Hip hop isn’t a talking point for politicians anymore. It’s a marketing tool. If Ben Carson can seriously, genuinely, intentionally, not even an inkling of a joke, release a presidential campaign rap song, what divide can there be between politics and hip hop?
Still some are not for it. Bill O’Reilly is a great example of those still not riding the hip hop train. O’Reilly continuously makes it his mission to prove his point that kids are too stupid to believe fiction and that hip hop is one of the biggest drivers for inner city violence, if not the sole driver depending on his talking points. He has denounced numerous rappers, including calling Nas and Eminem “vile” and portraying Common as a thug when he was invited to Michelle Obama’s “An Evening of Poetry” at the White House. The mean-spirited attitude towards hip hop is only exemplified when he invites rappers on the show with the whole basis seeming to be for him to revile their craft in person and being stunned when they bring up an eloquent point, though it is quickly discarded by the host who might be physically unable to take in new information. He’s not alone. Nancy Grace and half of Fox and Friends have spoken out against the genre. Mike Huckabee made himself seem like an old man when he said Beyonce was “mental poison” in his book God, Guns, Grits, and Gravy.
But they are the small few at this point. With the commercialization of hip hop, conscious hip hop going underground and the need for politicians to appear “in touch,” hip hop and politics are on good terms. Yeah, you may get Kanye West saying “George Bush doesn’t care about black people and Lupe Fiasco voicing his criticism of Obama at an unofficial inaugural event for Obama but what’s a relationship without the occasional spats. And maybe a few abominations.