Every election cycle Americans find themselves caught up in the hoopla surrounding fact-checking, “right” from “wrong” while reading through cryptic language in hopes of voting for the candidate who can best sell their vision for our country. Regardless of one’s political stance, election season is truly a spectacle as media outlets aim at polarizing Americans with the unfortunate sensationalistic nature which has become so prevalent in American politics. From conservatives to liberals, we see a variety of different attempts to court votes, while remaining ambiguous about how candidates truly feel; something that has and always will turn younger educated voters off. Candidates claim to target young voters, but there is an obvious disconnect in regards to utilizing and respecting the music many younger Americans gravitate towards.
Hip-Hop music and politics have enjoyed a tumultuous relationship over the past 30+ years, to say the least. From then Vice-President Dan Quayle denouncing Ice-T’s controversial song “Cop Killer,” to anger over Common being asked to recite poetry at a White House function, the synthesis between the two sides has not been optimal. The phrase, “We’re not against rap, were not against rappers, but we are against those thugs…” comes to mind and illustrates the lack of understanding so prevalent from both sides. It is easy for Hip-Hop culture to point the finger at politicians with claims of lack of care and concern for well-being—easy and somewhat warranted—but now more than ever young voters and artists must understand the way the system works.
Looking at a variety of different cases, from Max B. to Lil’ Wayne, imprisonment for rapper—from a certain demographic—is sadly congratulated with increased street credibility and an almost rite of passage. From a political standpoint, a year in jail is career suicide, and individuals who have made such mistakes are more often than not a political liability. In President Obama’s address to the crowd at the recent Made in America festival in Philadelphia, he praised Jay-Z for “learning from his mistakes” amidst praising his work ethic. For many of us we look at Mr. Carter as a symbol of progress and realizing ones dream, negating “D’evils” which were once so prevalent in his life. Politicians are not given the leeway to forget about such mistakes and many spend a lifetime trying to move away from these lapses in judgment.
Opposing sides, from liberals to conservatives, take aim at politicians for relationships with artists who have checkered pasts or eye-brow raising lyrics. For fans, it is always a case of lyrics being taken too far or lack of understanding, but as voters who are a part of the American political system we have to be cognizant of what is politically empowering and what is politically damaging.
After hearing about an Obama fundraiser hosted by Jay-Z and Beyonce, it took a while to make sense of the events magnitude. Describing the personal feeling of such an event would be Stan-like, but from a standpoint of culture, from a standpoint of blending these two opposing sides to spark conversation and understanding, the fundraiser was a huge for Hip-Hop as a whole. This genre of music has to be taken seriously, has to be given its due as a connector of people from all walks of life; events like these demonstrate slowly, but surely such moves are possible. Events like these demonstrate to all sides, all politicians that Hip-Hop culture has and will continue to be a staple in American society.
It is a new ball game for artists, bloggers, and fans alike, as Hip-Hop is becoming more prevalent with politics. The same way we want politicians to understand unspoken truths such as Common being on the opposite end of the spectrum of thuglife, it is imperative that we learn and hopefully make changes to the majority of society’s view of Hip-Hop.