What Obama Means To Hip Hop

yes-we-can-mixtapeSince its inception over 30 years ago, Hip Hop as an institution has been critical of the political system. Rap artists have always expressed  malcontent, feeling uninvolved in the political process.

So what does the election of Barack Obama, the country’s first African-American President, mean for the Hip Hop community?

I read an interesting feature on HuffingtonPost.com addressing just that. The article featured quotes from Brother Ali who is a White Muslim. Ali, along with Roc-A-Fella recording artist Freeway who is also a Muslim, hooked up for “The Truth” which is one of my favorite bangers from this past summer. 

To many Hip Hop artist’s credit, it didn’t take Obama to get elected to for their lyrics to be in order. Nearly five years ago, before Obama was an international phenomenon, it was Hip Hop artist Common who dropped his name on Jadakiss’ “Why (Remix).”

Why is Bush acting like he trying to get Osama/ Why don’t we impeach him and elect Obama

Actually every MC on the song raised poignant issues:

why remix – Jadakiss

On his latest release Untitled, which was originally to be titled Nigger, Nas spends his entire album addressing issues ranging from American Hypocrisy to propaganda spread by Fox News Network:

The hypocrisy is all i can see/white cop acquitted for murder, black cop cop a plea/that type of shit make me stop and think/we in chronic need of a second look of the law books/and the whole race dichotomy/too man rappers, athletes and actors/but not enough niggas in NASA

Assassinations, diplomatic relations/killed indigenous peoples, built a new nation…How far are we really from third world savagery?

The chorus on the song is as follows: “America, this is not what you think it is.” The rhetoric used most often on the campaign trail was ‘change’. As far as Hip Hop goes, it isn’t the artists that need to change so much as the industry itself.

Music that gets played on mainstream radio is ultimately in the hands of industry execs and record labels. At the end of the day, people listen to whatever is easily  and readily accessible. So if you all you play is Soulja Boy, then that’s what will be heard. 

Hip Hop is going through an identity crisis at the moment. It wants to tighten up it’s image by putting the more experienced, talented and  insightful rappers to the forefront, but the industry simply won’t allow it. 

It’s like Q-Tip said a long time ago: “Industry people are shady.” 

Gross understatement.


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