feat_politics

Hip-HoPolitics

This story is a reprint from BET.com

Electoral politics are a hot topic for the hip-hop community these days as many

of it’s leaders are seeking to bear influence on the 2004 presidential election.

Their goal is to effectively educate, mobilize and get young people out to the

polls. The question is can it be done?

<font size="2" face="Verdana<@dq@According to Jeff Chang, hip-hop

activist and the author on an upcoming book on the history of hip-hop activism,

the answer is complicated. As an organizer for the National Hip Hop Political

Convention, (this June in Newark), Chang is part of a grassroots push to get

people to become more aware overall.

"[Whether or not hip-hop can move people

to the polls] remains to be seen. It’s dependent on many factors: organizing,

messaging, and a sense of urgency," Chang said. "I think NHHPC

has been doing a good job on the organizing; HSAN (Russell Simmon’s outfit)

had been doing a good job on the messaging. What remains to be seen is if we

will feel a sense of urgency."

The element of cool

If not urgency, then certainly excitement is a factor when it comes to Russell

Simmons and his HSAN group. They have registered over 20,000 people to vote

so far. Making voting "cool" is exactly what Simmons hopes will inspire

hip-hoppers to sway the outcome of the ’04 presidential election.

The remaining HSAN summits will take place between

now and November, with the goal of registering 2 million voters. Despite all

the registering, some statistics show that less than 50 percent of all Americans

actually vote. That number plunges even lower when you are talking about 18-

to 34-year-olds, according to political activist/radio personality/ hip-hop

expert Davey D. But, he feels that dip is due to the fact that politicians don’t

value the hip-hop generation or the issues that affect it.

"Very few politicians have gone out of their

way to make hip-hop a viable audience. If an elected official wants older people

[to vote for him,] he/she has an employee that researches that demographic,"

Davey D says. "But they don’t have a media strategist that has relationships

with me, Sway from [The Wake Up Radio Show] or Big Boy from L.A.’s Power 106."

Overlooking the hip hop world

Continuing, he said that conventional politicians overlook the rap nation, sighting

a lack of grassroots promotion for "basic stuff" like passing out

flyers at the hip-hop summits.

To guide voters, Davey D, scribe Upski and 10

other political experts have compiled "How To Get Stupid White Men Out

Of Power," a book "that is going to revolutionize the way young people

who don’t do electoral politics do electoral politics."

"Its primarily focused on showcasing the

examples where young people have mobilized people to vote and used hip-hop to

turn this thing around. It shows that we can be effective in electoral process,"

he says of the book from his office in California. "How To Get…"

will be out this fall.

Kaine, of the Ying Yang Twins, isn’t convinced

of the effectiveness of voting. The Atlanta rapper expressed a

serious mistrust of the electoral process.

Contrary opinions

"I don’t feel like [my vote] registers," he said. "This time

they got you scared, and that’s why we is where we is now. [Bush winning] made

our vote irrelevant. Why vote if you don’t have a voice. The only voice we got

is with the hip-hop community.

"I feel that they should have let everybody

revote and do it all over again, because that was something too crooked. It’s

like, ‘Why should I vote if it don’t count,’ because Florida was way against

Bush. But that’s where Bush’s folks are at. How is it that the only state that

had to get recalculated was where Bush’s folks are at? How ya like them grapes?"

Ghostface Killah, of the Wu Tang Clan, echoes

Kaine’s sentiments. "They try and make it seem like we have a choice, but

these elections are already set for the next 20-30 years. They know who is going

to win before we even go to vote, and it sure ain’t no Black guy."

Aside from distrust, apathy seems to emanate

from many of the biggest hip-hop artists. AM New York (a free daily in New York

City) recently took rappers to task for not voting, even though they have publicly

encouraged the youth to do so.

From Busta to Banner

Rappers, including 50 Cent, Ja Rule, Jay-Z, Eminem, Scarface, DMX and several

others, have not been to a voting booth recently, the paper says. Ben Chavis

told the paper he could guarantee that the rappers supporting the HSAN’s efforts

would vote in November.

Busta Rhymes recently registered to vote, even

though he has taken a very public stance similar to that of Ghostface and Kaine.

"I most definitely plan to vote," Rhymes

said recently. "I think that all the young people my age should vote,"

he said. "At first, I was thinking that my little vote won’t help, and

then the thing that happened in Florida, with the polls, was one of the reasons

I wouldn’t vote.

"When I thought about it hard, though, I

see that it really does matter at the end of the day …We should all be involved."

Mississippi-bred rapper David Banner agreed.

"…[I]t’s something that we’ve got to do

until we get it right," Banner said. "It’s like what I tell people

all the time: ‘We have to continue the fighting process.’ We have to stay in

practice. You can’t expect to hit that game-winning shot when you haven’t practiced

in four or five years. You can’t expect people to vote in masses when it’s the

real time for them to vote, unless they been voting all the time. We have to

stay consistent with what we do."

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