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.
"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."