2008’s Biggest Stories #2: Hip-Hop Artists Rally Around Obama

President-elect

Barack Obama’s landmark 2008 presidential run not only galvanized the

nation, but ignited a renewed sense of political awareness and music

from Hip-Hop artists.

                The

noticeable trend began slowly at the end of 2007 through artists such

as Common and Talib Kweli, both of whom publicly supported Barack

Obama’s then perceived long shot bid to become the first

African-American president of the United States.          

                “He’s

fresh, you know, he’s got a good style,” Common explained to CNN. The

Chicago emcee was one of the first artists to mention Obama in a

Hip-Hop song courtesy of Jadakiss’ 2005 “Why (Remix). “As far as people

in my age group and people that love Hip-Hop, there’s a love for Obama.

He represents progress. He represents what Hip-Hop is about. Hip-Hop is

about progress, the struggle.”

                Talib Kweli added on that Obama’s appeal can be traced to his youth and multicultural roots.

“His

youth, his being black, the way that he speaks, they way that he lays

out his point of view,” Kweli detailed. “It’s someone who looks more

like you. I don’t mean black, but I mean the young thing. And his name

is Barack Obama. This country has become more and more multicultural.”

                One

of Obama’s first public displays of support for Hip-Hop came courtesy

of Chinese rapper Jin’s tribute song “Open Letter to Obama.” The

president –elect offered the track as a free ringtone on his website

and used it as an introduction song before several speeches.

                Aware

of Hip-Hop’s influence among young people, Obama praised the culture

and publicly met with its biggest stars while still offering

constructive criticism on their materialism and misogynist themes.

               “I’ve

met with Jay-Z; I’ve met with Kanye. And I’ve talked to other artists

about how potentially to bridge that gap,” Obama stated to BET earlier

this year. “I think the potential for them to deliver a message of

extraordinary power that gets people thinking [is huge]. There are

times, even on artists I’ve named, the artists I love, that there is a

message that’s sometimes degrading to women, uses the N-word a little

too frequently. But also something that I’m concerned about is

[they’re] always talking about material things about how I can get

something; more money, more cars.”

                Despite

these concerns and the potential political fallout, Obama made sure his

campaign kept a strong presence in the Hip-Hop world throughout 2008.

His campaign allowed Nas to sample his voice for the triumphant track

“Black President,” off the lyricist’s controversial but critically

acclaimed Untitled album. Mogul Jay-Z constantly referenced his support for Obama at many concerts and on his first Blueprint 3

single “Jockin’ Jay-Z.” Atlanta rapper Young Jeezy recently did the

same with the video for his black-nationalism ode “My President Is

Black.”

                Obama’s

relationship with Hip-Hop was occasionally tense, as the senator over

the summer had to condemn a tribute song from one of his favorite

emcees, Ludacris. In the celebratory song “Politics: Obama Is Here,”

Ludacris referred to President Bush as “mentally handicapped,” and

Hillary Clinton as a “b*tch,” prompting Obama to state “while Ludacris

is a talented individual he should be ashamed on these lyrics.”

                Even with that setback, Obama’s campaign still reached out to Hip-Hop just days before the November 4thelection.

In a nationwide conference call to DJs and radio personalities,

Democractic strategist/CNN correspondent Donna Brazile and Bad Boy CEO

Sean “Diddy” Combs urged a final push before the election.

               “Remember,

as DJs you hold a powerful voice as representatives of the people,”

Brazile stressed. “You all hold more power in your words than any

politician simply because you have more credibility being in these

communities.”

                Combs added a somber note to put the campaign in perspective.

                “If

our forefathers can get killed fighting for us during the Civil Rights

Movement and dragged to jail, the least we can do is stand in line for

a few hours,” Combs stated. “We do more just to get tickets to a Mary

J. or Jay-Z concert.”

                It

remains to be seen if Hip-Hop’s high political consciousness will

continue into 2009 and subsequent years while Obama is in office.

                According to Common, the “change” Obama promised will not just affect politics, but Hip-Hop culture as a whole.

               “I

think Hip-Hop artists will have no choice but to talk about different

things and more positive things,” Common predicted earlier this week.

“Try to being a brighter side to that because, even before Barack, I

think people had been tired of hearing the same thing.”

                President-elect Barack Obama will be sworn into office on January 20, 2009.

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