Like Obama in 2008, This Election NEEDS Hip-Hop’s Help (Video)
The current presidential election is no doubt one of the most memorable in American history. Donald Trump’s rise to the front of the Republican party line and Hillary Clinton’s potentially history-making entry into the White House is modern-day proof that truth is indeed stranger than fiction. Important to recognize is the fact that within the strangeness lie really serious implications, and whoever becomes the next President will wield a tremendous amount of power. But not as much as the voters – at least that’s what organizations like the Hip-Hop Caucus are arguing. The nonprofit, bipartisan organization is deeply involved with politics, but not just during election season. As Ambrosia for Heads has reported in the past, it was directly involved in the ongoing fight to raise awareness about global warming through its work with the People’s Climate Music campaign. However, one cannot understate the gravity in importance of voter turnout during a political election and as the Hip-Hop Caucus recently told MSNBC, the Hip-Hop generation has the potential to be the deciding factor in its outcome.
In an interview with the news-media giant, the HHC’s president spoke bluntly about the role of Hip-Hop in today’s political climate, suggesting that there is a vast wealth of untapped power in the voices of those most often maligned or ignored. Reverend Lennox Yearwood, Jr. (with whom artists like T.I., Charlamagne tha God, and 2 Chainz have worked on the “Respect My Vote” campaign) says “[t]he mainstream political establishment is only engaging the Hip-Hop community to win their votes in the months and weeks prior to an election. Then, for all intents and purposes, they ignore them when it comes to the actual policy-making process.” Through is organization, MSNBC’s Adam Howard writes, Yearwood “is seeking to instill minority youth voters with a sense of the strength and influence that should come along with their votes. Instead of making it about a personality or a platform, they instead want to establish a culture where voting is not only ‘cool’ but a source of power.” Charlamagne tha God seems to agree, saying that he feels “the soul of the country is at stake right now” in a video with Reverend Yearwood for Respect My Vote.
Heads are already aware of the Hip-Hop community’s ability to transcend and influence every strata of society – whether it’s high fashion, anti-smoking ad campaigns, or Broadway – so the thought of its ability to quite literally choose the next president may not be such a hard pill to swallow. After all, young voters are likelier to be listening to Hip-Hop (it’s not the world’s most listened-to genre for no reason) so if the Hip-Hop community is galvanized to take part in the voting process, it’s no surprise that results begin to truly reflect the voices of those at the polls. But the relationship between this election and Hip-Hop goes beyond the simple notion of more voters equaling different election results. As Howard writes, “[f]or years, Trump’s name was synonymous with success in the communities of color, and a plethora of Hip-Hop lyrics reflected that,” a statement supported by words from Genius senior editor Insanul Ahmed. “He’s always been a great marketer of himself, the Trump brand … and rappers and America as a whole bought into it,” he told MSNBC. “Now the he has been exposed as a buffoon and a racist … I think people will stop referencing Trump and they’ll start referencing Warren Buffett instead.”
The influence Hip-Hop artists have through ideas, names, and brands promoted through their lyrics should not be overlooked come this November, but there is work to be done. “Should more celebrities in the Hip-Hop world make their voices heard this election cycle, Yearwood believes it can make a tangible difference with young people, who all too often can’t relate to traditional political voices,” writes Howard. “Yearwood cited Jay Z’s references to Cuba as an opportunity to engage young people in a conversation about the embargo, or Drake’s allusions to green issues in his lyrics as a gateway to discuss climate change. And recent attempts by stars like Beyoncé to address racially biased policing may lead to short-term backlash, but also long-term engagement.” Also cited in the MSNBC report are Kendrick Lamar and Chance the Rapper – “young performers who have street cred because of their authentic backgrounds, but who are more civically engaged than some of their predecessors in the genre.”
All of this is great when taken within the context of the Obama presidency, a man who by leaps and bounds brought Hip-Hop to the White House more than all other presidents combined. But a new era is upon us, making it crucially important that the young, diverse voting body – the same body which helped bring a relatively unknown Illinois senator into the Oval Office – to show up again this time around. “Young people of color will decide who the next president is. I think it will fall on them. And to be honest, it kind of should. Because I think a lot of the issues and policies that will be addressed and will come out of the next administration will affect them for many, many years,” Yearwood tells Howard. “Our parents in the 20th century fought for equality, but for us in 21st century, we are now fighting for existence. And so it’s a little different and the stakes are really high.”
The stakes is high, indeed.