Exclusive: Rappers Hit The Democratic National Convention, Dr. Benjamin Chavis Tracks Hip-Hop’s Influence On Politics

Sunday, Aug 24, 2008 12:30PM

Published by SOHH.com

Written By Cyrus Langhorne


The upcoming Democratic National Convention (DNC) will have a strong presence from the hip-hop community, with a long list of performances scheduled and major players from the rap world set to attend. SOHH recently chopped it up with Hip Hop Summit Action Network (HSAN) co-founder Dr. Benjamin Chavis, who offered his thoughts on presidential hopeful Barack Obama's relationship with hip-hop and the youth's role in this year's election.

"There is no question in my mind, more than any other constituent group, young people will choose the next president of the United States and therefore young people will choose the direction of the world," Chavis told SOHH.

Chavis' HSAN has been urging urban youth to be a part of the political process with its "Get Out The Vote" initiative. When it comes to Barack Obama, Chavis views the candidate as a representative of hip-hop's growth.

"I see Barack Obama in the context of the evolution of hip-hop," he explained. "When Barack took his recent world tour, the reason why so many young people came out in all those countries is because the way young people feel about the United States is they're shaped more by hip-hop than by [President] George Bush."

Despite backlash from  Ludacris' pro-Obama song, "Politics: Obama is Here," Dr. Chavis does not think rappers should refrain from speaking out about their political beliefs, but instead take responsibility for their words. 

"Rappers should continue to be vocal," he explained. "I would encourage rappers to use their lyrical genius to elevate the consciousness of young voters. Obama is taking care of the politics. The rappers, we should take care of the culture and at a certain point the culture needs the politics and the politics need the culture. We support the artists, artistic freedom, without being censored but on the other hand, with freedom comes responsibility."

As previously reported by SOHH, Chicago superstar Kanye West, Pharrell Williams' group N.E.R.D. and Wyclef Jean, known for his humanitarian contributions as ambassador for Haiti, are among the artists billed to perform at this year's convention.

The DNC will kick off on Monday, August 25 in Denver, Colorado. The four day event will officially nominate Illinois Senator Barack Obama as the party's candidate. Obama will also formally announce his running mate Delaware Senator Joe Biden.

The Republican National Convention will take place in St. Paul, Minneapolis from September 1-4.

[For more political coverage peep SOHH's Hip-Hop 4 Prez blog]

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