Brooklyn emcee Talib Kweli recently shared his perspective on the fusion of the hip-hop and political worlds, and how the popular music genre aided United States President Barack Obama in successfully winning the White House nearly three years ago.
While pointing out the advantages of interpolating hip-hop and politics, Kweli also referenced instances when attaching genre to political purposes appears too contrived.
“Hip-hop has a potential to have a role [in politics] because hip-hop is a great way to spread information,” Kweli explained in an interview. “The Obama campaign used hip-hop very effectively. That’s the first time in politics that was seen. Cats like Corey Booker — and Kevin Powell — now are starting to really figure out how to utilize hip-hop and the hip-hop mentality going into politics. And I think doing that makes them come across as genuine. Look what happened to [former Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick], who called himself the ‘Hip-Hop Mayor’. If you wear it on your sleeve it’s not genuine. These guys call themselves coming up in the hip-hop generation, so they relate to us a little bit more. And quite possibly, I’m feeling like that because I’m older. Maybe it’s because I don’t relate to the younger cats who are coming up under me. I feel like the responsibility is there when you have [Green Party representative] Rosa Clemente running for Vice President. You can only remain apathetic for so long, or you’re quitting.” (Hip Hop DX)
Rapper Shyne recently talked to SOHH about his perspective of rap and politics.
“Rappers been political,” Shyne explained to SOHH. “Public Enemy, you dig? That’s what we’ve been doing. KRS-One, Rakim, you know, that’s the essence of hip-hop. It’s revolutionary music. You dig? We talk about hanging in the gutter, not having food to eat, standing in that welfare line. So hip-hop is the epitome of politicians. The only thing is we’re not trying to lie. We’re not trying to snuff somebody out because we’re the original revolutionaries. Not these sheep that’s organized running around.” (SOHH)
Shyne also pointed out other artists who have displayed their political alliances.
“When you see Wyclef [Jean] and you see dead prez or whoever it is being political, Jay-Z helping President Barack Obama getting elected, that’s what we do. We’re for the people. Our music speaks to the people. That was Kool Herc banging the two turntables straight from Jamaica with light sockets in the BX, getting it going for the people when we ain’t have nothing else to do except for robbing and knifing each other up, wilding out. We spray painted train stations, break danced and rapped. We rapped to the whole people to enjoy ourselves and enjoy our misery and poverty. So the music we make is from the people and that’s what the government is supposed to really be about. A democracy is for the people. They’re supposed to serve the people that elected them and unfortunately [some of them] don’t do that.” (SOHH)
Outside of artists like Wyclef Jean running for office in the past, Jay-Z has also been recognized for his political influence.
During his 2008 Presidential campaign, Barack Obama relied heavily on mobilizing youth and connecting with the younger generations through speeches, ads and an online presence. Now, with an eye on his 2012 Presidential re-election campaign, there’s been talk that Obama’s camp may enlist the help of Jay-Z. “I can’t believe you’ve finally heard the chatter about [Jay] replacing Larry Summers,” Deputy White House Press Secretary William Burton joked with the New York Post. “In all seriousness, keep in mind he was pretty active during the 2008 election, so I don’t think it’d surprise anyone that [Jay] would be involved again. But it’s a little premature.” (XXL Mag)
Check out some recent Talib Kweli footage down below: