WASHINGTON, April 8, 2013 ― During the 2008 presidential election, elite members of the hip-hop community came out in full support of the Democratic candidate, Barrack Obama. This was understandable. Obama was the most formidable black candidate for the oval office (he made Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson seem as relevant as a block of ice), and few black men and women wanted to miss out on the opportunity to see the election of our nation’s first Black President. In a country where our people have suffered so many injustices, what had seemed improbable only a few years ago was suddenly inevitable.
Consequently, hip-hop artists like Will.I.Am. were on the campaign trail with Barrack Obama from the beginning. After his election, Young Jeezy released the voracious “My President is Black,” a bombastic track that aspired to be the new black anthem and seemed to imply a melding between hip-hop culture and mainstream society.
On the night of the inauguration, Barrack Obama was showered in praises, blessings, and performances dedicated in his honor by powerful hip-hop luminaries like Jay-Z and Kanye West. Can you imagine the Juice Crew dedicating a rendition of “The Symphony” at the inauguration of Jesse Jackson in ‘88? More likely it would have been The Four Tops or The Temptations. It certainly wouldn’t have been Gil Scott Heron.
Criticism of the use of Government Force
“F*** the police comin straight from the underground. A young nigga got it bad cause I’m brown
“And not the other color so police think they have the authority to kill a minority” ― Ice Cube, “F*** Da Police”
These spectacles would appear to signify that American politics had moved so far left, that hip-hop and urban culture had become acceptable to political elites. But it is quite the opposite. Hip-hop culture has embraced political elitism, because hip-hop has become elitist. However it has more to do with social status then political ideology. If you examine closely hip-hop and urban black culture, you will discover that hip-hop is less progressive than it appears in your rear view mirror.
Hip-hop originated as commercial party music that evolved from the late 70′s disco scene. However, by the late 80’s, many hip-hop artists had developed what some would call a “conscious.” Artists like Public Enemy, Common Sense, and KRS-One would rap about issues affecting the inner-city ― and black people specifically ― much as Marvin Gaye and Curtis Mayfield did before them.
More importantly though, “conscious” hip-hop had a defiant tone, not against commercial hip-hop, but against “The Man” and ”The Establishment.” “The Man” does not represent the government as it does to conservatives who fear the growing power of the state, but rather represents exploitative capitalists. “The Man” would morph into the “Pol-Lice,” whose excessive force and brutality in black neighborhoods became a focal point of Gangsta Rap.
“The Sound of Da Police” by KRS-ONE, “Cop Killa” by Ice-T, and “F*** da Police” by N.W.A. would dismiss the subtlety and verbally attack the institution of law enforcement with stark accusations and violent imagery. If white people hate being regulated and taxed, then black people hate being policed. They see the police as an arbitrary threat to their equal protection under the law.
Pure Unregulated Capitalism
“The boys in blue who put greed before the badge.” ― Jay-z “Roc Boys (And the winner is…)”
Black people hate being regulated, too. Nowhere is this view more fiercely espoused than in the Mafioso rap genre of the mid-90’s. Artist like Jay-Z, Notorious B.I.G., and Raekwon repeatedly expressed frustration with regulation of their “industry” by dirty cops and politicos with deep empty pockets.
“Got money and you know it. Take it out your pocket and show it.” ― Lil Wayne and T-Pain “Got Money”
No genre of music celebrates the excesses of capitalism and the rights of earners to do whatever they want with their money like hip-hop. Turn on BET and watch rappers whose albums haven’t even sold a copy yet throwing hundred dollar bills in the air like they just won the lottery. In this political climate, this would seem like unacceptable behavior, but while Wall Street brokers would be butchered for behaving this way, it is perfectly acceptable behavior in hip-hop fantasy land.
About the Author: Vincent Jackson is a Senior English/Film major at the University of Delaware. A lifetime resident of Wilmington, Delaware, Jackson grew up as a liberal but became a libertarian soon after attending college. Vincent Jackson is a filmmaker, screenwriter, poet, blogger, and political writer, and music critic.
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