Hood Politics: Barack Obama Embraced Hip-Hop Like No President Before Him
Ah, to love and be loved back.
It’s always great when love and respect is mutual, especially in terms of the leader of the free world. Almost since its inception, Hip-Hop has served as a voice for the African Americans as well as other minorities, or even just the youth of America. With that in mind, it makes perfect sense that Hip-Hop has been very politically outspoken, whether it was bucking authority or speaking about injustice. In fact, outside of Eazy-E meeting with former President George Bush Sr., it’s hard to find a time where any President has demonstrated anything close to a positive relationship with Hip-Hop. Public Enemy made classic material speaking against White House politics, Tupac Shakur said “Bill Clinton, Mr. Bob Dole, you too old to understand the way the game’s told / you lame so I gotta hit you wit the hot facts, once I’m released I’m making millions, nigga top that.” George W. Bush, Clinton’s successor, got plenty of heat from Hip-Hop as well (to say the least). Take Lil Wayne making a song called “Georgia…Bush” in retaliation to Bush’s lack of attempt to help those Hurricane Katrina victims in New Orleans. That same lack of effort would spark Kanye’s infamous televised “George Bush doesn’t care about Black people” moment. Ad one of Hip Hop’s biggest stars ever, Eminem, released and shot a video for “Mosh,” his own personal plea with America to not re-elect Bush in 2004. And it never helped that there was never a visible attempt to mend issues on the President’s ends. It seemed as though they either pretended Hip Hop didn’t exist or spent time trying to get rappers’ albums off the shelves.
But in 2008, something different happened. Barack Obama emerged as the democratic nominee for the Presidency of the United States, making it a real possibility that America could see its first Black President. Hip-Hop artists didn’t hesitate to get behind the man and the thought of helping this happen. Nas ended his Untitled album with “Black President,” Jeezy released his classic anthem with Nas “My President Is Black,” and after President Obama was elected, Jeezy and Jay Z collaborated for the “My President is Black” remix.
From the day Obama was elected on, he became a constant name drop in rap songs, and he never shied away from acknowledging the attention he got. In the middle of a speech during his correspondence dinner in 2012, Obama said “In my first term, I sang Al Green. In my second term, I’m going with Young Jeezy.” When speaking on childhood dreams, Obama stated “You probably are not that good a rapper. Maybe you are the next Lil Wayne, but probably not, in which case you need to stay in school.” He stated numerous times that among his favorite artists to listen to are Jay Z, Kanye West, OutKast and Kendrick Lamar (and even citied “How Much A Dollar Cost” as his favorite song of 2015 to prove he wasn’t just a casual fan). His Presidential playlists sent to publications always included Hip-Hop music and most importantly, he wasn’t shy about having Hip-Hop in the White House with him. He’s had Jay Z, Beyoncé, Wale and Kendrick Lamar all perform in the White House and his meetings with artists such as J. Cole, Rick Ross, Pusha T, Nicki Minaj and Chance The Rapper have all been documented. Cole even rapped in his recent release, “High For Hours” on how he questioned Obama on his position towards helping out Blacks and Obama “broke the issues down and showed [him] he was sincere.” One of the main reasons why Barack Obama resonated so heavily with American youth is the fact that he became the first President to openly embrace Hip-Hop culture, one of the most popular and intriguing things to exist in America.
And it’s important to acknowledge that because in these times post-Obama, we simply don’t know when we’ll see that again. It felt good to have a President that was truly relatable in more ways than one. From jump, Barack Obama said that he was for the people and he demonstrated that for 8 years. He could’ve easily shied away from the attention that Hip Hop brings, but he didn’t. And that spoke volumes if for no reason other than the fact that no other President before him did. Let’s hope the future brings someone else to help the culture continue to spread the way he did.