Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Why Obama Reps for US

So what does it mean to have a hip-hop president?
That's the question now that Barack Obama has secured the Democtrat Presidential nomination. Music publications like Vibe and Rolling Stone have been quick to drop the "hip-hop president" label on the newly minted nominee, but carrying the label isn't as cut and dry as it might seem.
The obvious entry point for Obama's criteria as a hip-hop presz is race. But being the first black presidential candidate doesn't automatically endear you to the hip-hop nation. I doubt rappers would have referenced Colin Powell or Condoleeza Rice had they emerged as presidential or vide presidential nominees.
Obama's status as the hip-hop president is in large part hype. Believe that. No one can be all-encompassing in the eyes of hip-hop heads and maintain any measure of authority. Hip-hop, like punk and folk and blues, is grossly anti-authoritarian, sometimes to a dubious fault. To some degree, Obama might be better off avoiding the tag altogether.
But hip-hip is youth culture, and more often than not, relevant youth culture. It's still the heartbeat of the hood, despite the regression of artistic merit and record sales. The bass bumping out of passing car windows is still a hip-hop rhythm, a modern-day smoke signal relaying the word or rhyme of the day.
Hip-hop is still a harbinger for political controversy. Don't believe me? Think about it: who does Bill O'Reilly choose to pick on when he wants to reach a younger demo?
Rappers like Nas, Ludacris and Cam'ron have all been caught in the conservative pundit's crosspins, partly because they make themselves easy targets, but also because Republicans need them like police departments and prisons need crime. It's an industry of contempt.
As long as rappers detail systematic social ills with sometimes vile, vulgar content, pie hole pundits like O'Reilly will always have fodder.
With a hip-hop president, well, that must have the O'Reilly's of the world champing at the bit. It's like when political comics hope the dumb candidate wins office just so they can have more material to mine.
Despite the media tag, Obama has wisely kept the hip-hop lobby at arms length during his campaign. Sure, he might mug it up with Russell Simmons or talk about the Jay-Z album collection bumping in his iPod, but he knows too much can hurt his chances.
He publicly denounced Ludacris for a song the Atlanta rapper released promoting Obama's campaign earlier this year. The offensive lyrics and grade-school insults would have been easy targets for the Republican campaign.
That's where the hip-hop prez tag can lead to undoing.
Like it or not, Obama is the first presidential candidate endorsed by the hip-hop nation. His combination of race, youth, energy and swagger have endeared him to the hip-hop community.
It's crazy to think that we'll have someone for us, by us, representing as the most powerful man in the world.

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