Hip-Hop and Politics – What’s Next?
There have been very few cultural concepts throughout history, that have seemed to garner bipartisan support in the political arena. One of the few that has almost always been a mutually held political philosophy is that Hip-Hop is, not only a symptom but an underlying cause of the destruction of “American values.”
Way back in 1992, then Republican Vice President, Dan Quayle, claimed that Tupac Shakur’s, “2pacalypse Now,” was responsible for the death of a Texas state trooper, who was shot and killed by a man allegedly listening to the album. Quayle said it was a disgrace to music and called on Interscope Records, to pull the album from store shelves saying, “There is absolutely no reason for a record like this to be published. It has no place in our society.”
Since that time, people and politicians alike, have come around and become more accepting of the genre that so many once deemed violent and, in some cases, perverse.
Hip-Hop has become so mainstream that even Republican Senator and former presidential candidate, Marco Rubio, has specifically expressed his love for the music, saying that, while he does not condone violence in rap, he views the music as a mirror of American society rather than a result of its deterioration.
In an interview with Buzzfeed News, Rubio said, “In some ways, rappers are like reporters. Especially in that era, in the 90’s, people picked up on it the wrong way. They thought these folks were condoning a certain lifestyle…but, at that time… it was a lot of reporting about what life was like.”
It’s a sentiment that even the former U.S. President, subscribes to as well. President Obama is a well-documented fan of the genre, even going so far as to invite several Hip-Hop artists to the White House as his personal guests.
How times have changed…or have they?
Hip-Hop seems to be at the helm of the resistance against the new presidential administration. Performances are growing ever bolder, evolving from nuanced in-show jabs at government, inequality, systemic racism and the likes, to bold stances on the worlds largest stages in a direct affront to the policies put in place to hurt the least among us by the powers that be.
Back in the early ‘90’s, when rap music was being used as a scapegoat for inner-city violence, Tipper Gore – wife of former Vice President, Al Gore – led the fight on Capitol Hill against rap music. Her crusade resulted in the introduction of the parental advisory warning and age restrictions for the purchase of “violent” music and created a stigma amongst suburbanites that the genre must be inherently bad if it came with a warning label. This had the industry worried for some time. Album sales dipped and PSA’s increased for a moment until things seemed to level out.
Twenty-five years later, the question must be asked, can we expect a new incursion to be put in place by the powers that be, whether governmental or industrial, to try to delegitimize the music behind the movement to resist; or will tactics emerge to change the dynamic once again? Will artists once again be scapegoated as the problem; or will they be heard as the reporters of what’s happening as the result of the problems whose solutions still have yet to be realized?
Hip-Hop seems to have come full circle and we are seeing an emergence of consciousness going commercial with artists like Kendrick Lamar and J. Cole. The 2017 Grammy awards bare the most recent examples, with A Tribe Called Quest’s bold political statement wherein they literally knocked down a wall on stage and called the POTUS “President Agent Orange.” In addition, Beyoncé unapologetically paid tribute to her roots and black mother/womanhood in a politically anti-woman climate and reminded viewers not to forget their history, and Paris Jackson called for reinforcements on the frontlines of the Dakota Access Pipeline protests.
Although artists in other genres have stood on their liberal morals against the conservative political agenda, Hip-Hop has largely been the soundtrack of the resistance. Because of this, it seems necessary to be vigilant. Watch for a change in the tide. Listen for stories of people, artists, and individuals being silenced, shelved or set aside. Do your best to stay two steps ahead and always question, what’s next.