Where Is the Hip Hop Enthusiasm this Election Year?
[dropcap]A[/dropcap]ccording the an article published today by hip hop industry site SOHH, Barack Obama has the same compunction that most parents have when it comes to letting his kids listen to hip hop lyrics. Of hip hop music, the President states candidly that, “we don’t listen to it together because some of the language in there would embarrass me – at least while I’m listening to it with her.”
Despite choking on the explicit lyrics common to the rap and hip hop genres, the President got a lot of support from the black entertainment community during his successful 2008 campaign. The Black Eyed Peas campaigned everywhere they went, as did serious heavyweights like Will and Jada Smith. The idea of a Black man being President of the United States, as well as the overwhelmingly positive nature of his message, resonated throughout the Black community. Certainly, the strong support of artists whose appeal transcended racial lines helped to encourage young Americans to get out and vote.
During this election cycle, Obama still has the support of leading artists. In fact, Jay-Z and Nas, the two artists whose music he admitted he didn’t listen to with his daughters, are among his strongest supporters. Jay-Z and Beyonce recently held a fundraiser at their Los Angeles home. Nas has publicly affirmed his support of the President. And others in the Black community (such as Samuel L. Jackson, whose explicit “Get Out And Vote” video went viral last week) have showed up to support the President as well.
But that support doesn’t have the celebratory nature that it had during the 2008 election, leading many in the mainstream media to speculate about why. Commonly, pundits express that Obama hasn’t done enough for the Black community to earn its continued support. Some on the right suggest that the President’s flagging popularity is to blame: high dollar artists don’t want to tie themselves to a sinking ship.
In reality, the most significant cause for the change has nothing to do with Obama as a person or with his record in office. When he was running in 2008, he had a chance to become the first Black President in American history. That was a watershed event, an extension of the highest elected office in the nation – and of the most powerful office in the world – to the Black community. Chasing that goal became a wildly enthusiastic call to action during the last election.
Today, of course, Obama is President. America has had a Black President. It is no longer a landmark, no longer a beachhead yet to be taken. And so it is natural that the enthusiasm for change would be different. For Obama’s supporters, this election is about defending ground; it is essentially defensive; and defense is never as enthusiastic as offense.
Granted, it was more exciting last time. YouTube was full of supportive videos, from the Obama Girl to the Black Eyed Peas, showing their support. Among the hip hop lyrics Obama didn’t listen to with his daughters there were strong, passionate political appeals. And the combined effort of a wide swath of America moved a mountain. This time around, hip hop artists aren’t as visible or as assertive. They’re still there, but they’re part of an establishment now. They are not trying to change the world.