Public Enemy

Source: Jack Mitchell / Getty

This election season has been a strange one, to say the least.

With Obama leaving the White House soon, the absence of a decent candidate has some loathing his departure — especially the Hip-Hop generation, who will miss his ability to relate to them, his sense of honesty when discussing issues, and his cool factor. It seemed like Hip-Hop was going to stay on the sidelines this year, but now, everyone has seemingly united for one cause: stopping Donald Trump.

Hip-Hop and politics were not always a thing, though.

One can look at the Clinton family, which is close to becoming a dynasty, and find moments when they attacked the music. The Republican party has renewed its accusations of Hip-Hop being damaging to our society. Even catchphrases like ‘Make America Great Again’ and the bigotry that follows it are anti-Black, which by default makes them anti-Hip-Hop. This is nothing new, however, and even with Hip-Hop acting chummy with politics at times, the music is anti-establishment at heart.

Here are six examples that show how their relationship has changed:


By The Time Arizona Came Around

The state of Arizona has been at the center of so many controversies that it became the target of a Public Enemy song.

“By The Time I Get To Arizona” bashed the state and its 17th governor, Evan Mecham, for refusing to observe Martin Luther King day as a federal holiday. The governor didn’t believe that King was worthy of a paid holiday, and former presidential candidate John McCain voted against the holiday at the time. Much like the issue with North Carolina’s bathroom laws, there were boycotts from celebrities like Stevie Wonder, who famously campaigned for the holiday, and the NFL relocated the Super Bowl of ’93 in protest of this. In ’92, after several attempts to swap MLK day with another holiday, the voters of Arizona passed a referendum to acknowledge the holiday.

Now, Arizona is back into the spotlight again. In recent years the state has been a battleground for immigration laws and whitewashing of history in schools.

The more things change…

The Sister Souljah Moment

It’s no secret that hip-hop was condemned by politicians early on, and perhaps this is best illustrated by the Sister Souljah moment. When the former member of Public Enemy spoke about the LA Riots, Bill Clinton seized on her remarks to make a political statement. He addressed her comment about Black-on-white violence — which was allegedly taken out of context — as incendiary rhetoric the Democratic party shouldn’t accept. It was essentially a political maneuver to appeal to centralist Democrats, focused around using a hardened stance on criminality.

The term has entered the political playbook since then, oftentimes having a coded meaning of appeasing moderate white voters. Even in this election, the Clintons tried this tactic when they first engaged the Black Lives Matter movement. But between the heightened bigotry in the Republican party and the popularity of BLM, this maneuver backfired, and the Clintons were forced to address their problematic past.

Vote … Or Live?

When Puff Daddy (Diddy, Puffy … what’s his name these days?) threw his hat into the political ring, he did it in the only way that he could: with a newsworthy effort.

During the 2004 election, he launched a campaign with a simple message: Vote, or Die. The dramatic statement swallowed up headlines and was marketed almost as effectively as the clothing lines of the day. After the close race between Al Gore and George W. Bush, it seemed like getting Hip-Hop in the mix could tip the odds.

But the days of Sean Combs getting out the vote would not last. After Bush was voted in for a second time, the campaign died with John Kerry’s hopes for presidency. P. Diddy has used these words a few times since then, but the movement is basically dead. Nobody was killed during the election.

Kanye West And The Telethon

In the aftermath of hurricane Katrina, big stars like Mike Myers, Chris Tucker and Kanye West would appear in a telethon to benefit the people affected by the disaster. The most memorable moment of that evening came when Kanye deviated from the script, which would become an iconic trait of his. After ad-libbing a statement about the media portrayal of Black people and the frustratingly slow response to Katrina, Kanye would rattle viewers with the statement: “George Bush doesn’t care about Black people.” Kanye would offer a confusing apology later on, and years later Mike Myers said that he was proud of what Kanye did.

Former president Bush, however, regarded this as the worst moment of his presidency — not the Iraq war or the deficit or Katrina itself. Yes, in Bush’s opinion, when Kanye uttered those words, that was the low point of his administration. Since then, Kanye and outbursts have become a thing.

President Obama Gets That Dirt Off His Shoulder

Flash back to 2008, when a hopeful from Chi-Town was taking on the world. No, this is not about Kanye. The then-candidate Barack Obama was weathering a series of attacks from current-candidate Hillary Clinton, and the nation was starting to warm up to him. Many were hopeful about his chances to win the election and subsequently breaking the biggest racial barrier in the nation. To get there, he had to prove that he could keep calm under pressure.

With the swagger of MJ, and MJ, in their prime, he didn’t fall for the haters. By remembering an old proverb from Jay-Z, Obama showed why all of the hype around him was more than hype. He didn’t verbally express the ‘Dirt off your shoulder’ mantra. He demonstrated it by raising his hand to the top of his other arm, and merely swept off the problems that were trying him. It was that example of knowing what to do at the right moment that helped with tipping the scales in his favor.

Bernie Sanders Knows The Handshake

It came as a surprise to many that the most Hip-Hop candidate this year was arguably an aging socialist. Everyone was feeling the old guy from Brooklyn who looked like a stunt double for Larry David. When it was cool to shout his campaign slogan ‘Feel the Bern,’ there was something about it that had an undertone of Hip-Hop swagger to it. Bernie only boosted his credibility with an endorsement from Killer Mike, and the support from several other Hip-Hop artists made him the candidate of the people.

It was one particular moment that solidified his appeal to many. After giving a speech at a rally, he went to shake the hands of the people standing behind him. It was business as usual until, in a quick moment that seemed rather unusual, he came to a Black person standing on the stage and gave him ‘the handshake.’ This gesture was captured on film, and blew the minds of many who proceeded to mine the moment with memes, GIFs, and endless jokes. To some, he simply knew the greeting. But to others who were unsure of his cool factor, it was a ‘he gets it’ moment.

SOURCE: YouTube | PHOTO CREDIT: Jack Mitchell / Getty

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