In a sweeping and historical victory November 4, Senator Barack Obama was elected to be the next president of the United States of America.  The largest voting constituency to usher in this progressive leader for change was 18-35 year olds, voters who are brand loyal to hip-hop culture. In consistent and telling numbers, exit polls conducted by major television networks in Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, Wisconsin and Connecticut reported that 18-29 year olds voted in record numbers making their voices heard for Barack Obama.

“The hip-hop generation made history,” emphasized Reverend Lennox Yearwood, Jr, President of the Hip Hop Caucus. “In the 60’s, young people had to be revolutionary, but in the 21st century we have decided to be ‘solution-ary.’ We have come out in large numbers to not only change America, but to change the world. We have made America respect our vote!”

“We all witnessed the transformation of American society,” added Dr. Benjamin Chavis, President/CEO of Hip-Hop Summit Action Network (HSAN). “The early results of the presidential election verify that the hip-hop generation is a responsible and caring generation. Hip-hop artists and icons, male and female, all worked hard to make sure the issues and the interests of young people were represented. President-elect Obama now has a serious mandate from the hip-hop generation. Hip-hop transcends race and will continue to be a force for change, not only in America, but also throughout the world.”

On October 17, the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network, in partnership with the Hip Hop Caucus, launched an 18-day RESPECT MY VOTE! Bus Tour. Superstars including Russell Simmons, Jay-Z, Keyshia Cole, T-Pain, and T.I., who was the official spokesperson of the tour and took the bus to vote early in Atlanta, urged all voters, especially the potential first-timers to “Get out the Vote.”

One of those first-timers was rapper Hurricane Chris. His sentiment echoed many of those who’d never entered a booth before. “I’ve never felt anything about politics or really tried to understand it before,” he admitted. “[But] I’m proud that I was able to help put the first black man in the White House.”

Singer Mario, who’d also never cast a ballot professed, “I’m so proud to say that I voted in this election. I was proud to see the other young voters standing in line. Being that this was my first time eligible, I didn’t know what to expect. I was a little nervous because this is a competition. You feel personally vested once you cast your vote!”

The bus tour hit battleground states throughout the country and culminated in Toledo, OH and Detroit on Election Day. Clearly ecstatic with the outcome, Russell Simmons said, “I don’t think I’m overstating it when I say that I feel like America has dodged a bullet. Let’s each do our part to insure that this is a transformative time in America.”

Much of the music industry has banded together to endorse Barack Obama.’s “Yes We Can” video spawned the idea of using unconventional methods to show support, and on election night, his 3-D self appeared via hologram on CNN to speak with Anderson Cooper. Months before the night history was made, he partnered with musical favorite John Legend to perform at the final night of the Democratic National Convention. “I couldn’t sleep last night,” Legend confessed of November 4. “I feel really inspired right now. Like Barack said, though, this is not the change we seek; this just gives us the chance to pursue that change. There’s a lot more work to do. Don’t tune out now.”

Legend’s G.O.O.D Music labelmates also sounded off on Obama’s win. Rapper Common claimed, “This is a victory for the people of America. The people who felt like they were never heard in this country now have hope, and faith can achieve. This is a victory for the world.”

Fonzworth Bentley, who is set to release a debut album under Kanye West’s aforementioned label, stated that he finally feels like a “complete American, with all the rights and privileges promised and guaranteed in the United States Constitution.”

Though much credit goes to the large voting constituency, singer Ne-Yo credits the momentous occasion to the Lord, expressing, “I just wanna say ‘Thank God’ that the world is changing. I didn’t think I’d see a black president in my lifetime.”

Meanwhile, one of Ne-Yo’s three muses featured in his “Miss Independent” video, singer Keri Hilson revealed, “I remember every year in class when asked what we wanted to be in life, there was some black kid or girl who didn’t get the memo about not being able to become President of the United States. The classroom would burst into laughter; even the teacher would ask them to choose something more realistic. I’m so glad Barack didn’t get that memo and meant what he said.”

Trusting that he will be a man of his word, the hip hop community voted using the hope he asked of them, and with a belief in the change he promised. Though Obama cannot begin to carry out his commitment until January 20 of next year, the affinity he has ignited in the people will not die out. The men and women of this voting constituency will no longer be overlooked, their words no longer deemed invalid, as they have found just as vocal a leader as themselves, with a similar story worth hearing. – DANIELLE CHEESMAN

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