Politics and serious issues have always had a place in hip hop since day one but now that hip hop is a billion-dollar industry with millions of fans, could the culture become a political force?
Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power” became a rousing anthem in 1990 at a time when there was tremendous anger and frustration over injustices. Fast forward 28 years to Donald Glover, a.k.a. Childish Gambino’s “This Is America.” The song captures the current troubling pressures on black lives, but the artist resists putting a label on it.
“I feel like it’s not really my place. I think it’s something that’s just out there,” he said in an interview. “It’s for the people.”
I sat down with XXL Magazine editor-in-chief Vanessa Satten for her take. She said “This Is America” did what it was supposed to do.
“It hit all the different points, it got the audience response,” she said. “Everything about it was right on the money.”
“Doitall” Dupré Kelly of the platinum-selling hip hop group Lords of the Underground performs around the world. He took political involvement to a new level. He ran for but did not win a City Council seat in his hometown of Newark. He told me fame isn’t enough.
“You can’t just expect to win an elected official seat,” he said. “You have to be in tune with the community. You have to be involved with all the residents of the community, from the youth to the seniors.”
Superstar Kanye West originally said he’d run for president in 2020, setting off a merchandising gold rush. Now he is setting his sights on 2024. Satten said the current political dissatisfaction may actually make hip hop votes a reality.
“I think there’s a possibility the hip hop community may come out and support voting more,” Satten said. “It comes a lot with the rappers, sometimes it comes from the more popular rappers, so you’ve got to hope that a popular rapper wants to take that as their plate.”
Fame and money may get you just about everything but actually winning political races takes a different skill set. Still, recent history has shown just about anything is possible.
FEATURED CAST: LISA EVERS, Host and Executive Producer, Street Soldiers https://twitter. com/lisaevers
VANESSA SATTEN, Editor-in-Chief, XXL Magazine https://twitter com/VSattenXXL https://twitter.com/XXL
L. LONDELL MCMILLAN, Entertainment Attorney and Publisher, Source Magazine https://twitter.com/LondellMcMillan https://twitter.com/TheSource
DUPRÉ “DOITALL” KELLY, Hip Hop Artist and Entrepreneur https://twitter.com/doitallfornwk
BASIL SMIKLE, Political Strategist and Professor https://twitter.com/BasilSmikleJr
DONALD GLOVER, AKA “CHILDISH GAMBINO” http://www.childishgambino.com