Lies, corruption, glad-handing; These are apt descriptions for the world of politics and the rap game. Both are shady and have become highly influenced by financial involvement as time has gone on. Both also involve kissing babies, although rather than actual toddlers this practice involves groupies and one Baby (or Birdman). The American political system has almost as many sub-genres as rap music. While we have boom-bap and trap rap, they have the Green Party and the boring-as-hell sounding Prohibition Party.
Before the 2012 U.S presidential race was streamlined to the two man hot mess of Big Daddy Barrack and Vanilla Romney, we saw a whole clown car worth of rappers… sorry, politicians. These mic controllers took to the podium and told the American public why they had swag and looked to throw their best punchlines at their opponents. Like a lot of rappers, many of the candidates were saying the same thing, just in different ways. No candidate harnessed the skill of letting their personality do the talking better than Herman Cain. While Donald Trump was just as ass, the Godfather’s Pizza chairman was purely entertaining, establishing himself as the Kanye West of the political world with his ridiculous statements, not to mention his bible-sized list of alleged sexual abuse victims.
Political content has been embedded in rap music from the beginning, almost purely because of race and environment, rather than by choice. The content wasn’t always consciously politically driven and this notion that rap has to be political in nature contradicts its disco-inspired party roots in the late 70s. While it’s true that rap music can play its part, placing such a large responsibility on it is unfair and misguided. Music is a great medium for enlightening and empowering and can inspire action and provoke thought among the younger generation. However artists can speak volumes and make change without being overtly political. Then you have those that use political content as a tool for pushing propaganda or personal beliefs, to disguise a lack of creativity or to justify and balance the other drivel they churn out. It’s as if some vaguely political comments can make up for misogyny and violent content. Do we honestly care who French Montana voted for?
Artists such as Public Enemy (overlooking their first album) and Talib Kweli have always stuck to their beliefs and naturally gravitated to socially and politically charged subject matter. Unlike trap rap, where you can bluff your way through talk of being a drug dealer, political rap requires an enlightened approach and practising knowledge of political and social issues. From the musical prophets to the fakers, we look at the history of political rappers.