The Obama Movement has without a doubt left an indelible imprint on American society and culture that will last for decades, if not centuries, to come, and both during the presidential campaign and since the election the hip-hop community has been one of its most vocal and visible advocates.In an article for the Black College Wire, Justin LeGrande commented on how some very prominent rappers have begun to change their tones in response to President-elect Barack Obama's historic nomination and victory.
"This movement was bigger than hip-hop, bigger than the black community, it was even bigger than the United States. People across the globe were pulling for Obama, and the hope that he represented." LeGrande wrote.
"Rappers like Young Jeezy, Rick Ross, T.I., and other "dope boy" rappers, have seemingly put aside their musical message of drugs and guns in favor of a more political one."Will.I.Am of the Black Eyed Peas is another example. He created the "Yes We Can" tribute, a star-studded music video based on Barack Obama's stirring New Hampshire primary speech, as well as a single entitled "It's a New Day" celebrating the election.
Jay-Z, Kanye West, Common, and Nas are also among the rap stars who donned their political hats to support and write rhymes praising Obama.
Do these rappers' politically-conscious musical efforts mean that sexually explicit, gangster aggrandizing, misogynistic hip-hop will soon become a thing of the past?Greg Kot, a critic for the Chicago Tribune, recently interviewed Reverend Al Sharpton and hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons on the subject.
In Kot's article Sharpton was quoted as saying,"You can't be using the 'b' word, the 'n' word, the 'h' word when you have Barack Obama redefining overnight the image that black people want to have. Here's the greatest political victory in the history of black America, and the thug rappers can't come near it. They will have to change or become irrelevant."
Simmons disagreed. "Young people will use their language the way they want," he said. "If it's in their heart, they will express it."And, certainly the tenuous phenomena of hip-hop's budding transformation has not been without controversy. During the presidential campaign it was widely publicized that Obama's camp issued a statement denouncing rapper Ludacris for what it termed "outrageously offensive" lyrics in his song "Politics As Usual".
Similarly, Young Jeezy's recently released song "My President is Black" has become a sort of anthem for some, while spawning anger and embarrassment in others.
The appropriateness of the song's choice of verbiage and subject matter is arguable. But remove the expletives and the explosive "n" word from the lyrics and what remains is a life story strongly afflicted by poverty, drugs, and imprisonment, and rife with political distrust and economic frustration. What is left is a saga that has sadly become the reality for too many of our youth.
For them, maybe Barack Obama's presidency can be a starting point, a foundation on which to restore the hope, dreams, and self-esteem of both a musical genre and a generation.
And in the end, perhaps Young Jeezy's final revelation as the music fades will prove to be the most enduring to hip-hop's youngest, most impressionable fans: I'm important, too.