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Rappin' for the Republicans

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Rappin' for the Republicans:

How Hip Hop Helps the Conservatives

                               Paul Scott

There's a famous scene from the cult classic movie "Scarface" where inebriated gangster, Tony Montana (Al Pacino) disses a bunch of classy conservative folks by telling them that they need people like him so they can point their fingers and say "that's the bad guy."

Such is the strange relationship between the Right Wing and rap music.

While at first glance they may appear to be at polar opposites of the political spectrum, the ideologies of gangsta-ism and conservatism are actually dependent upon each other for survival. Just like in the world of Hollywood, every hero needs a villain and every villain needs a hero. Since  the inception of gangsta rap in the late 80's, the conservatives have used the music to embody everything that is socially and morally reprehensible in this country and the gangsta's have been quick to label anyone who disapproves of their violent and misogynistic lyrics as a wrinkled right wing ole fogey.

It must be noted that when the term "Hip Hop" is used here it is not meant to include the music of legendary political artists such as Public Enemy whose legacy is seen today in the lyrics of noncommercial groups such as Dead Prez but the majority of the commercial rap that has dominated the charts and radio playlists for well over a decade.

While much of the criticism from the Right has centered around naughty words and suggestive lyrics, the apolitical and anti intellectual nature of "gangsta rap" has, in many ways, fulfilled the wishes of those who seek  to conserve power by the dumbing down of the powerless. This may be the reason why the commercial era of "political" Hip Hop lasted a mere four years but the reign of gangsta rap has been going strong for 20 years.

Therefore, it is no surprise that the late gangsta rap pioneer Eric "Eazy E" Wright had lunch with President George H Bush at a reception for the Republican Senatorial Inner Circle in 1991. That becomes even more strange in the context that the Right is not exactly known for breaking bread with the enemy as current VP candidate Sara Palin points out ad nauseum.

It must be noted that while the protest against rappers Tupac Shakur and Snoop Dog led by C. Delores Tucker and William Bennett only helped to elevate their status as cult heroes who were merely fighting, according to them, represent their community. Bennett went on a decade later to issue what could be a considered a call for gangsta eugenics when he said that if you abort every black baby in this country ,the crime rate would go down.

Also, during the mid 90's while aid to the poor was under attack,  MTV showed a clip with the late rapper Russel "Ol Dirty Bastard" Jones arriving at a welfare office via stretch limo to pick up food stamps during an era when the Right Wing was holding up images of black women as "welfare queens."

Fast forward to 2008 and we see that Hip Hop has not changed much and neither has the Republican Party. Despite the many rappers moonlighting as voter registration organizers this political season, their day jobs are still keeping the masses of inner city youth politically misdirected and justifying the Right's political scare tactics. 

So, today what to do about the so called "Hip Hop Generation" is seen as the new "white man's burden."  In states across the country there are laws being imposed where the wearing of Hip Hop inspired clothing may be probable cause for the implementation of legislation reminiscent of Richard Nixon's tough on crime policies of the early 70's.

With the economy saggin' like rapper 'Lil Wayne's pants, the Conservatives need poverty poster children who they can say enjoy being broke. Who can argue for more social programs when the image of "tha hood" being broadcast across the planet is not an area filled with hungry children and dilapidated buildings but a fantasy land where black men with gold teeth ride around in expensive cars with spinning rims blasting loud music all day. Not exactly the best argument for affirmative action.

Now, I'm not suggesting that a rap mogul is in a studio somewhere composing rap lyrics with a Republican strategist but stranger things have happened in the wild world of politics.

However, at a time when the whole world seems to be yelling for change this election season, maybe Hip Hop artists won't turn a deaf ear.

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