When rapper Lil Wayne released his latest mixtape entitled ‘Dedication 4’ this week, he probably thought that he would be getting all of the attention from social networks and media outlets since fans hadn’t gotten a new project from him since he put out the triple platinum album ‘Tha Carter IV’ in August of last year. Unfortunately for Wayne, his new project quickly became an afterthought to what was said on the mixtape by one of his artists who had a guest appearance. Wayne’s protégé Nicki Minaj stole a lot of his thunder when fans caught on to a line where she raps, “I’m a Republican voting for Mitt Romney.” That’s right, a young Trinadian-born and Queens New York raised Hip Hop artist actually said that she was going to be voting for Mitt Romney.
Those same social networks and media outlets that were anticipating Lil’ Wayne’s newest body of work switched their entire focus. Instead of focusing on the music, they began to focus on that one line from that one person, who by the way isn’t even registered to vote in the last three states that she has lived in. Some folks in the Hip Hop community were shocked because of what they felt was an endorsement from the artist who used to refer to herself as Nicki Lewinski. Some people even bashed Nicki for this brash political declaration.
In the world of Hip Hop, even though rappers recite lyrics about having an unlimited amount of cash flow and cars, and make millions of dollars every year it is still a culture where most people involved in it can relate to the every day struggles of the blue collar workers who support their careers. The culture is still largely based on struggle and making it out and achieving success on an “I came from nothing and made it into something” type of platform.
So, when Nicki says “I’m a Republican/voting for Mitt Romney/You lazy b*tches is f*ckin up the economy” she is simply flexing her monetary muscles and saying “Look at me I have so much money that I can relate to Mitt Romney’s platform when it comes to finances. That’s nothing new to the ears of Hip Hop consumers. It’s simply the braggadocios nature of Hip Hop music. It’s not an endorsement, nor is it the first time that a Hip Hop artist has stepped out of the box with refrencing themselves in the same space as a republican. On their 2007 collaboration “Black Republican” Jay-Z and Nas both chant, “I feel like a Black Republican/Money I got comin’ in/Can’t Turn My Back On The Hood/I Got Love For Them“
So if Mitt Romney does happen to get elected into office in November no one can blame Nicki Minaj. She and her “Barbs” aren’t the ones who will decide who wins this election. Instead, the blame needs to be placed on Hip Hop as a whole. The entire culture has failed at spreading the message to young adults about how important it is to exercise the right to vote.
There is no Vote or Die mania this year like there was in the previous two presidential elections. In fact, the person who spearheaded the Vote or Die movement eight years ago has been pretty silent about politics since criticizing President Obama in an issue of the Source magazine last year. Sean “Diddy” Combs was very vocal about his desire for people to get out and exercise their right to vote. He used t-shirts, bumper stickers, Youtube videos, and almost anything else that you could think of to promote the importance of voting. But again, that was in 2008. I guess it isn’t as big of an issue to him this year. Maybe the slogan shouldn’t be Vote or Die any more. Maybe it should be something like “vote or risk losing affordable health care.”
Diddy isn’t the only one who has been absent from the political fold this time around. Four years ago we had songs about getting Obama elected being played on the radio. Celebrities were seen out and about with Obama shirts on. There was an exuberant and uninhibited sense of excitement towards helping Obama become OUR leader. Urban radio stations were filled with conversation about how we were going to make history and get Obama elected. Getting African American and Latino voters out to the polls was the talk of the town…every town! Now, most radio stations only dedicates one or two segments a week to even speaking about the election. I know this because I work in radio. And lets just say that the bosses aren’t putting as much emphasis on the political content as they were four years ago.
With the election being right around the corner, I think it is time for members of the Hip Hop community to step up and let our voices be heard. We have to stop hiding behind complacency and this sense of being unaffected by the political process. In an age where an unarmed 17-year-old child can be gunned down and his killer allowed to walk around freely with minimal supervision like he did nothing wrong because his state has a “stand your ground law” there has to be a sense of urgency from us to demand change in this country.
We can’t just sit around and be comfortable with the fact that we were able to be a part of history and played a part in getting Obama elected in 2008. We have to continually make strides to better ourselves and better the situations for those around us. Speaking out about what we believe in can do this and a whole lot more.
So, if Mitt Romney does happen to get elected in November, I want Hip Hop to take a very long and hard look at itself. We can’t try to put the blame on Nicki Minaj or anyone else who has voiced a less than popular political opinion. We can only blame ourselves! The same way we walked Obama up to the doorstep and into this mess is the same way that we need to walk him through it.