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Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Obama and Hip-hop: Better than "Beef"?

Posted By on Tue, Feb 3, 2009 at 9:02 AM

click to enlarge Our shoulder-brushin', fist-bumpin'  POTUS in Oakland, 2007 - EKAPHOTOGRAPHY COPYRIGHT 2007. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
  • EKAphotography copyright 2007. all rights reserved
  • Our shoulder-brushin', fist-bumpin' POTUS in Oakland, 2007

For a long time, hip hop debates have tended toward the tawdry and tabloidesque--i.e., Is Kanye Gay?; Is Alicia Keys creepin' with Swizz Beats?; Joe Budden vs. Saigon, T.I. vs. Mysonne, Charli Baltimore vs. Lil' Kim, Lil Kim vs. Faith Evans, 50 Cent vs Everybody; Is LL Cool J Gay?; Stop Snitching: pro or con?; Are Video Vixens Hip-Hop's 5th Element?; Is Busta Rhymes Gay?, etc. While we're still waiting for XXL, the Source, and/or Vibe to finally solve the murder of Biggie Smalls and Tupac, an issue of actual substance has finally emerged -- in cyberspace.

The Question: is Barack Obama a "hip-hop president?"

A little while back, Green Party VP Candidate Rosa Clemente chimed in with a loud "oh, hell no" on the issue of Obama's hip-hoptivity (or is that hip-hoptitude?) . Despite high-profile endorsers like Ludacris, Russell Simmons, Will.I.Am., and Jay-Z, Clemente argued that Obama ain't hip-hop because he doesn't support an independent Puerto Rico, among other things. "Just because you brush off your shoulders, fist-bump the future First Lady, or play a mean game of street ball, that does not make you Hip Hop," Clemente chided. Still, in the eyes of many, a fist-bumpin', b-ball playin', shoulder brushin' POTUS is infinitely more "hip-hop" than the last joker to have that job.

Not to be outdone, Bay Area-based scribe Davey-D--who initially endorsed Clemente's running mate Cynthia McKinney before catching Obamamania and jumping on the Barack bandwagon--responded with his take on our 44th President. Davey makes a long-winded  argument referencing everything from Young Jeezy titling his album The Recession to the Obama transition team reaching out to youth organizers. Cutting to the chase, here's his conclusion: "At the end of the day I don't care whether he's Hip Hop or not as long as he's does right by me and my community-That's what I'm fighting for, no matter who's in the white house." Fair enough, although he actually never answers the question.

So here's our two cents: Obama isn't a "hip-hop president" per se--we had him pegged as more of a quiet storm, smooth-R&B kinda guy, although we could see him bumpin' Jay-Z's "Can I Get A..." in the Oval Office when no one's around--but he is the first president the hip-hop generation can relate to on a personal level. If nothing else, he's inspired more rap tributes than any President in history, and hopefully, his election will result in hip-hop's showing its intellectual side more than its backside.

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Eric Arnold

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