In 2017, it’s politics as usual when it comes to the hip-hop community and social issues. A genre that has given us mantras like “fuck the police,” “fight the power,” and “stop the violence,” hip-hop has always been at the forefront of issues and, in the current climate in America, rap stars and other figures within the culture are needed now more than ever.
Since the 2016 election of Donald Trump as President, there has been a resurgence in the number of artists speaking out against the government and a corrupt system of injustice. Last week, Eminem was the talk of the music and political work when he sent a few barbed words at President Trump himself—not to mention white supremacists and his own fanbase—during his cypher at The 2017 BET Awards. The performance was praised and reviled in equal measure; with many on the left praising Shady’s willingness to use his platform to get such a message across, while Trump supporters dragged Em for disrespecting the office and for the rapper’s own controversial history of misogyny and homophobia.
Eminem is just one of a number of artists that have aimed criticism at the President and the White House as a whole. The Boombox looks back on 10 instances in which a rapper dissed the President.
Kanye West has had his share of public outbursts and controversial soundbites, but the one that always come to mind first are the comments in made in 2005 regarding President George W. Bush’s handling of Hurricane Katrina. During an appearance in support of the A Concert for Hurricane Relief telethon to raise money for those impacted by Hurricane Katrina, Kanye made the statement that “George Bush doesn’t care about black people,” a statement that would leave the whole world in shock and mirrored the sentiments of many in the black community. More than a decade after those words were first uttered, they remain some of the more memorable in hip-hop history and will not be forgotten anytime soon
During the heigh of his career, Tupac Shakur was in war mode, ready and willing to give it to whoever he felt was deserving of his wrath. President Bill Clinton caught Pac’s wrath on the Death Row signee’s single “How Do U Want It,” from his 1996 album, All Eyez On Me, as he was name-checked along other politicians looking to demonize and censor rap. Rhyming “Bill Clinton, Mister Bob Dole/You’re too old to understand the way the game’s told,” Tupac put the Prez on blast on a double-platinum single, now what’s more hip-hop than that?
One of the pioneers of revolutionary rap in hip-hop is Public Enemy frontman Chuck D, who helped ingrain a consciousness within the culture that is still present today. During the height of President Ronald Reagan’s “Reaganomics,” Chuck D would repeatedly take aim at him, whether on wax (“Rebel Without a Pause”) or in interviews, crediting Public Enemy’s disdain for the Prez for spurring the creation of the group. Three decades later, Chuck D remains as outspoken as he was during his prime as one of rap’s elite rhyme animals
Gangster rap has been maligned in the past for it’s content, but the voices behind those lyrics have also been on the frontlines on many occasions. The most recent example of this is when Cali reps YG hooked up with Nipsey Hussle on “FDT,” short for “Fuck Donald Trump,” and a scathing take-down of the presidential hopeful. According to YG, the Secret Service would go as far as reaching out to him in the wake of the song’s release, bringing to mind the infamous incident between The FBI and N.W.A. that occurred in 1989.
Immortal Technique may very well be the preeminent emcee in terms of sociopolitical lyrics and commentary, having taken an innumerable amount of politicians to task throughout his career. However, he was also one of the few rappers to cast Barack Obama in a negative light, which he did during the lead-up to the 2012 Presidential election. Dubbing Obama a “War President,” and criticizing him for lack of reforms he felt helped fuel the Occupy Wall Street movement, Immortal Technique’s held no prisoners, although he ultimately concluded that Barack was a better candidate than opponent Mitt Romney.
50 Cent has never been one to mince words, but his target of choice may have surprised some when he lashed out at President George W. Bush in a interview with New York Magazine in July 2007. “George Bush has a talent: He has less compassion than the average human,” 50 Cent said, later adding “By all means, I don’t aspire to be like George Bush,” quotes that were in direct conflict with previous statements by Fif in which he compared himself to Bush in a flattering manner in a 2005 interview with GQ.
The early ’90s was one of the more politically-charged eras in hip-hop history, with many artists speaking out against racism, police brutality, and other societal ills. However, west coast rapper Paris took things beyond the norm when he recorded “Bush Killa,” a song on which he fantasized about asassinating then-President George H. W. Bush, in 1992. The song, which caused Paris to be dropped from his record deal with Tommy Boy Records, would be included on his 1992 album, Sleeping with the Enemy, which would be released on his own Scarface Records.
In 2006, Lil Wayne was just stepping into the role of being the hottest artist in rap, a position he would fully occupy with the release of his DJ Drama-hosted mixtape, Dedication 2. While his whirlwind of punchlines, double entendres and one-liners left listeners in awe, one track that stood out from the rest was “Georgia… Bush,” his verbal takedown of the 43rd President of the United States. Recorded in response to what many perceived as President Bush’s mishandling of the natural disaster that was Hurricane Katrina, “Georgia… Bush” was a rallying cry for New Orleans residents and other southerners that felt abandoned during their greatest time of need.
Barack Obama has largely avoided scrutiny from the hip-hop community, but Lupe Fiasco had a few words for the former President during a performance in 2013. Tapped to perform at StartUp RockOn’s inauguration celebration for Barack Obama’s second term, Lupe Fiasco took the stage and shocked those in attendance when the Chicago native announced that he did not vote for Obama before performing an anti-war. Lupe was subsequently escorted off-stage in yet another sign of public protest for the rapper, an incident that made headlines and was a rare moment of disconnect between a rapper and Obama during his Presidency.
When it comes to sociopolitical issues, Killer Mike has been among the more outspoken figures in hip-hop, lending his platform to various causes that impact his community and beyond. This past August, the Atlanta native posted a video to his Instagram taking shots at President Donald Trump in the wake of Trump’s support of confederate statues, advising him to stop “saying that stupid shit” and taking aim at his constituents. Killer Mike’s quotes condemning Trump aren’t the first time he’s taking a President to task, as he has also been critical of past Presidents like Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush, but are indicative of his willingness to be an activist and voice for change.
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