[Marxism] Hollywood Rappers to get out the vote...

David Quarter davidquarter at sympatico.ca
Mon Jul 26 21:05:32 MDT 2004


Hip-Hop Stars Aim to Get Fans to the Polls 

Mon Jul 26, 4:32 PM ET  


NEW YORK - When Sean "P. Diddy" Combs unveiled his get-out-
the-vote initiative, it had all the elements of hot album release 

There was a DJ spinning cool songs. A "street team" of young kids 
wearing T-shirts promoting the cause. A few supermodels. Even an 
A-list celebrity face in Democratic strategist James Carville (well, A-
list for political world, that is). 

P. Diddy is just the latest rap figure this year to try and make 
voting cool to a hip-hop generation that Combs has dubbed "the 
forgotten ones." 

Russell Simmons brought his Hip-Hop Summit Action Network to 
the Democratic National Convention in Boston on Monday. About 
2,000 people turned out as stars such as Wyclef Jean, Loon, Lloyd 
Banks and Bone Crusher urged them to register to vote. 

The muzzled mouth of OutKast's Andre 3000, who also was 
present at the Boston event, is adorning new public service ads by 
the nonpartisan group Declare Yourself, with the motto: "Only You 
Can Silence Yourself." And Jadakiss, who raps about drug dealing, 
violence and other thuggery in his lyrics, is raising political issues 
in his new song "Why" and giving interviews about voting and 
getting the minimum wage raised. 

"This is the collective conscious of hip-hop at work," said hip-hop 
mogul Simmons, who over the past three years has enlisted 
superstars like Jay-Z, Beyonce, Eminem (news - web sites), Nelly 
and Ludacris as his group registered thousands of young black and 
Latino fans to vote. 

"It's a cultural snowball effect. We want people to feel like if you 
don't vote you're an idiot," he told The Associated Press. 

The idea of rap stars as political motivators may seem opposite the 
image projected by many of today's rappers — a crowd that leans 
toward sex, violence, partying and the bling-bling lifestyle. 

However, James Bernard, who organized the Hip-Hop Political 
Convention in Newark, N.J., earlier this year, points out rap's long 
history of political muckraking, from KRS-One and Public Enemy in 
the mid-1980s to the current group dead prez. 

Although rap has been rapped plenty for its raw content, Bernard 
believes that "hip-hop music is getting more mature. ... I think it's 
just taken time for this conversation to bubble up." 

Jadakiss and P. Diddy acknowledge as much. 

Jadakiss says it was time for his music to reflect a larger view of 
the world: "As an artist, you're supposed to grow. I'm just trying to 
show maturity and growth as an artist." 

P. Diddy, who says he hasn't voted since the 2000 election, says 
running the New York City marathon last year while raising funds 
for charity helped him realize he could do more with his celebrity. 

"I think we're growing up, and No. 2, we're starting to recognize our 
power, and power is responsibility," he told The AP. "We have 
kids, we're thinking about other things. We want to do other things 
than making jewelry hot and clothes hot." 

"The same way we made a Biggie (Smalls) album hot ...we're 
going to saturate you with our message," P. Diddy said of his new 
campaign, Citizen Change, which he launched last week. 

There have been past efforts to get out the hip-hop vote. During the 
2000 election, Rap the Vote, an offshoot of the group Rock the 
Vote, used Mary J. Blige, P. Diddy, Queen Latifah and others to 
generate voter turnout among black and minority youth. 

But Curtis Gans, director of the Committee for the Study for the 
American Electorate, says those efforts haven't really helped 
much. Except for a few elections, he said, youth voting has been 
on a downward spiral. 


"People don't vote because of hip-hop artists or rock stars, they 
vote because they think there's something important to decide," 
said Gans. 

In the 2000 election, about 60 percent of those registered to vote 
actually did, according to the U.S. Census Bureau (news - web 
sites) figures. However, among 18- to 24-year-olds, only 36.1 
percent did. 

A sign of the hip-hop's latent power could be 34-year-old Detroit 
Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, who likes to quote Tupac Shakur and, 
when he was elected in 2001, inspired a 40 percent increase in 
turnout among voters ages 18 to 40 from the previous mayoral 

Some question whether P. Diddy — or any celebrity — can reverse 
youth voter apathy, particularly among minorities. 

"Celebrities help, but it has to be combined with an organization on 
the ground who have people and resources who actually go out and 
register people and at election time reminds those people and 
helps those people to get out and vote," said David Bositis, senior 
political analyst for the Joint Center for Political and Economic 

The ongoing war, worries about the economy and terrorism are 
among the issues that may get more young people interested this 
year, both Bositis and Gans said. 

Bernard said hip-hop fans are more animated right now: "I think a 
lot of young people are seeing this year as the year to jump in." 

But Kevin Powell, an author who has written extensively about hip-
hop and has held town hall meetings in several cities about the 
state of black men in America, said many of the efforts to spark 
the hip-hop vote are "too celebrity-driven." 

"Unfortunately, we're equating the rappers with being leaders, and 
they're not leaders, they're artists," said Powell, who complained 
there was little emphasis on issues and supporting new leaders by 
organizations such as Simmons' network. 

"Of course it (celebrity) helps, but there has to be an alliance 
between the celebrities and the people who were doing the work." 

Still, Benjamin Chavis, president and CEO of Simmons' Hip-Hop 
Summit Action Network, sees a burgeoning movement that will 
have a lasting impact. 

"All these are steps are leading to something much more enduring, 
because I think once people find out that they can make a 
difference, they're going to continue to make a difference," he said. 
"You're going to see young people run for Congress, run for mayor, 
run for senator ... This is not just a momentary blip on the screen." 


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