[Marxism] Hollywood Rappers to get out the vote...
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
By NEKESA MUMBI MOODY, AP Music Writer
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
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,"
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
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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