Presidential Hip Hop

In today's second hour, Tom talked with filmmaker George Tillman Jr. and scholar Tricia Rose about the legacy of deceased rapper Biggie Smalls and hip-hop, particularly in the age of Obama. One of the biggest names in hip-hop today, rapper Jay-Z, who went to the same high school as Biggie, might best represent the melding of hip-hop culture with the new president's style and message.

President Obama's "body man," Reggie Love, helped Obama become a Jay-Z fan. And the hip-hop superstar performed at the official Staff Ball honoring Obama campaign workers last Wednesday during Inauguration festivites. But one of his unofficial performances in DC last week has been receiving much more attention. Bill O'Reilly, on his show "The O'Reilly Factor," with guest Dennis Miller, had some harsh words for Jay-Z and fellow performer, rapper Young Jeezy. During the concert, Jay and Jeezy sang songs with profanity-laden lyrics celebrating the departure of outgoing President Bush. At one point, Young Jeezy thanked the reporter who threw shoes at former-President Bush as well as those who helped him move his belongings out of the White House, with a good measure of profanity thrown in.  A clip of the "O'Reilly Factor" segment  is here.

Said Miller of the performance and what Obama means for hip-hop: "…You're looking at an obsolete model there. 'Cause, if the dinosaurs were done in by the asteroids, role models in the black community like that are about to be done in by a shooting star named Barack Obama."

Young Jeezy also put out a song a few months ago entitled "My President is Black" that speaks of Obama. Jay-Z is featured on the remix:

The future of hip-hop seems uncertain in the Obama era. As the song's lyrics and Obama's choice of Inaugural performers show, both our new president and the hip-hop community have embraced each other. But what the rest of the country will make of this sometimes strained relationship remains to be seen.

Sam Sanders is an On Point intern and a graduate student at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government.


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