Black Republicans Trying to Find Hip-Hop
Can the genre associated with urban youth co-exist with the GOP? Not in this lifetime. Black Republicans may not get the language, the attitude, and the style, but they aren’t immune from the music. It’s a bit strange to see a Black Republicans “thro-in-it up” and doing the “lean back.” It’s out of ordinary to watch traditional Republicans "gettin down" with the newest star of the party, Lieutenant Governor Michael Steele, at the 40-40 Club in Lower Manhattan. Steele invited his colleagues from the conservative wing of Maryland’s Republican Party to the event. Talk about fish out of water. “What’s that music they’re playing?” was heard by many of the lighter persuasion. Maryland State Senator Alex Mooney, who is as conservative as they come, was shooting pool in a backroom. He looked like an extra in the movie Scarface. (FYI, there was a poster of Tony Montana in a nearby room.)
Faces spotted in the crowd include New York Post Conservative Columnist, Robert George, Joe Phillips ( NPR’s Tavis Smiley Show Political Commentator), Regan Hooper (Steele Press Secretary), BET Reporters, Andre Showell and Stephanie Frederick, “Lazee” Lamont King of the Russ Parr Morning Show, and Comedian Cheryl Underwood.
King from the Russ Parr Show was amazed by the whole surrealism of the convention. “It’s very dull and staged (the convention). The protesters aren’t given even 30 seconds to protest. You’ve got the city on virtual lockdown. It’s different.” He compared his impressions of Black Republicans as “two sides to a coin.” According to him they were “either old and detached or young and out of touch.”
So where were the Hip-Hop Kings of New York? The only one to show his face was Shawn “P-Diddy” Combs, sporting a Mohawk hair cut (must be for a movie he’s shooting). He made the rounds of each network on Thursday promoting his “Vote or Die” campaign. The campaign kicked off in Boston during the Democratic Convention and will feature prominent artists wearing the t-shirts (50 Cent, and Queen Latifah just to name a few). During an interview with Bill O’Reilly, the conservative talk show host, Rielly tried to bait Combs into becoming a Republican.
“So let me get this, your mother raised you, kept you out of trouble, no one has ever given you a handout and you started your company on your own,” says O’Reilly, “So why aren’t you a Republican?” Puff Daddy responds, “Nah, we’re just an independent organization trying to awaken a sleeping giant.” Combs hands the host a t-shirt and is off to his next television interview. FYI, I bought one of the shirts in New York. It set me back $30.
In Harlem, Russell Simmons’ Phat Farm has taken out a huge billboard promoting hip-hop and voting. But on the street level the message and slogans are being squeezed by a skeptical audience.
Nov Felder, a street bookseller in Harlem, cut right to the chase, “’Vote or Die’ is a slogan and we have to educate our people so they will know what they are voting for…we need some kind of voter union to make sure our vote isn’t wasted.” Shauntay William, a New York actress, got the symbolism in the slogan. “If you think about it (the slogan) is right, if you go to war, you die.”
One thing is for certain, hip is about the only thing that young Black Republicans can look for in hip hop for the time being.
Lastly, there was the unlikely citing of Andre “Andre 3000” Benjamin of Outkast. He was interviewed outside the lock-up area for protesters. When asked why he was there, “One of my interns went down to the march and was arrested and I came to get him out.” What happened to the time when artist went to jail on principle and interns watched? It seems that infamous folk song has come to life, “The times are a changin.”