Big Things Poppin'

Is President Obama bigger than hip-hop? Hard to say, but his affect on the art form is certainly undeniable. After the jump, Jonah Weiner of Slate discusses the state of hip-hop in this new era of Obama.

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jayzprez

A well-articulated and thought out article. The Buzz only has a bit o' quibble:

"Obama's rise might weaken the position of those less explicitly political MCs, for instance, who rap about the allure of the drug trade in neighborhoods low on viable careers, or those whose gangsta tales make an implicit point about the conditions that create gangstas in the first place...Going forward, there may be less patience for this line of thinking. Our president overcame the disadvantages of growing up black and fatherless—what's your excuse?"

Comparing 50 Cent and Barack Obama's respective realities is dangerous. Yes; Obama grew up Black and fatherless. But being the progeny of an educated white woman and a PhD-pursuing Kenyan man who met while at university in Hawaii is not the same as being that of a pimp father and drug dealer mother who was murdered. Conflating the two allows the socioeconomic inequities that these "less explicitly political" MCs underline often leads to them being cast aside and ignored.

"Among Jay-Z's masterstrokes is that... he's never been interested in dismantling the status quo so much as infiltrating and mastering it. This is a fair description of what Obama did, too—with one crucial exception. For Jay-Z, the fact that he got rich as a businessman constitutes its own rebellion. Obama, though, is a former community organizer who chose public service over private-sector paychecks. His example might open up new sorts of narratives in hip-hop, ones where power isn't a synonym for wealth".

This seems to imply Jay-Z made his mark through the private sector while Barack Obama made his through the public, and the latter fact makes the two appreciable different. Relative to each case, this doesn't really hold water when compared side by side. Jay-Z was an independent artist who took the corporate track with Roc-a-Fella and exploited it to his own ends; Obama was a community organizer who realized his greatest impact lay in political track, took the track and exploited it to his own ends. In this case, beginnings, while important, have less impact than their ends. Assume that these tracks are both parallel and on the same level. Obama's power is synonymous with wealth and influence and being well-known.  Any narratives he might inspire, though they may show an appreciation for the community organizers of the world and expanded world-view in general, will still be derived from his status as the community organizer who became the most powerful man in the world, a position which includes a dimension of wealth. Remember: A Black man can be president, but a poor man cannot.

What's you take, Buzzonians?