Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton and her rival, Sen. Bernie Sanders, have been closely competing in the polls and for celebrity endorsements since last summer, but the former Secretary of State just won the support of a star with influential and symbolic significance: Will.I.Am.
The Black Eyed Peas front-man pledged his voice for Clinton’s 2016 candidacy in an interview Wednesday with CNBC at the World Economic Forum in Davos. Will.I.Am had been one of then-Sen. Barack Obama’s biggest celebrity supporters in 2008 during his contentious Democratic primary fight. One of that campaign’s signature moments was when the hip-hop star used soundbites from Obama’s inspirational New Hampshire concession speech for a promotional video entitled “Yes We Can.” The video, which featured celebrities including Scarlett Johanasson and John Legend, became a viral sensation, eventually gaining 25 million views on YouTube alone.
The Will.I.Am. endorsement represents yet another example of how members of the Obama coalition, which spurned Clinton’s candidacy eight years ago, are now rallying around her. Clinton has very aggressively courted Obama voters, and has repeatedly pitched her candidacy as an opportunity to build on the accomplishments of his two terms in the White House. But while her efforts have won her an enormous amount of support from the Hollywood community, Sanders has held his own.
One of Sanders’ biggest celebrity advocates has been politically charged rapper Killer Mike. The Georgia-based artist recently got into a very public spat with Atlantic writer Ta-Nehisi Coates, who has been skeptical about whether the Vermont senator could have success seeking reparations for African-Americans over the injustices of slavery. “The fact that blacks have to even justify the case for reparations is shameful,” tweeted Killer Mike. “The fact that only 1 candidate is being called to task is Bulls–t. Especially when that candidate is the only one with policy proposal that directly effects the black community if elected.”
“Candidate that I think wud be most sensitive to the very accomplishable [sic] goal and the other things that can/will help Black people is Sanders,” Killer Mike also tweeted.
But the majority of hip-hop stars who have voiced an opinion on the 2016 race seem to be solidly in the Clinton camp, perhaps a sign of her continued strength within the African-American community, where Sanders has struggled to make inroads. Snoop Dogg, A$AP Rocky and Waka Flocka Flame have all publicly endorsed her. And she famously appeared in a selfie alongside rap star Kanye West and his reality star wife Kim Kardashian.
it’s unclear whether Will.I.Am. will set his support for Clinton to a beat, but pop star Katy Perry has already shown a willingness to provide a soundtrack to her campaign in his stead.