Music plays a big part in presidential campaigns – even when the artists don’t want it to. And as the current election cycle heats up, more candidates are turning to the hip-hop genre to help boost their campaigns.
Rick Perry memorably took the stage to the tune of a personalized rap rock anthem during his president announcement in June. Meanwhile, Jeb Bush and West Coast rap aficionado Marco Rubio have both vied for the support of Cuban-America rapper Pitbull.
But it was President Obama’s election in 2008 that marked an apex of hip-hop and presidential politics joining forces. Dubbed “America’s first hip-hop president,” Obama garnered dozens of endorsements from the rap superstars like Jay-Z, Will.I.Am and Puff Daddy. Rappers Ludaris and Young Jeezy both released memorable songs praising Obama. And his name has been ubiquitous on rap records ever since.
And while some members of the hip-hop community have grown disillusioned with the Obama administration and electoral politics in general, that hasn’t stopped a new crop of hip-hop stars from speaking out and making endorsements. Their stamp of approval may not move the needle much, but here’s a roundup of who rappers are voting for if you’re curious:
The Run the Jewels rapper and university lecturer has been vocal about his criticism of the Obama administration and the political process. In his politically-charged song “Reagan,” Killer Mike criticizes the former president’s foreign and domestic policy while linking him to the current class of leaders: “Just like the Bush’s, Clinton and Obama. Just another talking-head telling lies on teleprompters. If you don’t believe the theory, then argue with this logic: Why did Reagan and Obama both go after Gadhafi?”
However, his cantankerous streak hasn’t stopped Killer Mike from officially announcing his endorsement of Bernie Sanders. “It’s official I support @SenSanders! His call 4 the restoration of the voters rights act sealed the deal for me,” the musician wrote Monday on Twitter.
His endorsement isn’t his first foray into politics. An outspoken social commentator, Killer Mike attempted to launch a campaign this month for state representative in Georgia but was rebuked when he failed to meet the requirements to qualify as a write in candidate. Still, he has continued to encourage voter participation, even if he isn’t on the ballot.
While Ja might be best known for early-2000s hits like “Always on Time” and helping provide musical catharsis in the wake of the September 11th terrorist attacks, he also is politically active.
During an appearance on Fox Business in May, Ja had good things to say about Republican candidate Jeb Bush, but ultimately endorsed Hillary Clinton for president. “I like Hillary, but you know, it’s crazy because I also think Jeb is a good candidate as well, but I’m a Democrat so I will vote Hillary,” he said.
LIl B, the eccentric hip-hop artist and motivational speaker, recently known for putting a “curse” on NBA basketball player Kevin Durant, shared his appreciation for Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and his family on Twitter last week, tweeting; “I don’t no Bernie sanders but I want to say I love him and his family I hope he represents honesty and love @BernieSanders.“
Sanders’ campaign has since followed Lil B back.
“In Da Club” rapper 50 Cent has an unpredictable history with sitting presidents and candidates.
In a 2005 interview with GQ, he praised former president George W Bush saying “I wanna meet George Bush, just shake his hand and tell him how much of me I see in him.” He went on to defend Bush against charges of racism from fellow rapper Kanye West in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. But in 2007 interview with New York magazine, 50 clarified his thoughts on Bush, saying he ”has less compassion than the average human.”
50 Cent went on to endorse Obama over Mitt Romney in 2012. This time around, 50 is expressing enthusiastic support for a potential Hillary Clinton presidency. “It’s Hillary time!” he said in a May interview with the Daily Beast.
“I also think Hillary was the president already once. You know what I’m sayin’? Some of the things she says feel really comfortable, and roll off,” he added. “When people are really close with each other, they use each other as soundboards because they’re the other person’s best friend.”
50 Cent also said he admired Hillary for standing by Bill Clinton during the Monica Lewinsky scandal: “Even Bill’s imperfections run very consistent within men—the lust factor out of convenience. Things happen at points, and her seeing past that made her human to me.”
Waka Flocka Flame jokingly announced his own presidential bid to Rolling Stone this spring but that didn’t stop the Atlanta rapper from praising Hillary Clinton.
In an interview with MTVNews, Waka said, “A woman could do it.”
“I’ve seen my momma raise five boys – that’s super hard, so women can do the same sh-t that men could do,” he added.
Could Flocka even officially join Team Hillary? He said he’d do so under one condition: if she helps him promote his newest album “Flockavelli 2.” If Waka does successfully run for president, he’s promised to legalize marijuana, raise the minimum wage and outlaw bringing dogs into public eateries.
In 2008, the “Gin and Juice” rapper and marijuana entrepreneur told talk show host Larry King that he was torn between Obama and Hillary. This time around, Snoop says he’s excited at the possibility a woman in the White House. “I would love to see a woman in office because I feel like we’re at that stage in life to where we need a perspective other than the male’s train of thought,” he said on a recent episode of Bravo’s “Watch What Happens Live.”
“And just to have a woman speaking from a global perspective as far as representing America, I’d love to see that. So I’ll be voting Ms. Clinton,” he continued.
Curiously, Snoop endorsed Ron Paul in 2012 because of his stance on marijuana legalization, taking to Facebook to post an image of Ron Paul with “Smoke weed every day” written across it.
While the New York based “Problems” rapper stopped short of officially endorsing Clinton, during a game of word association he called Hillary “the other best,” right behind Kanye West.
Additional reporting by Douglas Holloway.