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Hip-Hopping the Vote

If there are as many young people voting in the upcoming election as there are organizations and news reports about efforts to get young people to vote, then that will be something.

I think the key to the whole campaign can be summed up in this quote from Russell Simmons: “We want people to feel like if you don’t vote you’re an idiot.” If they can do that, they might make some progress. Here’s another story on the subject:

    P. Diddy is just the latest rap figure this year to try and make voting cool to a hip-hop generation that Combs has dubbed “the forgotten ones.”

    Russell Simmons brought his Hip-Hop Summit Action Network to the Democratic National Convention in Boston on Monday. About 2,000 people turned out as stars such as Wyclef Jean, Loon, Lloyd Banks and Bone Crusher urged them to register to vote.

    The muzzled mouth of OutKast’s Andre 3000, who also was present at the Boston event, is adorning new public service ads by the nonpartisan group Declare Yourself, with the motto: “Only You Can Silence Yourself.” And Jadakiss, who raps about drug dealing, violence and other thuggery in his lyrics, is raising political issues in his new song “Why” and giving interviews about voting and getting the minimum wage raised.

    “This is the collective conscious of hip-hop at work,” said hip-hop mogul Simmons, who over the past three years has enlisted superstars like Jay-Z, Beyonce, Eminem, Nelly and Ludacris as his group registered thousands of young black and Latino fans to vote.

    “It’s a cultural snowball effect. We want people to feel like if you don’t vote you’re an idiot,” he told The Associated Press

    ….There have been past efforts to get out the hip-hop vote. During the 2000 election, Rap the Vote, an offshoot of the group Rock the Vote, used Mary J. Blige, P. Diddy, Queen Latifah and others to generate voter turnout among black and minority youth.

    But Curtis Gans, director of the Committee for the Study for the American Electorate, says those efforts haven’t really helped much. Except for a few elections, he said, youth voting has been on a downward spiral.

    “People don’t vote because of hip-hop artists or rock stars, they vote because they think there’s something important to decide,” said Gans.

    In the 2000 election, about 60 percent of those registered to vote actually did, according to the U.S. Census Bureau figures. However, among 18- to 24-year-olds, only 36.1 percent did.

    A sign of the hip-hop’s latent power could be 34-year-old Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, who likes to quote Tupac Shakur and, when he was elected in 2001, inspired a 40 percent increase in turnout among voters ages 18 to 40 from the previous mayoral race.

    ….But Kevin Powell, an author who has written extensively about hip-hop and has held town hall meetings in several cities about the state of black men in America, said many of the efforts to spark the hip-hop vote are “too celebrity-driven.”

    “Unfortunately, we’re equating the rappers with being leaders, and they’re not leaders, they’re artists,” said Powell, who complained there was little emphasis on issues and supporting new leaders by organizations such as Simmons’ network.

    “Of course it (celebrity) helps, but there has to be an alliance between the celebrities and the people who were doing the work.” [AP]

To paraphrase Russell, if they can make people feel left out, like they are really missing something by not voting, then they can make a real difference.

Declare Yourself here, Citzen Change here, Rock the Vote here.

About Eric Olsen

Career media professional and serial entrepreneur Eric Olsen flung himself into the paranormal world in 2012, creating the America's Most Haunted brand and co-authoring the award-winning America's Most Haunted book, published by Berkley/Penguin in Sept, 2014. Olsen is co-host of the nationally syndicated broadcast and Internet radio talk show After Hours AM; his entertaining and informative America's Most Haunted website and social media outlets are must-reads: [email protected], Facebook.com/amhaunted, Pinterest America's Most Haunted. Olsen is also guitarist/singer for popular and wildly eclectic Cleveland cover band The Props.

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