June 23rd, 2009 | By Sonnie Johnson
1992, I was spending summer vacation with my cousin in the heart of Richmond, Va. Normally, I was restricted to listening to gospel music and oldies. Now I had a little freedom to sample Hip Hop. It was Mary J. Blige, Real Love. I was “Hypnotized”.
2001, I wanted to look beautiful for my birthday, so I scheduled an appointment to get my hair braided. I got up early to go to the hair shop and made my way to the African Braiding Salon. I was early, so I ventured home to pack a lunch for my hubby to go to work. I got home just in time to see the first plane hit the first Tower. Thinking it was an accident, I left to make my appointment. I made it to the shop just in time to hear about the plane crashing into the Pentagon.
Everyone in the shop joined hands and prayed. We prayed for the people on the plane, we prayed for the people in the Twin Towers, we prayed for the rescue worker and everyday hero, we prayed for every family member affected. Then, then we prayed for the terrorist and their supporters. We prayed God would soften their heart. Last, we prayed for President George Bush. We prayed that God would grant him the strength to protect this nation in the days ahead.
12 hours later, I rode home listening to Jill Scott’s, A Long Walk, trying to gather my thoughts. I always believed in God but I wasn’t at the point in my faith where I would pray for the very men that caused massive destruction to my fellow countrymen. I wasn’t at the point of political maturity where I thought George Bush was that important. All I knew was Jill Scott’s melodic voice made me………..WAKE UP!
The intent of my trip down memory lane was not to invoke memories of that day. It was to express the power of Hip Hop. Since I heard my first Hip Hop song, I’ve used the music as a coping mechanism. When I was sad, happy, lonely, amongst friends, busy, chillin, and all the gray areas in between; Hip Hop was there.
All dedicated to my two greatest loves, Hip Hop and Future of the United States of America. And YES! I did a shameless plug of everything I got going. You know why? I believe in Capitalism, the Free Market, and an individuals’ right to choose their own destiny. If you find that thing that ignites your passion, work for it and you can get the American Dream. I plug myself every chance I get, did I mention…….
Hip Hop combines two of my favorite political platforms, Capitalism and Free Speech. The former provides the strength and power to protect the latter. The more capital raised by the Hip Hop industry, the less politicians are willing to attack it. As artist, consumers, promoters, and fans we have given Hip Hop power in the political arena. Democrats have taken full advantage of this new source of power. Where are the Republicans?
After President Obama’s history making election, the central focus was the new technology. All the social networking sites, iphones, and laptop computers created massive grassroots efforts. How? Did the phones hit their owners upside the head and tell them to vote for Obama? Did the social networking sites deny access to those with opposing veiw points? Did the laptop computers instantly send Republican outreach to the spam box?
NO! It wasn’t the hardware, the software, or phantoms whisping through. It was the people on the outgoing end of the tweets, myspace bulletins, and facebook posts. Ludacris, Common, Jay-Z, Puffy, and the list goes on and on and on. Obama wasn’t afraid to be photographed with the artist, even though they cussed, wrote lyrics involving gun violence, or showed misogynistic tendencies. He knew no one follows Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, or Rahm Emanual on twitter. The core Hip Hop base are the people that can sell out packed arenas and go platinum in a day.
Ironically, these are the same people who show the rest of us that Capitalism works. Each taking one step, then another, unwilling to stop, uninhibited by haters or road blocks, and unafraid to risk everything betting of themselves. Each a true and shining example of the American Dream, no matter what you think about the art form that got them to that status.
Imagine this. You gather the aforementioned stars like Obama gathered the execs at Chrysler. You inform them, the rappers on myspace aren’t making the same amount of money as they are, so they need to sign every thing over so it can be redistributed. Could you picture Puffy video blogging about that conversation under a sheet with a flashlight, like he mocked Sarah Palin? Or do you think he would have his legal department trying to figure out a way to stop the government or get his money some where it can’t be touched.
Or try this one. The state in forms Jay-Z, New York no longer allows any weapons in the home or on your person. It doesn’t matter you were never convicted of a felony. It doesn’t matter your weapon is registered and you have a license to carry. It doesn’t matter that you are a Billioniaire, with a face every body knows, and a bullseye on your back, your bodyguards aren’t even allowed to bare arms. How long do you think Jay would remain a New York Resident? Everyone wants to blame the government for T.I.’s conviction, not realizing Democrats push for the laws that make it difficult or impossible for reformed felons to protect themselves and their families.
But we never have these conversations with the movers and shakers in the Hip Hop community. They present themselves, back a candidate, and never have to answer a policy question and those of us who don’t pay attention, assume they know what they are talking about. As their popularity grows, so do the numbers of youth in the Democratic Party.
And how do we combat this? Conquer the hardware? Throw bugs in the software? Or truly become inclusive and let the Hip Hop Community into the Republican Party. This doesn’t mean just the generation who grew up in Hip Hop and graduated to something more. This also includes the generation that grew up in Hip Hip, graduated to something more, and decided to take Hip Hop with them. The Hip Hop fans that can look past graphic language to see true lyrical talent. The encouraged entrepreneur who listened to Fifty’s, “If I can’t do it, homey it can’t be done” right before he closed a multi-million dollar deal. The conservative sister that finds laughter and ridicule when she stands and says, “Better recognize a real woman”.
These are the people who don’t listen to Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, Bill O’Reily, or any other conservative host. I know this because I don’t listen to any of the shows. I agree with most policy positions but they don’t capture and hold my attention. I don’t do Elvis and country music comparisons and I don’t appreciate Hip Hop only gaining notoriety when something goes wrong.
As a proud black Republican that carries Hip Hop like my weapon of choice, where do I fit in? If I want to play Hip Hop music on my radio show, do I have to buy the clean version from Wal-mart? Which would go against every principle of free speech and censorship I have? Or do I participate in the Capitalistic system I praise so much?
Believe me, this is not something I just came up with. Since the beginning to WHWDRadio, I’ve made every attempt to reach out to politicians and artist alike. While the politicians have been wonderful and gracious with their time, once I tell an artist my political affiliation, the interview never happens. I inform them that the segment will have nothing to do with politics, just music and they still refuse. Yet, they continue to send their new material and ask my opinion. The true entrepreneurs who look at any audience as a chance to get a couple fans question if they have to change their lyrics to accommodate my audience.
Is my audience really that different than any other audience willing to listen to a fellow Americans perspective of life? If it is, then the Republican Party has no chance to win the minority vote. They are willing to listen, if we are willing to respect the power they hold. This means excepting their form of expression and means of communication. Social Networking means nothing if you can’t reach the people in the society.