As KRS-One articulated throughout his catalog and in his many teachings, "Rap is something you do, hip hop is something you live." As the culture continues to evolve today, many feel it's not only important, but vital to preserve and honor the fundamental elements: Graffiti, emceeing, breakdancing, deejaying and knowledge. This column called "Each One, Teach One" aims to do exactly that. It will highlight various lessons that can be passed between new and old generations alike.
Today (Nov. 6) is Election Day and the hip hop community is showing out in a massive way.
From today's Google Doodle to special stickers on Instagram to Twitter timelines in general, people all over the United States are participating in a digital push encouraging others to get out and vote, your favorite rappers included.
Hip hop itself has a long history of artists working to make a difference, whether through lyrics or activism or in its overall reflection of the times in society. As the culture has evolved since its rise to prominence as the most popular and influential genre, hip hop's presence in politics has also advanced, with more and more artists—even the more unlikely of candidates—getting involved.
This year, fans are witnessing an increasing range of artists across generations using their platforms on social media to encourage others to vote, stressing the importance of exercising one's right to vote and making statements about their own political views.
From younger artists such as Lil Yachty admitting he hasn't spoken much about politics in the past but endorsing Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams to more seasoned speakers such as T.I. and Common keeping the conversation going year-round, it feels as though the urgency to take action and not be silent has grown tenfold.
As the day unfolds with the 2018 Midterms upon us, our timelines will continuously be infiltrated by rappers, producers, singers, celebrities, executives and fans showing off their "I Voted" sticker badges of honor and urging others to participate while the polls are still open. Generally speaking, it's been powerful, eye-opening and interesting to see artists from across the board responsibly and positively coming together to use their platforms to push social awareness, political involvement and community activism in more ways than one.
Considering how much hip-hop has grown since its conception at 1520 Sedgwick Avenue, it only is fitting that it would begin to infiltrate 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue over time. Although hip hop power players, such as Kanye West, have been subject to all sorts of criticisms regarding both their political involvement and lack thereof over the years, that hasn't stopped anyone from working to navigate ways to use their influence to make a difference socially, economically and politically.
Before we take a look at who is getting involved in the 2018 Midterm elections, either by utilizing social media, jumping out of a plane a la Sean "Diddy" Combs, or attending a rally in person like Travis Scott did to showcase his support for Texas senatorial candidate Beto O'Rourke last week, let's revisit some takeaways that hip hop's past involvement in politics has taught us over the years.
Educate Yourself From All Angles Regarding How the Voting Process Works
Music mogul and entrepreneur Sean "Diddy" Combs played an undeniably influential role in the early aughts, founding the now-defunct nonpartisan organization Citizen Change in 2004 in an effort to motivate young voters. His "Vote or Die" campaign was a learning experience for many, Mr. Combs included, who later urged others to understand how the voting process works and to approach voting with their own informed judgements.
"Use your power socially," Mr. Combs shared at the 2015 REVOLT Music Conference while reflecting on his involvement and advocacy efforts in the political arena over the years. "We have different aims and the young have more power than ever. You got 200 followers, if you decide that you want to make it a topic of discussion and that thing goes viral… Do your part, and leave the bullshit out of it. Let's make a difference in this election. We all can play a part."
Russell Simmons' "Hip-Hop Summit," P. Diddy's Citizen Change ("Vote or Die"), JAY-Z's "Voice Your Choice" and AFL-CIO's "Hip Hop Voices" inspired the formation of the Hip-Hop Caucus in 2004. The national non-profit organization has since launched several impactful campaigns over the past decade. The goal of the organization is to "connect the hip-hop community with the civic processes that build power and create positive change."
From strategically partnering with entertainment industry leaders and national and local advocacy organizations to building a respected presence in the community and White House alike, the Hip-Hop Caucus's focus on community organizing, grassroots leadership development, cultivating thought leadership and helping communicate to a larger audience has proven there is strength in numbers and power in coming together.
Know Your Voice is Powerful
JAY-Z has become a visible political force over the years. From his "Voice Your Choice" campaign to his early and dedicated involvement campaigning for President Obama to organizing charitable fundraisers, such as his annual TIDAL X concert, JAY-Z has long been advocating for others to use their voices and know the true power of doing so.
"Now people exercising their right and you starting to see the power of our vote," JAY-Z said during a 2012 political ad endorsing Obama. "He made it mean something for the first time for a lot of people having someone in office who understands how powerful our voice can be."
Obama echoed the sentiment during his speech at Hov's Made in America festival. "Whatever your politics or your party, you should vote this fall," he urged. "I'm asking all of you to register and to vote and make your voice heard for the future you want to see."
While the country's political uphill battle marches on, especially when it comes to progressive policy change, voter turn-out and other issues impacting the country at large, hip hop's influence continues to grow in tandem. Take a look at 29 artists advocating for citizens to vote in the 2018 Midterm elections below.