Being a supporter of Donald Trump while also being a head-nodding, hip hop devotee is impossible. Squaring one with the other would involve either a stunning amount of ignorance or an aggressive sense of irony that borders on psychotic.
And yet, these people exist.
It seems impossible to be in both camps because they are the cultural antithesis of one another; they are opposing forces. Trump was brought up rich, powerful, white and privileged beyond belief, while hip hop was born in the South Bronx, the creation of working-class African Americans and Latinos. It has been the poetry of struggle and the voice for the voiceless since Kool Herc, KRS-ONE and Rakim, and it still is today.
Hip hop is the product of the hood, it’s city music. Donald Trump and his family were sued for housing discrimination against African Americans in the early 70s in New York City, the birthplace of rap.
Then, of course, there’s the case of the Central Park Five. In 1989, a young, female jogger was brutally raped and beaten in Central Park. Five black and Latino boys ages 14-16 were arrested and charged with the crime. Two weeks later, Donald Trump, in his infinite, and definitely not racist at all, wisdom, took out a full page ad in all four major New York papers (an $85k investment), referencing the case and calling for the city to bring back the death penalty. This was before any trial or conviction had occurred.
The boys were found guilty in 1990 and spent years in prison only to later be exonerated after a fellow prisoner and serial rapist admitted to the attack, and DNA evidence backed up his claim. The five men settled a lawsuit with the city for $41 million in 2014. However, Trump, as he is wont to do, doubled-down on his decision to place the ad just last year saying he still believes the boys, now men, are guilty.
In 2012, a documentary film was released by doc-master Ken Burns on the Central Park Five case. The film showcased what an absolute travesty of justice the whole thing was.
Here are some artists who contributed to the soundtrack for that film:
LL Cool J
Eric B. and Rakim
For those of you who may be unaware, this lineup is chocked full of rap legends, many of whom helm from NYC.
Trump has been referenced in hip hop tracks in the past, but only as a symbol of wealth. These were the days when many people (those who were unaware of the aforementioned lawsuit and the Central Park Five ad) thought of Trump as a cartoonish rich guy. And he was. He was a ridiculous and pompous figure who lived in a tower lined with gold. Whenever he was brought up it was about obtaining an obscene amount of wealth, it was never about the person.
Now the man and the symbol are indistinguishable, and the only Trump references we’ll be getting from here on out (as we’ve heard in the new Joey Badass and Kendrick Lamar records), will be far from flattering.
This vilification of the “other” that Trump displayed in the late 80s, this aggressive brand of scapegoating and fear-mongering eventually became a primary campaign platform of his—and it is inherently anti-hip hop. Hip hop is about the black experience and the rise, Trump is about suppressing and delegitimizing the struggle, boosting whiteness and quelling diversity. Whether he is a white nationalist or just decided to campaign as one doesn’t really matter, Trump is a Breitbarting, Fox Newser who hired Jeff Sessions, Steve Bannon, Steve Miller, Michael Flynn and Mike Pompeo among others.
None of these cats have heard Illmatic.
If they did, they’d be scared of it, they’d want to institute martial law on Queensbridge.
Trump is also a friend of Bill O’Reilly, the guy who once claimed rap was responsible for the decline of participation in organized religion, among other things.
Trump knows nothing of struggle, he never has. The heart of hip hop beats in a universe Trump knows nothing about, it’s light years away from him, he views inner-cities as barren hellscapes that rain bullets and food stamps.
So if you consider yourself a hip hop head, or even just a casual aficionado, and you also are a fan of our president, you need to reevaluate your life, because your soul must, it simply must, be tearing itself apart.
You have to give one up.
A human being can only exist in a framework this contradictory for so long before a cellular civil war begins and one’s body evaporates into a fine dust.
You have to give one up.
You can’t be head nodding to Black Moon, or Artifacts, or Heiro, or The Pharcyde, or Tribe, Or De La, of The Roots, or Eric B. and Rakim, or just Rakim, or Big Daddy Kane, or Mr.Lif, or Jay Z, or Company Flow, or Run the Jewels, or Brother Ali, or Dr.Octogon, or The Real Roxanne, or Roxanne Shante, or Natural Elements, or Outkast, or Saul Williams, or Black Star, or The Arsonists, or Boogie Down Productions, or Rah Digga, or J-Live, or Nas, or Mobb Deep, or Wu Tang, or Redman, or Nas, or MF Doom, or J Dilla, or Eminem, or Jadakiss, or Royce, or Public Enemy, or Immortal Technique, or Common, or Pharoahe Monch, or RA the Rugged Man, or Heltah Skeltah, or Bahamadia, or Dilated Peoples, or Atmosphere, or Kung Fu Kenny, or Chance, or Childish Gambino, or Diamond D, or the Beastie Boys, or Aesop Rock, or ASAP Rocky, J Cole, or Anderson .Paak, or MC Lyte, or Jean Grae, or Tupac, or Biggie, or Easy E, or Charizma, or ODB, or Big Pun, or Pimp C, or Guru, or Eyedea, or Big L or to anyone else in this realm whilst rocking a Make America Great Again hat—you just can’t do it.
You have to give one up.
And it really should be Trump.
by Jesse Mechanic
Jesse Mechanic is the editor in chief of The Overgrown.