Right On?: Hip-Hop Is Platforming Instead Of Fighting The Power

Source: @fatjoe / Instagram

“I never had dinner with the president!” – Ice Cube (“No Vaseline”)

O’Shea Jackson’s jab at Eric Wright on the scathing diss track aimed at his former N.W.A family carried significant weight in 1991. At the time, the president represented the power that was oppressive to the Hip-Hop community. A group like N.W.A didn’t participate in a lunch benefiting the Republican Senatorial inner circle, which was hosted by then-President George H. W. Bush. And the idea that Eazy-E did just that painted him out to be a traitor to the community.

We fought the power for change in our community, we didn’t fraternize with the power in an attempt to join their fraternity. And any individual in the Hip-Hop community who didn’t adhere to these unwritten laws was subject to being publicly tarred and feathered. No questions asked.

Fast forward to 2024 and, as The Notorious B.I.G. once said “Things Done Changed.”

The power that we were up against in the 80s and 90s has changed shape over the years. It’s a little more complicated to figure out who “The Power” is now when the economics and landscape have been modified, altered and remodeled. In some ways it has changed for the better but, as they always say—the more things change, the more they stay the same.

The idea of having dinner with the president shifted dramatically once Barack Obama took his seat in the Oval Office on January 20, 2009. But a Black man being head of state didn’t prevent unarmed Black men and women from being gunned down by those sworn to protect them in the years that followed. There are more prominent millionaires of color in America but the same structural issues that oppress minorities in the alleged “Land of the Free” are still present.

What happens when you begin sharing a tax bracket and oxygen with the power you once thought you were fighting against? It becomes really difficult to fight the power when you become the power and start to think, “Oh, this isn’t so bad after all.” And for a lot of these rappers, it’s reaching Laurence Fishburne levels of Deep Cover where those who think they are being undercover agents of chaos become swept up in the life and end up doing more harm than good.

Source: Consolidated News Pictures / Getty

Kanye West infamously wore the “Make America Great Again” hat in support of Donald Trump while recently Ice Cube galavanted through South Central LA with conservative and racist pundit Tucker Carlson. Obviously, there is a lot of nuance to be had when it comes to these interactions because they aren’t all bad, but it oftentimes takes on the guise of the Hip-Hop community being subservient to those who would have never allowed us in the esteemed country club several decades ago if we weren’t cleaning toilets and sweeping the debris from the crustless cucumber sandwiches. There is no tradeoff or challenge of ideologies. Instead, it’s empowering those who have spent their energy trying to destroy us by giving them our platform to espouse their overtly bigoted and immoral views.

We let our guard down just long enough for someone like Donald Trump to sneak into the back door of the White House in 2016 and empower fellow bigots and sexists to believe that their behavior isn’t just okay, it should be paraded.

And we’re dangerously close to it happening again.

Source: handout / Candace Owens

Just recently, Joe Budden was photographed with notorious self-hating conservative commentator Candace Owens for a future episode of The Joe Budden Podcast while Fat Joe shared a post on social media where he purchased Donald Trump’s new sneaker the Ayran Nation 12s (I kid, I think).

Sharing our platforms and our audiences with individuals who have spent the majority of their careers in the spotlight disparaging the very communities we come from is a dangerous proposition.

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