Al Gore & Hop Hop
by Davey D

It was just a matter of time.. but it was bound to happen.. Al Gore is reaching out to the Hip Hop community to try and bolster his appeal to an audience that for the most part has been all but turned off by him. He has reached out to Queen Latifah has just taped a segment on her popular talk show. Gore realizes in such a tight race every vote counts and there's a huge legion of folks who simply haven't been tapped and asked to participate. Many of those folks are a part of the Hip Hop generation [18-34] who number anywhere from 30-50% of particular communities. For example, within the African American community more then 50% of the population is in the voting range under 30. Yet I can scan through publications, newspapers and tune into radio shows that hit that audience and see nor hear no trace of Gore.

Perhaps his handlers figure its a waste of time and resources since in many elections the so called Hip Hop audience is conspicuously absent even when there are pressing issues that will directly effect them. However, things have been changing. More and more young people have been attempting to become active and involve themselves in the process. This was evident by the activism surrounding the campaign to defeat Prop 21 here in Cali and the attempts made by Russell Simmons and others with their Rap The Vote campaign. Many of the Hip Hop websites including,,,,, and myself have election pages and lots of political information for our visitors to peep out. Our radio station's website has a ton of election information. Publications like The Source, Blu Magazine and Stress have long provided nice political commentary and analysis for their Hip Hop readers. Strangely enough Gore has been absent from our midst. No ads, no interviews, nothing. Many of us had to watch from a distance while he's addressed an array of issues at Town Hall meetings and campaign whistle stops that have had little if any appeal to the Hip Hop audience.

It is only this week that I finally got a phone call from his camp to get some his folks on our my radio show and this was after me raising hell via my own political connections. Up to that point our number one radio station couldn't even get call backs from his people...That includes our morning show, sales department and community affairs department. Apparently Cali and the Hip Hop audience wasn't on the radar screen. On the flipside it only took a couple of calls to get Green Party candidates Ralph Nader and Medea Benjamin to touch down in our studios and kick it live for two hours. By the time they were done people were definitely feeling them and ready to vote in their direction. Bush's camp had no problem getting their top people including their Communications director and Senatorial candidate Tom Campbell to come on the show and talk to our audience. Gore's folks up till now were MIA.

Now, one can make the argument that he had more pressing issues like appealing to undecided voters. The Hip Hop audience is not heavily investing in Gore's campaign financially speaking.. Nor are they showing up in huge numbers to the polls. I say it doesn't take that much to have some of his folks who have national appeal and acclaim to reach out to a large audience that has for most part gone untouched. What are we talking about here-a 10-15 minute interview? At the very least Gore's folks could've hired a street team to hit us up with flyers every time we left a night club. Gore's Vice Presidential pick is always calling into radio shows hosted by people like Don Imus. Has he done the same for Hip Hop jocks like Big Boy on Power 106 or Colby Colb in Philly or Buckwyld and Star on New York's Hot 97? I do realize Gore touched down with Angie Martinez a while back. Has there been in a follow up? Has Gore made his presence felt with the Hip Hop community? Or should he? Is it a waste of time? Would cats rather bling bling or study the issues and vote? Is a 10-15 minute phone interview, a few hundred bucks on some appealing Hip Hip style flyers and a few print interviews to key publications a waste of time for the Vice President?

On the flipside, I had no problem getting an interview with first Lady Hillary Clinton. I had a little more difficulty but nevertheless got a station drop from her husband Bill Clinton. Heck I remember when Bill was running, he brought Queen Latifah with him to Oakland and she opened up his rally.. Guys like Ralph Nadar have high profile artist like Michael Franti or dude from Company Flow speaking up and letting cats know about the Greens. Even Bush employed some break dancers for his convention.. {I'll admit it was a cheesy attempt}. If I was Al Gore I would've gotten Hype Williams to do a couple of commercials designed to reach the Hip Hop audience. Heck at least get a street team going.. Aside from that with all the intelligent, active Hip Hoppers both in front and behind the microphone, Gore and his crew should've been able to reach out and touch some people? Are there no Hip Hop writers he couldn't sit down with and grant interviews? Are there no Hip Hop organizations he couldn't sit down and work Zulu Nation, Third Eye, Rocksteady, HipHopPac, Temple of Hip Hop etc?

Call me naive, too demanding or unrealistic.. But Gore has not figuratively spoken to me. Yes, I understand he addressing some issues that are of concern to me.. But he's not reaching out.. within the the Hip Hop world I reside in.. I see no trace of Gore or his people. Him reaching out to Queen Latifah is a the first time he's registering on the screen. My biggest beef is that he's doing what has long been done with the Black community-Taking us for granted. We traditionally vote in the neighborhood of 80-90% for the Democrats.. Perhaps he feels that will automatically translate over to the Hip Hop audience as we get older. Many of us are no longer kids.. many of us now have kids.. and we're at an age where we should taken a lot more seriously.

I always tell people this.. When cats like Bush want to appeal to the Latino community he gets his good looking nephew to hang out with him and the Texas Governor starts speaking Spanish.. Whether or not you agree with his policies is irrelevant. What he is symbolizing is the fact that the Latino population is important enough for him to learn and speak Spanish to ask for their votes.. Politicians will jump through hoops to appeal to you when they have to..Why is Hip Hop not included in that attempt to appeal?

If Gore wants to reach senior citizens he will have an aide research and obtain information that is important to that segment of the population. He will then go out and try to make himself appealing to them. He may hold a town hall. He may take out an ad in their special publications. He may even use language and terminology that appeals to them. If all else fails, he may wind up sending in a surrogate who resonates with that audience. If Gore wants to talk to the plumbers union, before he approaches them and tells them 'I want to fight for you'. His aides will make sure he knows the difference between a rachet wrench and a socket wrench. Gore may dress down and wear plaid shirt as opposed to a stuffy suit and tie. He will go out of his way and find the icon for the plumbers union and make sure he' standing on stage with him as he addresses that body of people.

When Gore and his folks wanted to appeal to church going folks, he made sure he was up to speed with Biblical verses which he generously sprinkled throughout his remarks.. When Gore wanted to appeal to women he kissed his wife on stage for about 30 minutes. How is Gore trying to appeal to Hip Hop? What sort of information are his aides gathering? Does he not have anyone on staff who could at least tell him a 'little some'em some'em'? Hip Hop is more than Puff Daddy and Jay-Z or Russell Simmons. That's common knowledge.. His aides should've been able to tell him that. We're talking about the Vice President of the US.. I am certain that the VP is up on things.. You can't tell me there hasn't been any sort of intelligence gathering going on about the Hip Hop community?

The bottom line is this.. This is not the first time I raised these issues. I flew out to DC on my own expense and down to the Democratic Convention at my own expense and publicly made these suggestions when I spoke on the panels I was invited on. I kicked this game in articles before.. And more importantly had these conversations when we were trying to reach out to Gore's staff people a couple months back trying to get interviews. I've come to the conclusion that many of these political types don't want to open up the flood gates by talking to the Hip Hop audience. They would ideally prefer to keep us not voting and out of the mix. They would really rather have us 'bling bling' than 'vote vote'.

The science behind this is simple. It means less work for them to do. Right now Gore has his hands full trying to satisfy potential voters in places that he thought he had on lock like California or his home state of Tennessee. These and numerous other states are now up in the air. He's running around having to put out all sorts of political fires. Guys like Ralph Nadar are stepping up efforts and causing Gore even more grief, because Gore figured he could blow off the progressive wing of the Democratic party. Nader saw all those people being left in the cold and came through and has swept them up. He appealed to them by raising issues that Gore wouldn't touch.. like abolishing the death penalty, stopping the failed war on drugs and halting the building of prisons. At first Gore tried to ignore Ralph by freezing him out of the debates. But more and more people began feeling Ralph's message and now Gore is in a messed up position. Cats that he figured he could automatically count on to vote for him are now looking elsewhere. They're going with Ralph Nadar. Hence the race is now close and Gore could lose because of the Nader factor. If the Hip Hop community was active and just as demanding as the progressive community, seniors, the Latino community and others, Gore would have yet another headache to deal with.

He would be calling for the death penalty while a very vocal Hip Hop community would be pressuring him to get rid of it. He would call for more prisons and the Hip Hop audience would say 'more schools instead'. Gore would find himself under pressure from the Hip Hop community to check the police and to get more affordable housing. It would put him in opposition with some of the people in the Democratic Party who he has been trying to appeal to.. Hence rather then have a conflict, he's all but ignored the Hip Hop audience. The more we bling bling the better for him..All this could've been avoided had he reached out earlier and engaged us in the conversation.

With him getting down with Queen Latifah, it's a last minute attempt to reach out to an untouched audience that he figures will vote for style over substance. My guess is he figures there will be people who will call each other up and say 'Girl, that Al Gore was on with Queen Latifah-I better go get my vote on'. Why didn't he touch down on her show earlier? As a politician I can understand him doing this.. As a community I say don't give him an easy ride.. Let dude and his people reach out and earn his votes. Listen to what he has to say.. study the issues.. There are a ton of resources on the web for you to peep.. and vote accordingly. I will say this as I close out.. This will be the last year politicians either ignore or take the Hip Hop audience for granted. Let us all make this a commitment that we stick to.. .

To all those who have been keeping the political flames burning. I say turn up the heat and let's all make a commitment to keep ourselves and our audience politically aware. It doesn't have to be a cost prohibit venture. To be politically aware requires us changing our day to day conversations and stylo. To all those independent rap artists who are releasing your own material, I suggest you link up with local organizations and include some conscious raising and political material in your CD. Some of these outlets will pay for the material. Artist like Michael Franti and Paris were famous for doing this..To this day I still use the indepth write up Paris gave of the Black Panthers and the Nation of Islam on the inner sleeve of his first album. One guy called the station the other day and wanted to take the major record labels to task for not including voter registration cards in all their releases this year. I say he was on to something.

I would also ask any artist who has it within them to speak on a political situation. Scream on a politician they way Screwball did Mayor Rudy Giuliani. Take up a cause the way Mos Def and Talib did with Police Brutality or the way Michael Franti did Mumia or the way Hammer did Prop 21. Every time Franti releases an album he dedicates it to a particular cause. One year it was Aids, Another year it was Prison Industrial Complex.. I think his next album may be centered around the plight facing Mumia. With the availability of the Internet and MP3 technology, artist can speak to an issue and simply load it up on the web for mass distribution. This what Chuck D and Confrontation Camp have been doing. They've already done songs like Son of a Bush and a track dealing with the crack down on Napster. Every song does not have to be for profit.

Graf writers with the web you can put up protest art similar to the stuff done by cats in Sacramento who run Put up some good pieces and pass them around to all the Hip Hop sites.. I'm sure folks will provide links and make sure proper credit is given. Lets all of us look out for each other and help spread the word.

To all the b-boys and b-girls let's borrow a page from organizations like Zulu Nation and Rocksteady to elevate Hip Hop's fifth element which according to Bambaataa is Knowledge.
Lets always have a spiritual and community base attached to our functions and whenever possible lets tray and support a community organization pr a worthy cause. The seeds we plant today may be our saving grace tomorrow.

To all the artist I suggest that we take seriously our star power and celebrity status. Bring some of you star power to the underground.. Grant interviews to those college stations and underground magazines and help build them up.. For example, Outkast made a special appearance at Chabot College in Hayward for their college radio station. It was a packed event and helped KHCR shine even more on the Hip Hop map. Several years ago, Suge Knight took time out and granted an interview to a small Bay Area based publication called Roots. he told the writers that he was doing it to help them come up. He knew that by giving them an interview it would help generate magazine sales. I still have that issue. More artist need to do this..Don't just mess with the majors players get down with the up and coming. For example, how many artist have attempted to get interviews or even brought ads with their local Black or community newspapers? How many artist have gone out of their way to kick it with local video shows.. To all those writers, and radio cats be sure to ask questions that allow an artist to address his thoughts on politics or his involvement with the community. Just don't ask about the latest video and newest album..

None of these things cost money, but the outcome of taking such steps will go along ways in the community. It will send a signal to people that there is nothing wrong or soft about being politically aware.. I recall during the Source Awards stood next The Poetess of KKBT and ask every single artist from Method Man to the East Sidaz to comment on the election and ask who they were voting for.. Some of the artist said they had no idea and said they weren't gonna vote. The Poetess then followed up and asked why.. It was at that point you had some real compelling an interesting responses.

The bottom line is this We will have to work the politic because the politic will definitely work you.. especially if you stand by and don't involve yourself.. To all the community organizations and elected officials its time for folks to hook up and reach out to the Hip Hop community. These are our brothers and sisters. They come from our neighborhoods. They just didn't appear out of thin air.. If we don't reach out and talk to them about politics.. who will???

by Davey D

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