The Weekly Hip-Hop Word:
Will Rap Artists Run For Political Office in '96?written by Dave 'Davey D' Cook
You see, Boots is one of these political/messenger type rappers who has positioned himself in a unique way. He has mad respect from folks in the hood. He has not been viewed as someone who is preachy or too sophisticated that he goes over people's he ads. At the same time, the messages and concepts he has put in his rap songs do not come from empty rhetoric or a bunch of sloganisms. Boots is serious about what he says. He's well read and he's been studying things from day one... More important ly he's an activist.
Back in the days...'88-'89...Boots along with other like minded Bay Area activist formed the Mau Mau Rhythm Collective. It seemed to be modeled after the political based theater groups and poetry houses of the 60s during the hey days of Bla ck militancy. The Mau Mau, would hold monthly concerts that would feature poetry readings, lectures and of course hip hop performances from some of the Bay Area's underground groups. This whole concept epitomized 'Edutainment', a word that KRS -One was just starting to banter about.
Prior to the Mau Mau Rhythm Collective, I recall Boots being one of those Berkeley activist who was down for the cause. When Tom Metzger and his boys from the White Resistance and the Arrayian Nation decided to hold a rally 50 miles outside the Bay Area. Boots was one of those folks who went up to site to protest. In fact he rolled up on one of Arrayian kids and cracked him in the face. I recall Boots coming down to my old KALX college radio show and him trying to grasp and ar ticulate some of political and social concepts that were connected to his going up to protest. It wasn't too long afterwards that I got turned onto his group the Coup.
Now I don't know a whole lot about Boots. He's someone I've always seen around and gotten to know a bit better over the years. 7 or 8 years to be exact. One thing I have noticed is that he's always seem to be at the functions where politi cal change was going down. This past year, a large number of Bay Area political groups were meeting to form strategies to combat the attacks on Affirmative Action... Boots was there sitting in and contributing to the planning meetings. A month later durin g the controversial Board Of Regents meeting where California Governor Pete Wilson and Reverend Jesse Jackson squared off, Boots was there. Most recently the former members of the Black Panther Party.. Elaine Brown and David Hilliard helped put together a youth forum entitled What Happened To Black Youth In The Absence Of The Black Panther Party? Boots was there helping to organize. By the way Brother J, former member of X-Clan showed up for that forum and attended some of the workshops..but that's another story.
I cite these examples because I understand that in politics one must have a base and trust from their constituents. Trust is a commodity often lacking in the political equation, but Boot's track record has clearly shown that he's paid some dues a
nd earned some trust from a community that could really benefit from some radical changes in a more uplifting and positive direction. And so when I had this conversation with Boots, I realized that standing before me was an individual who not only had som
e popularity because of his lps and videos, but he also had a rich political and social understanding of things happening in his hood. And of course most importantly as I mentioned before he appears to have the trust of the people.
A rap artist running for office? How outlandish..is probably how many within the mainstream would view this concept.. But it is far from outlandish. White folks within the entertainment field have been doing this for years. Senator Bill Bradley ou
t of New Jersey, made a name for himself playing basketball. Sonny Bono and Clint Eastwood went from television and on screen icons to Mayors of Palm Springs and Carmel. Clint still does an occasional movie here and there and Bono took it to
the next level by getting himself elected to Congress. If you really wanna think about one of this lands most popular Presidents ..Ronald Regan went from movie actor to Governor to two term President of these United States.
This is not as far fetched as you may think. The KRS-Ones and Chuck D's of hip hop are no longer 20 year old kids trying to break into the business. They are now elder statesmen for hip hop who have amassed huge and loyal audiences. Why not try and t ake that audience and ignite the political arena. KRS-One should run for Mayor of NY. Chuck D should run for Mayor in Atlanta. Ice T or heck even Ice Cube should run for office in LA. Why not? Even if they don't win.. they could add some new factors i nto the political equation. They could bring to the forefront some issues a whole lot of folks have been ducking. And its not that Cube or KRS-One would be competing for the same votes as the politicians. They would be bring all those large numbers of pol itical inactive fans who've never voted to the polls...much the same way Jesse did in '84. Remember when Jesse was running he kicked that ass in many of the nations big cities. I'm certain some of our political rap stars can do the same.
So what are the possibilities of one of our big name rap stars running for office? According to Public Enemy's Hip Hop Activist and Media Assassin Harry Allen, we are years away from that happening. In a recent interview Allen stated that he f
elt that rap artists weren't ready for the political arena primarily because they "Don't understand or see the value in doing so", he noted. He went on to add that there has been little or no encouragement from the hip hop audience for such politi
cal minded artist to run.
While Allen's points are to be well taken and may in many ways be a bit more realistic given today's current climate, I simply can not see how any visible outspoken rap artist could not impact an election if they decided to run for an office. Whi
le the mainstream press would likely put forth a valiant effort to either ignore or discredit such political ambitions, I know that a hip hop artist running for office would still reach the masses, much the same way rap music itself has managed to not onl
y reach but also impact the masses inspite of all the bad and discrediting press.