Russell Simmons brought his Hip-Hop Summit Action Network to the Democratic National Convention in Boston on Monday. About 2,000 people turned out as stars such as Wyclef Jean, Loon, Lloyd Banks and Bone Crusher urged them to register to vote.
The muzzled mouth of OutKast’s Andre 3000, who also was present at the Boston event, is adorning new public service ads by the nonpartisan group Declare Yourself, with the motto: “Only You Can Silence Yourself.” And Jadakiss, who raps about drug dealing, violence and other thuggery in his lyrics, is raising political issues in his new song “Why” and giving interviews about voting and getting the minimum wage raised.
“This is the collective conscious of hip-hop at work,” said hip-hop mogul Simmons, who over the past three years has enlisted superstars like Jay-Z, Beyonce, Eminem (news – web sites), Nelly and Ludacris as his group registered thousands of young black and Latino fans to vote.
“It’s a cultural snowball effect. We want people to feel like if you don’t vote you’re an idiot,” he told The Associated Press.
The idea of rap stars as political motivators may seem opposite the image projected by many of today’s rappers — a crowd that leans toward sex, violence, partying and the bling-bling lifestyle.
However, James Bernard, who organized the Hip-Hop Political Convention in Newark, N.J., earlier this year, points out rap’s long history of political muckraking, from KRS-One and Public Enemy in the mid-1980s to the current group dead prez.