[Short Version: A = B; B = C: A = C. Trump responds to bravado; bravado is what rappers emulate: Trump tries to emulate rappers, their cultural cache. Trump talks to those he admires. He doesn’t vibe with the classic straight man type (See Comey). In a time where there is a domestic crisis in political access to and sway with the president, cultural inroads need to be made. Who's the rapper that has been in most recent contact with President Trump? Mr. Kanye West. Thus, Kanye needs to talk to Trump. I, hereby, dub Kanye Ambassador to the President.]
“Blue collar billionaire” sounds like a rap song. It’s not, but it’s what Don Jr. called his father, our president, earlier this year while defending him on charges of racism . Don Jr. continues, “You know it’s amazing--all the rappers, all his African-American friends, from Jesse Jackson to Al Sharpton, have pictures with him” . Charles Blow, in Trump, 'He's Like a Rapper' writes, “[Trump’s] previous and present relationships with hip-hop royalty have put the hip-hop royals in a bind, because the racism we see was not their experience of him. For them, his racism was muted by their money” .
Trump’s complicated relationship with rappers can be termed, what Blow calls, “the racism of exceptions.” (Example: Marveling at black people’s music or swagger but not liking actual black people). It has been argued by black celebrities, who knew Trump prior to the election, that his stance toward issues of race felt very different than the vitriolic tone that he set and, consequently, unearthed during his campaign.
Again, the president’s relationship with black celebrities is a complex one, for sure. Because my aim is to make the argument that cultural inroads need to be made to the Oval Office, to get the right messaging to the president, it is important to note Trump’s affection for rappers. The common thread, the affinity that Trump shares with rap culture is an embracing of rebel culture. That doesn’t mean that Trump’s brand of disruption has been nearly as ameliorative and positive, globally, as hip hop has been. What it means is a shared style for challenging the status quo.
Our country is not perfect, neither is our president, nor our cultural icons. Yet and still, there is a country that needs to be run. I am very much at odds with Trump’s views on women’s rights, issues in housing discrimination and respecting relationships with our political allies. Nonetheless, someone has to be able to reach the president. Trump needs someone who speaks Twitter.
The President’s affinity for strongmen gives us a clue as to energy he responds to. Prowess. The issue is that strongmen come with complicated politics...Let’s say the dictatorial, fascist kind. Our president is not immune. Similarly, for all the cultural cache and legacies that rappers come with, they, too, have complicated politics. At least rappers in their craft learn to be accountable, intimately and professionally, with their fan-base.
It has been noted that Trump, in his family business, has never had to be accountable to a board of directors or shareholders . Jumping into being responsible to a whole nation, might have been a massive learning curve for him. Rappers can help with that. They have fan-bases in multiple countries. That is why I think they should talk: Trump and Kanye.
It’s not unprecedented for rap and politics to intersect. Rappers have been speaking truth to power since hip hop’s birth. Rap is inherently a political art form. The former mayor of Philly, Michael Nutter, performed “Rapper’s Delight” by the Sugar Hill Gang at his inauguration in 2008. Killer Mike, the consummate lyricist that he is and a frequent guest on Bill Maher, publicly endorsed candidate Bernie Sanders in the run up to the 2016 presidential elections .
Antonio Delgado, a Democratic candidate for Congress who won the most recent primaries in a district that is 83% white, had a fledgling career as a rapper in college. The Rhodes scholar, Harvard Law School grade, went by the name “AD the Voice” . Mr. John Faso, his running mate typified Delgado’s work as a “sonic blast of hateful rhetoric and anti-American values” . Rap’s lyrical history has been as notorious as Trump’s Twitter page. While many rappers note that policy-wise they do not agree with Trump, they find some affinity with him rhetorically.
Russell Simmons, wrote an open letter to Trump about six months after he announced his candidacy titled, To My Old Friend Donald Trump, Stop The Bullsh*t. Simmons writes, “I want to begin this tough criticism by reminding you that I am the Chairman of The Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, whose sole mission is to fight bigotry of all kinds...Stop fueling fires of hate. Don’t feed into the rhetoric created by small-minded people. You’re smarter and certainly more loving then you let on” .
Others have been less glowing in their commentary, but have signaled a desire to work with Trump for the sake of the country and the betterment of their communities. Such as rapper Meek Mills, who scheduled a visit to the White House earlier this year to talk about prison reform but later backed out due to political pressure and astute counsel from his friend, Jay-Z.
Trump seems to not understand the honor culture of politics but understands the honor culture of entertainment (quid pro quo). “Hey, I said nice things about you. Say nice things about me.” Politics doesn't work that way for all sorts of reason, (issues related to getting on the record & how a statement is going to be interpreted amongst one’s base, and so on and so forth).
Thus, a politician or even a military person trained in diplomacy may not speak at the same register and resonance for President Trump than an entertainer would. See the swift effect Kim Kardashian, Kanye’s wife, had in petitioning for the commuting of Alice Marie Johnson’s sentence in her June meeting with the president on prison reform.
The civil rights movement was aided by by artists leveraging their celebrity to keep the pressure on and find inroads. We had folks like Harry Belafonte, Lena Horne, Muhammad Ali & Lorraine Hansberry, to name a few. Our civil liberties are under attack. We need some celebrity power
Kanye West has a whole list of supporters. That means greater access in appealing to Kanye to appeal to the president. Kanye may help Trump understand what it means to be accountable to something larger than himself. Let the titans of Twitter talk.