It’s the 10th anniversary of “George Bush doesn’t care about black people.”
George Bush doesn’t care about black people,” was the cathartic moment heard ‘round the world. It’s been criticized, revered, referenced as a joke and a million other things. However, what gets lost in the memes, is that Kanye West had a bold message he was parlaying. He spoke about the perception of black families who were deemed “looters” versus white families who were just “looking for food.” He questioned why aid for New Orleans arrived at such a glacial pace. As with most Kanye moments, it wasn’t a rant founded upon ignorance. This was a bold and visceral reaction to injustice. It was a political act (albeit maybe phrased a little carelessly).
In honor of the tenth anniversary of the fateful Hurricane Katrina telecast, here’s a list of some of hip-hop’s most political moments.
1989 Grammy Awards Boycott
The very first Grammy award for hip-hop was presented in 1989. The National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences saw fit that the category would be created; however, didn’t think it was important enough to televise. In response, three rap acts—LL Cool J, Salt-N-Pepa and the winners, DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince—boycotted the ceremony. With hip-hop categories being cut from the telecast yet again, will rappers take a stand?
Young Jeezy ft. Nas—“My President”
There are tons and tons of political rap songs. As a rule of thumb, political songs were left off of this list because we don’t have the time to scratch the surface of political raps. But, an exception was made for this song. It’s the most memorable to commemorate the election of Barack Hussein Obama, the United States of America’s first black president, which is kind of like a big deal.
Cam’ron On The O’Reilly Factor
There have been plenty of rappers who have stepped into the ring with Bill O’reilly. Almost all of them spoke more eloquently and thoughtfully than Cam’ron. But, that’s not how you win a spar with the star of The O’Reilly Factor—you can’t fight intelligence with obnoxiousness. Bill O’Reilly will talk over you (maybe even scream) or just end a debate when he feels like it. No. You have to fight O’Rielly by being a troll. And troll Killa Cam did with a meme that’ll live forever.
David Banner Defends Hip-Hop In Front of Congress
Hip-hop has a great deal of misogyny, violence, homophobia and let’s not forget drug dealing. However, it’s a cyclical nature. The content found in rap music is a symptom America. In defense of hip-hop, David Banner spoke at a congressional hearing called: From Imus to Industry: The Business of Stereotypes and Degrading Images.Banner’s defense was a strong and reasoned one. “I can admit that there are some problems in hip-hop, but it is only a reflection of what is taking place in our society,” Banner said. “Hip-hop is sick because America is sick.”
Run The Jewels Perform In St. Louis While Ferguson Burns
This wasn’t an overtly political act, per se, but powerful with close examination. The evening that the Grand Jury made a decision in the State of Missouri v. Darren Wilson case, Run The Jewels were scheduled to perform in St. Louis, which is around eight miles from Ferguson, where Darren Wilson killed an unarmed teenager by the name of Michael Brown. A tearful Killer Mike gave a speech and his partner, EL-P stood in solidarity as an ally, a support system. Then, the duo tore through their set, packed with political raps, while protests took place a few minutes away.
Vote or Die!
Most eligible voters in the US don’t vote, and the number of young people who actually hit the booth are consistently abysmal. Before the 2004 presidential election, Sean Combs (man of many alias’) helped organize a campaign to get young people to hit the polls called Vote or Die! The result was a record high in youth turnout in2004 and then again in 2008. Puff Daddy gave us a better democracy and the Notorious B.I.G. He’s a legend.
Yasiin Bey Gets Force Fed on Camera
Guantanamo Bay is a military prison in Cuba founded in 2002 by the Bush administration, a few months after the tragic September 11th terrorist attacks. The facility was designed to capture and interrogate suspected or known terrorists. In recent years we’ve learned that what has happened at Gitmo was torture and are essentially war crimes. As a form of protest, detainees refused to eat. Yasiin Bey, formerly known as Mos Def, staged what a force feeding looks like on camera. It was so painful he couldn’t even get through it. Though president Obama had intended to shut down Gitmo as one of his first actions as president, detainees still remain.
Public Enemy’s “By The Time I Get To Arizona” Video
Stevie Wonder refused to play in the state. Public enemy on the other hand, recorded a song and video. this was in response to former Arizona governor Evan Mecham canceling Martin Luther King Jr. Day because he thought Dr. King wasn’t worthy of a holiday. Public Enemy’s video takes its cues from the Civil Rights era in much of its tone, but it’s controversial act was assassinating the governor. MTV only aired this music video once.
Ludacris Performs In Confederate Flag At 2005 Vibe Awards
While performing at the 2005 Vibe awards, Ludacris wore a tacky outfit emblazoned with Confederate flags. At the end of the performance, he ripped them off to reveal the flags in the colors of the Pan African flag: Red, black and green. Of course, that part wasn’t televised, which got Ludacris in some hot water andforced him to release a statement:
“The discussions that have been sparked after my performance of “Georgia” at the 2005 VIBE Awards is my exact reason for wearing a depiction of the Confederate Flag. This flag represents the oppression that we as African Americans have endured for years; this is a symbol of segregation and the racism that reigned not only throughout the South but throughout the entire United States. I wore it to represent where we came from, to remind people that Ray Charles’ original “Georgia” was written because of that racism. At the end of the performance, I removed and stomped on the flag to reveal my version of the flag; a flag comprised of black, red and green. Those are the colors of Africa. It is a representation and my interpretation of where we were and where we need to go. Racism is just as prevalent now and if we are not constantly mindful of our history and take charge of it; history is destined to repeat itself because of ignorance. In order to move forward, we must never forget where we were.
I hope people continue to question and challenge authority, media and themselves because questioning and challenging can only lead to enlightenment.”