How Rappers Are Like Republicans

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Thomas Chatterton Williams--who's wagged his finger at President Obama's iPod and may or may not listen closely to hip-hop--writes in The Root this week that rappers have more in common with Republicans than the casual observer might think. "The message coming out of hip-hop is decidedly right of center," Williams writes. As evidence, he notes that many rappers are "pro-gun rights," "atavistically homophobic," and "unquestioningly God-fearing"--all points, he says, that might resonate with the American right wing.

But more than this, Williams argues, hip-hop is profoundly aligned with the values and aspirations on which the conservative movement is founded. "There is a reason the hip-hop generations have never produced a Huey Newton or a Malcolm X," he writes. "Hip-hop--when it transcends the gutter and goes beyond the streets--doesn't want to overthrow the system; on the contrary, it wants desperately and at any cost ('Get Rich or Die Tryin'') to join it."

Williams writes:

In terms of class consciousness, Public Enemy and X-Clan notwithstanding, hip-hop as a cultural movement is undeniably aspirational and never revolutionary: The biggest, baddest hip-hop rebels -- from Cam'Ron to Fabolous to Mobb Deep to the late Biggie Smalls -- are remarkably bourgeois at heart, with 1950s-era dreams of parking gas-guzzling Cadillacs in front of cookie-cutter tract homes in New Jersey. If anything, hip-hop is the enemy of a radical challenge to the capitalist status quo.

You could make the case that Williams is simplifying a diverse genre for the sake of his argument, but the Wire will leave that task to others. Instead, we offer for consideration one of the first YouTube results for "You Down With GOP."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.