How Hip-Hop Lost Faith in Obama: A Lesson in Lyrics

The fervor of the 2008 election has dimmed virtually every place you look. Obama’s nods in rap songs are no exception.

A few months before the 2008 election, the Queens-bred rapper Nas released his song “Black President,” hip-hop’s most direct ode supporting Barack Obama. The song invokes the famous campaign slogan “Yes We Can” and samples the title line from an early nineties 2Pac recording. Halfway through the track, Nas encapsulates what Obama means to him: “I think Obama provides hope and challenges minds / Of all races and colors to erase the hate / And try and love one another, so many political snakes / We in need of a break.”

Three years later, that hope has turned into disillusionment. MCs are still rhyming words with “Obama,” and their young fans aren’t likely to lend their support to the GOP anytime soon, but the fervor of 2008 has dimmed virtually every place you look. Obama’s nods in rap songs are no exception.

“The way he was interspersed with the hip hop industry and popular sentiment [was] very unique and in the moment,” says Bakari Kitwana, the former editor of The Source magazine. “It was Obama speaking a truth to power that hip-hop fully embraced. That sense of hope has since passed.”

For evidence, some rap musicologists have looked no further than rap songs themselves. Thomas Chatterton Williams, a commentator on hip-hop culture, says simply, “I don't hear as many references to him in lyrics.”

A search of, which tracks and explains the lyrics to thousands of hip-hop songs, finds 184 songs mentioning “Obama,” 55 mentioning “Barack” and 24 with the exact phrase “black president.” Meanwhile, any combination of “George” and “Bush” show up only 75 times.

The president usually surfaces in one of three ways: as a symbol of hope, mostly in songs produced before and immediately after the 2008 race; as a rhyme for words like "rock" and "holla"; and in a handful of songs criticizing the economics and politics following Obama’s election. While some artists, like Lupe Fiasco, address the president directly, most lyrics in the third category mourn how, in the Obama era, the change his voters once hoped for has eluded them.

In the song "Please, No Pictures" released earlier this year, the political rap group Bin Laden Blowin Up, or BBU, takes on a gamut of political issues that occurred under Obama’s watch and that disproportionately affected minorities and the poor, from the BP oil spill to the passage of strict anti-illegal immigration bills in Arizona. Looking back on expectations in 2008, the rappers remark, “Guess after the Obama shit you woulda had enough.”

Jasson Perez, a member of BBU, says the group doesn't give the president any special treatment. “As a rap artist I feel like it’s my job to call out and hold Obama to account [for] what he says he going to do,” Perez said. “It's the place of hip hop just as if it was any president. Just 'cause he is Obama it don't make it different, he is just a president and he will only be as good as we as people who hold him accountable. “

Other rap songs this year have subtly hinted at Obama’s lost luster as well, including Wu-Tang Clan’s "Never Feel This Pain" which includes the following string of lyrics: “I ain't waiting for Obama, never doubted him. / He real, he spend a couple million on the housing / and seeing is believing, my vision is blurred.” Kanye West and Jay-Z, both Obama supporters, didn’t directly namedrop the president on their opulent opus “Watch the Throne” after doing so on their previous individual albums. But the album has been interpreted as being inspired by Obama, held up as a symbol of the black elite who's nevertheless fallen short in bringing the change he promised.

Some rappers still tentatively have the president’s back, even if they’re willing to take him to task. “I don't cheerlead for Obama, but I don't hate on him for the sake of it,” says Perez. Though Jay-Z offered Obama his campaign support in September, saying the incumbent was still “the best man for the job,” the rapper also called out the president for not improving the economy. "Numbers don't lie,” Jay-Z told GQ in July. “Unemployment is pretty high. It's fucked up, but he's trying not to be the angry black man."

Whether Jay-Z and lesser-known rappers support Obama may matter come November 2012. If hip-hop fully loses its faith in the president, it will be hard to capture the turnout of the hip hop generation in 2008. Kitwana says that during the 2008 election, turnout rates among black voters age 18-29 outpaced that of all races in the same age group, including whites. Nowadays, recent polls show that even Millennials—Obama’s strongest supporters—are thinking twice about lending their support.

Williams, for one, is skeptical about the unity of the younger generation. ”Identity and symbolism is important,” he says. “But we are learning now it is not as important as governing.”

Photo courtesy of QYPE.

via Chela Horsdal / Twitter

Amazon's "The Man in the High Castle" debuted the first episode of its final season last week.

The show is loosely based on an alternative history novel by Philip K. Dick that postulates what would happen if Nazi Germany and the Empire of Japan controlled the United States after being victorious in World War II.

Keep Reading Show less
via Mike Mozart / Flickr

Chick-fil-A is the third-largest fast food chain in America, behind McDonald's and Starbucks, raking in over $10 billion a year.

But for years, the company has faced boycotts for supporting anti-LGBT charities, including the Salvation Army, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and the Paul Anderson Youth Home.

The Salvation Army faced criticism after a leader in the organization implied that gay people "deserve to die" and the company also came under fire after refusing to offer same-sex couples health insurance. But the organization swears it's evolving on such issues.

via Thomas Hawk / Flickr

The Fellowship of Christian Athletes explicitly announced it was anti gay marriage in a recent "Statement of Faith."

God instituted marriage between one man and one woman as the foundation of the family and the basic structure of human society. For this reason, we believe that marriage is exclusively the union of one man and one woman.

The Paul Anderson Youth Home teaches boys that homosexuality is wrong and that same-sex marriage is "rage against Jesus Christ and His values."

RELATED: The 1975's singer bravely kissed a man at a Dubai concert to protest anti-LGBT oppression

In 2012, Chick-fil-A's CEO, Dan Cathy, made anti same-sex marriage comments on a radio broadcast:

I think we are inviting God's judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at Him and say, "We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage". I pray God's mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to define what marriage is about.

But the chicken giant has now decided to change it's says its charitable donation strategy because it's bad for business...Not because being homophobic is wrong.

The company recently lost several bids to provide concessions in U.S. airports. A pop-up shop in England was told it would not be renewed after eight days following LGBTQ protests.

Chick-fil-A also has plans to expand to Boston, Massachusetts where its mayor, Thomas Menino, pledged to ban the restaurant from the city.

via Wikimedia Commons

"There's no question we know that, as we go into new markets, we need to be clear about who we are," Chick-fil-A President and Chief Operating Officer Tim Tassopoulos told Bisnow. "There are lots of articles and newscasts about Chick-fil-A, and we thought we needed to be clear about our message."

RELATED: Alan Turing will appear on the 50-pound note nearly 70 years after being persecuted for his sexuality

Instead, the Chick-fil-A Foundation plans to give $9 million to organizations that support education and fight homelessness. Which is commendable regardless of the company's troubled past.

"If Chick-Fil-A is serious about their pledge to stop holding hands with divisive anti-LGBTQ activists, then further transparency is needed regarding their deep ties to organizations like Focus on the Family, which exist purely to harm LGBTQ people and families," Drew Anderson, GLAAD's director of campaigns and rapid response, said in a statement.

Chick-fil-A's decision to back down from contributing to anti-LGBT charities shows the power that people have to fight back against companies by hitting them where it really hurts — the pocket book.

The question remains: If you previously avoided Chick-fil-A because it supported anti-LGBT organizations, is it now OK to eat there? Especially when Popeye's chicken sandwich is so good people will kill for it?


Oh, irony. You are having quite a day.

The Italian region of Veneto, which includes the city of Venice, is currently experiencing historic flooding. Venice Mayor Luigi Brugnaro has stated that the flooding is a direct result of climate change, with the tide measuring the highest level in 50 years. The city (which is actually a collection of 100 islands in a lagoon—hence its famous canal streets), is no stranger to regular flooding, but is currently on the brink of declaring a state of emergency as waters refuse to recede.

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet
via Gage Skidmore / Flickr and nrkbeta / flickr

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) dropped a bombshell on Tuesday, announcing it had over 900 emails that White House aide Stephen Miller sent to former Breitbart writer and editor Katie McHugh.

According to the SPLC, in the emails, Miller aggressively "promoted white nationalist literature, pushed racist immigration stories and obsessed over the loss of Confederate symbols after Dylann Roof's murderous rampage."

Keep Reading Show less
via Twitter / Bye,Bye Harley Davidson

The NRA likes to diminish the role that guns play in fatal shootings by saying, "Guns don't kill people, people kill people."

Which is the same logic as, "Hammers don't build roofs, people build roofs." No duh. But it'd be nearly impossible to build a roof without a hammer.

So, shouldn't the people who manufacture guns share some responsibility when they are used for the purpose they're made: killing people? Especially when the manufacturers market the weapon for that exact purpose?

Keep Reading Show less