Hip-hoppers for Obama

Obama_lPresidential primary season is in full swing at the moment, with a crowded field of candidates from both parties struggling to distinguish themselves from the pack. There’s not too much to say about all of that from a pop-culture junkie’s perspective (at least until former Law & Order star Fred Thompson hits the hustings), except for one crucial question: Who’s got the most rock-star cred? In recent weeks, it’s seemed like Illinois Sen. Barack Obama (pictured) has the most musical supporters, at least, as former Ruff Ryders rapper Jin and a mysterious reggaeton troupe called Amigos de Obama have both released online singles supporting him. So how do their tunes stack up?

The untitled reggaeton number is fine, as far as it goes. Nice piano hook, solid beat… and that’s about it, over and over again for three minutes or so. The lyrics are mostly in Spanish, so I can’t speak to their content, but they sound pretty basic — "Como se dice? Como se llama? Obama! Obama!" — and the anonymous vocalist with the monotonous flow ain’t exactly the next Don Omar. All in all, it plays like an undercooked caricature of the genre. Current reggaeton is full of inventive electronic textures and snappy, varied rhythms; too bad these guys didn’t bother using any of those.

addCredit(“Barack Obama: Morry Gash/AP”)

Jin’s "Open Letter 2 Obama"comes with a lot more potential. For one thing, Jin’s not some nobody:He’s a pretty talented guy who once released a fairly well-receivedalbum, ABC, whose lyrics were exclusively in Cantonese. Andhe’s been semi-officially embraced by Obama HQ, who added him as theirtop friend on MySpace when he released his song. "Their campaign istaking a risk [associating with hip-hop]," Jin told MTV News."They could easily not recognize me at all. Easily. ‘Cause it’s a bigliability." That’s a fair point given the current spate of rap-bashingin the media. Unfortunately, the real liability of his "Open Letter"isn’t the fact that it’s a hip-hop song — it’s that the song inquestion is thoroughly wack. "The world’s watchin’ him/After the JackAbramoff scandal, he vowed to clean up Washington," Jin awkwardlyrhymes. Later, he voices his opinion that "God’s son is voting forBarack." That’s either a disingenuous attempt to bring religion intothe race or a shameless attempt to speak for an infinitely more talented rapper, and I’m not sure which option is more off-putting.

Thankfully, Chicago emcee Common has provided a brief respite fromthe mini-epidemic of mediocre pro-Obama songs: Midway through hisexcellent new Kanye West-produced single, "The People,"Com slips in the line, "My raps ignite the people like Obama." Indeedthey do — and if Common ever recorded a full song in tribute to thesenator, it just might turn the election in his favor. Until then,Obama might as well be on his own.

What’s your take, PopWatchers? Have I missed any other artistswho’ve recorded songs in support of a candidate? Which dream act do youwish would enter the musical-endorsement field?

Comments (11 total) Add your comment
  • daisyj

    As much as I’d like to be an advocate of positivity in all things, the fact is that pop songs do a lot better when they’re in opposition to something. Pro-whatever songs just always seem to end up self-righteous, or treacly, or just stupid.

  • Ed

    Obama? mmm, I don’t think I’m going to swing my vote because someone belts out a cool song I can gyrate to at the local gay club. I’m all for Hillary, bring back the lesbian chic look and I’ll rally for her.

  • Jack

    How about this new Barack song —
    “I Got a Crush…On Obama”


  • James

    Someone here doesn’t know anything about trasheton!

  • EP Sato

    I dig Obama and hope he goes all the way. A 2008 election between him and Fred Thompson, Mitt Romney or McCain would re-invigorate and bring out the best of both parties.
    Music wise, I’m still loving the salsa commercial Al Sharpton did for the NYC race a few years back.
    On Reggeaton, where is DJ Playero’s endorsement? Does Pantyman think much of 2008’s field? The reggaeton community is going activist a la Sean Diddy Combs. Question is whether or not those who dig on Reggaeton are going out to vote in a primary.
    Daisyj, agreed for the most part. But exceptions abound:
    “Free Nelson Mandela”. Also (now, with hints of irony) Man in the Mirror by Michael Jackson. It was Pro positive change.
    How about, “the Superbowl Shuffle”, it was pro Bears. I’m a Green bay fan and still liked the song!
    That all said, it’s better to latch onto an old hit like Tarrantino did with Pulp Fiction or Clinton did with that Fleetwood Mac song.
    Don’t! Stop! Thinking about Tomorrow!

  • KingLouieXVIII

    I’m not sure if I’m backing Obama, yet. Jury is still out. But I have to admit he’s the frontrunner in my personal election. In regards to the music, I agree with the first post. Pro-songs tend to be cheesy. Obama is better off choosing a pop song that is not necessarily political, but that expresses what he’s all about.

  • Justin Lakertimb

    Have you guys seen this incredibly-racist anti-Obama flash animation? It plays to all the usual white suburban fears circa 1970.


    I suspect the Republican National Committee is behind this one – it’s too well produced to be a one-off by a wacko.

  • Ep Sato

    Let’s not forget the Obama girl.
    She’s got a crush on Mr. Obama….
    Turns out it was written by the girl who wrote ‘box in a box” and the singer is really a model.
    Check it out at obamagirl.com

  • Ben Herson

    If you’re interested in hip-hop and politics here’s another interesting event happening in DC! In Africa hip-hop is being used to engage in a similar dialog with incredible results.
    THE AFRICA PROGRAM AND THE PROJECT ON LEADERSHIP AND BUILDING STATE CAPACITY invite you to a documentary screening and discussion titled
    African Underground: Youth and Hip-Hop in African Politics
    Wednesday, July 11, 2007
    6th Floor Auditorium
    Woodrow Wilson Center
    Performance and Reception at XXX to Follow
    Dr. Ben Chavis, Co-Founder and President of the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network (HSAN);
    CEO of H3 Enterprises
    Benny Herson, Founder and Director of Nomadic Wax Production Company
    Magee McIlvaine, Co-Founder and Director of Sol Productions
    Moussa Sall, Senegalese Hip-Hop artist
    Marc Sommers, Research Fellow, African Studies Center, Boston University; Associate Research Professor of Humanitarian Studies, Institute of Human Security, The Fletcher School, Tufts University (invited)

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