Now that Obama’s won and all, culture crit types can go back to slicing up current events and carrying the crumbs back to their corner—Did rappers win the election? Do rappers hate gays? Is it really all about the Mormons? Are we going to get a Basquiat in the White House? Still this ESPN column on black athletes and social awareness by Jemele Hill gets at one aspect of the entertainer/endorser phenomenon which feels pretty new to me:
But maybe an Obama administration means the end of the “Republicans buy shoes, too” era ushered in by Michael Jordan, who gave black athletes the blueprint for how to stay apolitical for commercial reasons.
She goes on to solicit a quote from Ray Allen—“You may have a Republican paycheck, but the people around you have Democratic status”—which is as concise an argument for entertainers (in this context, read rappers) looking out for their consumer as I’ve read. That Jordan bullshit looks more and more pernicious. Not all consumers are created equal; as Allen says, it’s the people around you who count. One of the best belated election outcomes seems to be the way certain artists—Jay-Z comes to mind, but let’s add T.I., Russell Simmons, and Nas here too—have subtly adjusted who they’re speaking to. This is why “Boyz” still sounds good, as far as I’m concerned, a week and half after the election it was designed to affect. It’s just not getting old hearing rappers—anybody, really, but especially guys that previously just haven’t—talk about the people who actually run this country.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on November 14, 2008