Hip-Hop is Losing the 2016 Election

Rainier Ehrhardt / AP

The co-opting of rap music for political purposes began back in 2014. Charles Rangel, U.S. Representative of New York’s 13th District, commissioned a couple of lowest-common-denominator rappers to write a rap song in support of his re-election campaign. It’s a terrible song by most objective measures, because an 84-year-old career politician wouldn’t know from good rap music anyway.

Fun fact: Charles Rangel has killed more Chinese people than most Americans do in a lifetime.

Rangel won his re-election with a whopping 87% of the vote. But according to Wikipedia, the total number of people who re-elected Rangel in the 2014 election (68,396) is about half the number who voted for him in 2012 (175,690). To me, this suggests that commissioning terrible rap songs for a political campaign reduces the number of people who participate in democracy, which is exactly what the Powers That Be want.


More recently, the co-opting of rap has been used as a tactic in the 2016 presidential campaigns. Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) started the trend by commissioning We Are Watchmen to write the song “Set It on Fire.”

It turns out that the rap was written and performed by a guy named Joe Salant, who claims to be a “founding member” of We Are Watchmen. All of my research indicates that he’s the only member of the group. It’s kinda like a White-people version of the New Black Panther Party in that sense, except Joe has some sweet tattoos and he’s batshit crazy. Here he is, rambling about apologetics and theism and using big words:

To boot, the ethos of the We Are Watchmen group is a bit of a bummer and invokes Nazi Germany to inspire support:

We Are Watchmen is a movement that uses music and message to mobilize American Christians to civic duty. Music. Message. Movement. Just as many churches in Germany sang louder on Sunday mornings to drown out the sounds of wailing Jews in boxcars on the way to the concentration camps, the majority of pulpits and pews in the American churches have been willfully ignoring the stench of blatant evil rising in this once godly nation.

Not to be outdone by wailing Jews, noted brain surgeon Ben Carson commissioned his own radio ad in support of his campaign to play in select urban markets.

It’s here where Carson becomes a maverick in the rap-politics game, because he was ballsy enough to dedicate more airtime to samples from his stump speeches than to actual rapping. The calculus behind the ad may have been to distance Carson from Barack Obama, a noted rap fan. It also demonstrated to Black people in urban markets that Carson, a fellow Black person, doesn’t actually like rap, and he won’t be playing all that clicks-and-whistles music in the White House.


Perhaps the most sophisticated co-opting of rap music for political gain was conducted by Rick Perry. He commissioned a country-rap song for his campaign performed by a White person and aimed at his target demographic of White people.

The lyrics describe Perry’s motivation to become president: “I won’t back up / I don’t back down / I been raised up / To stand my ground.” For people in urban markets, the “stand my ground” line likely brings to mind the shooting death of unarmed Black teenager Trayvon Martin, which doesn’t really do Perry any good in securing the Black vote. However, it’s possible that Perry doesn’t even want the Black vote, because he believes the Black vote only counts for 2/3rds of an actual vote.


Face the facts: making terrible rap songs in support of a political campaign only serves to distance people from the idea of voting. Why would you vote for someone who’s obviously pandering if they’re really bad at it? What else have they been lying to you about?

It would be one thing if these politicians were coming up with catchy rap songs that were subliminally influencing your vote. But instead, they’re outright telling you that they will do virtually anything to get elected, short of making a good rap song.

That’s the only argument for letting Obama have a 3rd term in office — he’d either make this bullshit illegal, or we’d get a hot mixtape out of it. He’s got Jay-Z’s phone number.