The hip hop world is abuzz with rapper Lupe Fiasco’s branding of President Obama as biggest terrorist of them all. But Fiasco’s political views are not very different than many other hip hop performers. Rather, the suffocating liberalism of “mainstream” politics and corporate culture prevent radical performers from getting “room to breathe or airtime to occupy.”
Hip-Hop and The Weakness of Liberalism
A Black Agenda Radio commentary by editor and columnist Jared A. Ball
“Lupe’s remarks only seem controversial or rare because liberals and the Obamatons have made radical critique seem irresponsible or nonexistent.”
Lupe Fiasco, the Chicago-born Black American Muslim super rapper, has called Barack Obama the world’s “biggest terrorist.” On the one hand this is powerfully accurate and proof to many who doubt it that liberated thought can and does exist today within hip-hop. But on another, more prominent, hand it really speaks to the weakness of liberalism that has taken hold of the so-called Left in the last 50 years. It is a weakness that cowers before the persistent anger and radicalism of today’s colonized Black and Brown masses which causes would-be allies of all backgrounds to run for the comfort of liberal assurances that “hip-hop is dead” or is only about mindless self-directed violence and misogyny. So don’t get me wrong. Lupe Fiasco is dope. His latest album is a mainstay in my personal musical rotation, so much so that my daughters now demand that they hear his song “All Black Everything” every morning before school. But it is the broader limitations of liberalness that allow for his thoughtfulness to seem anomalous when actually Lupe’s views are quite mainstream in hip-hop – just not so much in the hip-hop that is mainstream.
I happened to be in a DC hip-hop show crowd as word of Gil Scott-Heron’s death a few weeks back was passed from phone to phone. And without skipping a beat while on the mic Enoch the 7th Prophet in perfect freestyle rhythm made the announcement and shout out to the legendary poet as if to give voice to what many in the room and in similar rooms around the world thought in one way or another; today’s Gil Scott-Heron only lacks the social movement that propels such revolutionary culture to the forefront, but she and we are here! So when, predictably, a few days ago the question again came up as to who in hip-hop would be today’s prophetic poet my response was, “she and he have been here and are everywhere. They just are not given room to breathe or airtime to occupy.”
“Hip-hop has had plenty to say about Obama’s fake change.”
Were there a real Left in this country Lupe would appear as he his, a talented but mainstream thinker. Lupe’s remarks only seem controversial or rare because liberals and the Obamatons have made radical critique seem irresponsible or nonexistent. From Mississippi where Skip Coon, truly reminiscent of Scott-Heron, has said that, “David Axelrod is really Ronnie Ray-Gun and Barry Obama can’t be this dumb…” to Arizona where Trebel Army looks at the entire system and says put a “toe tag on that damn thang!” to South Africa where Burni and Wasun have said that, they’ve read so much Mao that they are “half Asian” while “Obama is really half Black and half Reagan…” hip-hop has had plenty to say about Obama’s fake change. But only Lupe has that popular contract, the grief from which – reminiscent of the late scholar Ivan Van Sertima – nearly led him to suicide.
Even in one story about Lupe where hip-hop is described as not having much to say these days the author has to tell the story of Brother Ali, a lesser-known emcee whose career has suffered because of his song, “Uncle Sam Goddamn.” But I’m sure even the whitest liberal will skip that, dig out their Nina Simone, say “Mississippi” instead and claim to be radical.
For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Jared Ball. On the web visit us at BlackAgendaReport.com.
Dr. Jared A. Ball is the author of I Mix What I Like! A Mixtape Manifesto (AK Press) and can be found online atIMIXWHATILIKE.COM.