Attacking Rap Music Is An Old Trick: Tips Politicians Can Use To Harness Hip-Hop

Bob Dole

It used to be a great tactic for Conservatives and Republicans to attack rap music.
As Hip-Hop began to merge with mainstream culture in the 1990’s, a number of politicians took issue with the genre over the lyrics. Just like some out of touch politicians like Dr. Ben Carson, Mike Huckabee and Ohio Govenor John Kasich have recently criticized Hip-Hop music as a whole, singer Beyonce and even The Roots!!
Over the last 20 years, a number of Presidential hopefuls in the United States have gone to war with Rap Music. Figures like Bill Clinton (1993), Senator Bob Dole (1995), Rev. Al Sharpton (2004) and others have found themselves entangled in Hip-Hop beef.
Back in 1993, an epic rap battle played out on the nations televisions, radios and newspapers.
When Bill Clinton was running for President, he was engaged in a bit bitter feud with Sister Souljah. The elections were held the year after the Los Angeles Riots, which were the most deadly in United States history. Like a needle stuck on a record, it was caused by, what else? Police brutality.
The violence broke out after the six officers caught on the tape beating Rodney King were acquitted of criminal charges. At the time, Sister Souljah was a rapper and orator and had been making media appearances stating her opinion on the riots.
Sister Souljah stepped into international politics after this famous comment to The Washington Post:

“I mean, if black people kill black people every day, why not have a week and kill white people? You understand what I’m saying? In other words, white people, this government and that mayor were well aware of the fact that black people were dying every day in Los Angeles under gang violence. So if you’re a gang member and you would normally be killing somebody, why not kill a white person? Do you think that somebody thinks that white people are better, or above dying, when they would kill their own kind?”

The mainstream media caught wind of these comments, as did Presidential nominee, Bill Clinton. A month later, Clinton decided to address Sister Soulja’s comments during Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow Coalition event in June of 1993.
The night before Clinton’s remarks, Sister Souljah had addressed the same crowd. This led advisors like Paul Begala to pressure Clinton to reply to Sister Souljah during Jackson’s event, to make a point to the conservative and swing voter base he was supposedly attempting to appeal to. Clinton remarked:

“If you took the words ‘white’ and ‘black’ and reveresed them, you might think (Ku Klux Klan member) David Duke was giving that speech.”

The audience was stunned. Clinton’s comments garnered international attention and offended Jesse Jackson as well, who immediately denounced Clinton for attacking his guest.
President Bill Clinton later admitted he may have been out of sync.
“At the time, I didn’t really understand the rap culture. Over the years, Chelsea often told me it was full of highly intelligent but profoundly alienated young people and urged me to learn more about it,” Bill Clinton wrote in his memoir, “My Life: The Early Years.”
“Finally, in 2001, she gave me six rap and Hip-Hop CDs and made me promise to listen to them. I did. While I still preferred Jazz and Rock, I enjoyed a lof of the music and I think she was right about the intelligence and the alientatiom,” Bill Clinton said. “But I think I was right to speak out against Sister Souljah’s apparent advocacy of race-based violence, and I believe most African-American’s agreed with what I said.”
In 1995, the witch hunt over Gangsta rap lyrics and pressure from Bob Dole, C. Delores Tucker and former education secretary William Bennett put so much pressure on Time Warner for selling “Cop Killer” by Ice-T, that Warner infamously dropped its main label, Interscope Records. Even President Bush denounced the music.
“It’s a great victory for our children and America’s future, and it does show me that Time Warner does have a corporate soul,” said C. Delores Tucker after the short lived victory over Interscope. The label signed a deal with MCA (later renamed Universal) and blew all the way up thanks to classic albums by Tupac Shakur, Snoop Dogg and others.

A newly published article in the Washington Post offered up a number of tips for guys and gals like Clinton.

DO remain calm and collected if you meet a rapper




DON’T participate in amateur rap performances

DON’T say ‘Who Let The Dogs Out’ when taking a photo with voters

DO play a rap that’s been specially rewritten for your campaign — if it’s good

Check out the full list at