As I argued in an article for The Guardian last summer, many rappers haven’t been feeling the love either. Some, like Immortal Technique and dead prez, have been critical of Obama from the beginning, as has Lupe Fiasco, who became Obama’s most high-profile critic in the hip-hop community. The song that got him yanked offstage this week, “Words I Never Said,” includes the incendiary line “Gaza Strip was getting bombed / Obama didn’t say shit / That’s why I ain’t vote for him.” In subsequent interviews, he doubled down on his criticism, at one point saying, “To me, the biggest terrorist is Obama in the United States of America” and at another describing Obama as “someone who is a great speaker, but kills little children.” Not exactly the kind of guy you’d expect to tone it down at a pre-inaugural concert.
Other rappers have been far more ambivalent in their support. Speech, of Arrested Development, supported Obama in 2008, but came out for Ron Paul in 2011, saying he’d become disillusioned with Obama. But then, as the election approached, Speech hopped back on the bandwagon, taking to social media in support of the president and encouraging others to vote for him. Killer Mike came out in support of Obama in 2008, but on R.A.P. Music, one of the best albums of 2012, he went on the attack. On the song “Reagan,” he characterizes Obama as “just another talking head telling lies on teleprompters” and goes on to compare his foreign policy to the Gipper’s. Yet, even as that song was raising eyebrows across the country, Mike was insisting in interviews that he wanted Obama to win reelection, going so far as to claim that black voters would sell out their race if they didn’t support him in 2012: “If you don’t vote for Obama this time you’re a fuckin’ race traitor,” he said.