The last time I was forced to think about Mitt Romney and hip-hop in the same context, the result was awfully embarrassing to watch. So, you can imagine my reaction when I heard Nicki Minaj of all people endorsing him on a record.
In 2008, Romney made a complete fool of himself in Jacksonville, Fla., at a staging area for a Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade.
While posing with a group of black people, he clumsily joked, ”Who let the dogs out?” and then barked, an apparent reference to the Baha Men. Romney then threw in another flippant comment about a baby having “bling bling” and quickly certified his position as being not only totally out of touch, but condescending as well.
But that was a long time ago. And one man’s flaky attempts at pandering to black folks do not make an entire party’s kind unwelcome. Long before that, Nas and Jay-Z penned a track called “Black Republican” in which Jay’s part of the chorus went: “I feel like black Republican, money I got comin’ in.” In fairness, that’s about as far as the political references go on that record. It’s a simple reference to his respective wealth compared with his peers’.
And that’s a line of lyricism that Minaj has excelled in from jump. Her multiplatform appeal made her a star from nearly the day she got off the mix-tape circuit, but she’s not above dropping outlandish claims to distance herself from the proverbial philistines. The 2011 song “Did It on Em” is a classic example of such over-the-top materialism.
That said, on Lil Wayne’s new mix tape, “Dedication 4,” released Sunday, when Minaj unfurled the line, “I’m a Republican voting for Mitt Romney, you lazy [expletive] is [expletive] up the economy,” I laughed out loud, mainly because that’s pretty much the funniest thing I’ve ever heard. But it was also a perfect combination and example of exactly what commercial hip-hop has become.
If you look at an artist like 2 Chainz, a rapper who’s resurrected his career by saying shamelessly ignorant things about stealing people’s girlfriends and getting intoxicated on private planes, you get the idea. Rappers now more than ever excel at making absurd claims of opulence and promiscuity to make people laugh.
But rarely have those comments been so smart. By making a claim as a Republican voter, Minaj proved she’s got a pretty good idea of how a lot of right-wingers probably feel about fans of her music. Whether or not she actually plans to vote for Romney isn’t the point. But the fact that she’s taking a shot at people on welfare by indicating her own tax bracket is amusing in today’s context of music.
There are people who will tell you that someone with such a wide reach fan-wise shouldn’t make such politicized statements if they don’t plan on backing them up. I’m not one of them. If the young adults in America are so ill-informed that they’re choosing whom to vote for based on what one pop artist says, we’ve got a bigger problem than Minaj’s random lyrics.
Technically, I guess it was an endorsement. But until I see Minaj stumping for Romney and teaching him about the gaudy luxury of her jewelry, I’m going to take it for what it was when I first heard it: a great rhyme.
Clinton Yates is a columnist for TheRootDC
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