It’s not until the DJ starts spinning that the back room of the Carolina Kitchen on Rhode Island Avenue in Northeast tips from soul food restaurant to something like a speakeasy. Rapper T.I. (real name Clifford Harris) plans to drop by for dinner before his concert at Echostage, hence the proliferation of spandex (the unforgiving kind) at a place with Southern fried lobster tails on the menu. We managed to squeeze our way past the flashbulbs and clamoring fans to ask the 34-year-old rapper, actor and clothier (his line, AKOO, stands for “A King Onto Oneself”) about the politics of hip-hop.
Do you think hip-hop has a role in politics?
I think hip-hop is the best way to shed light on subjects, whether it’s registering to vote, whether it’s the disparaging treatment of minorities by law officers, or sub-standardized educational systems or just a lack of employment in our communities. Hip-hop is the way that we get these things out there.
As opposed to what?
We don’t really necessarily, excuse me, pick up The Washington Post everyday and get our news from that. A lot of times it comes, you know, from a verse spit by your favorite rapper. So I think the hip-hop community, our first responsibility is to shed light.
So you do have a responsibility?
Absolutely. That’s what it’s about. It started to speak on the topics that come from the streets because people didn’t know about it. Of course we observed these things a million times in headlines but when you hear it in a song…
Would you like to go to the White House?
I didn’t clear security.
Did you vote for President Obama?
The State of the Union is coming up. The president’s approval rating is about 46 percent.
To be honest with you, given the amount of pushback he’s had on everything that he has tried to do, you know, all those things being considered, I would say, yeah, he did the best he could. I know people who couldn’t even spell insurance now got insurance.
Are you looking ahead to 2016 already?
I’ll wait till they narrow it down and all the other riffraff gets out of the way and we have the final four candidates.
Speaking of riffraff and critics, I have to ask you about the Twitter wars your artist Iggy Azalea has gotten into lately.
I think Iggy will be just fine, man. She just feels like she needs to answer to everybody and everything and have a rebuttal. Look around your big house and make your music and do your thing. I think the success shall speak for itself.
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