John Kasich isn't a fan of the Roots. The Cincinnati Enquirer found a passage in his 2006 book about him buying an album by the group, being offended by vulgar lyrics, and tossing their CD out of his car (presumably into the nearest trash receptacle).
To anyone who spends any time listening to rap, you'll know the Roots are hardly the raunchiest artists out there; just imagine if Kasich listened to Nicki Minaj or early Eminem. But in Kasich's defense, the album they released before his book, 2004's The Tipping Point, came out did have a parental advisory warning and includes multiple lyrics that are not printable on this family newspaper blog.
Rap is a risky thing for politicians to wade into, because while it works sometimes it can also backfire. In Kasich's case, the story of that Roots album might appeal to some culture warriors who see rap as a cancer on the minds of young Americans. (He also singled out the 1996 movie "Fargo" for its scene in which a character is fed into a wood chipper, so it's not just vulgarity Kasich is opposed to.) But to reach voters who like rap, like younger voters, it makes him look a little out of touch, like when Mike Huckabee went after Beyonce, calling her "mental poison."
Kasich's best route now is probably to not bring it up anymore, maybe even to make nice with the Roots on the "Tonight Show," where they now serve as Jimmy Fallon's band. Talking bad about rap isn't the galvanizing move it might have been in the '80s and '90s; it's very much a part of mainstream American culture now. Which is why so many politicians find themselves dealing with it -- sometimes not so well.
Here's some dos and don'ts for how politicians can interact with rap and rappers.
DO remain calm and collected if you meet a rapper
Jeb Bush found himself at the Georgia state Capitol with Ludacris in March. Luda has shown himself to be friendly to Democrats and Republicans alike, so luckily for Bush, there were no awkward run-ins -- just a photo-op and chance to make a joke about Ludacris being Bush's opening act. This was good.
DON'T participate in amateur rap performances
It's almost too awkward to watch. Karl Rove dancing to this bad freestyle rap about him at the 2007 Radio and Television Correspondents' Dinner is worse than any rap performance you made up for a science group presentation in junior high that you thought was clever at the time but was actually extremely cringe-worthy. This was bad.
DO make a reference to a rap song if you can pull it off
When campaigning in 2008 against Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama did the motion for "brush the dirt off your shoulder" at a rally, and it worked really well. When asked if it was a reference to Jay Z's "Dirt Off Your Shoulder," a spokesperson said Obama had some Jay-Z on his iPod. If you can pull it off, do it. This was good.
DON'T say 'Who Let The Dogs Out' when taking a photo with voters
There's no reason any of us should quote the Baha Men -- least of all a presidential candidate. When Mitt Romney was caught on camera asking "who let the dogs out," a campaign spokesman said it was in response to someone asking, "Who let you out?" But still. That song came out in 2000, and it was bad back then. This was bad.
DO invite a gospel choir to your campaign rally to perform Eminem
Ben Carson had one of the best -- or at least, most elaborate -- presidential announcements of this election, and this Detroit choir singing "Lose Yourself" was a big part of the reason why. This was good.
DON'T read rap lyrics on the Senate floor
Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) is one of the countless members of Congress who has read rap lyrics in the hallowed halls of our nation's Capitol. Often, they've been read as proof of just how corrupting they are. But remember, people once raged against Elvis and the Beatles, and their fans turned out alright (for the most part). Also, the First Amendment. This was bad.
DO play a rap that's been specially rewritten for your campaign -- if it's good
Rick Perry played a remix of Colt Ford's "Answer to No One" at his campaign announcement. The remix mentioned Perry. It's a catchy country-rap song about flying the flag, toting the Bible and protecting the border. Perfect for the Texas Republican. This was good.
DON'T dance to "Gangnam Style"
Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) did Psy's famous dance in a video for the group Asian Americans Advancing Justice Atlanta. Like rapping "Who Let The Dogs Out," this is something none of us should be doing, especially pols.
Romney has also fallen victim to this temptation. Both were bad.
DO show your rap expertise -- if you've got it
Marco Rubio knows rap better than any 2016 candidate out there. He prefers West Coast to East, Tupac to Biggie, and likes Eminem and Minaj. Think TMZ could get Jeb or Hillary to talk about whether Lil Wayne's the new 'Pac? This was good.
DON'T keep track of how many views a rap song that uses your name has on YouTube
Donald Trump is very pleased that there's a song titled "Donald Trump" by Mac Miller. He knows how many views it has on YouTube and tells people (it's now over 100 million now, by the way). Listen, having a rap song named after you is cool, but you know what's cooler? Acting like it's NBD. This was bad.