Fri. Sep 22nd, 2023

Scrolling through Twitter a couple of weeks ago, I came across a clip of rightwing commentator Tucker Carlson interviewing a face I never thought I’d see on his platform: Ice Cube.

As in Fuck Tha Police Ice Cube.

“What planet am I on right now?” I found myself thinking.

In a two-part segment, Ice Cube and Carlson commiserated about cancel culture and cast doubt on the safety of the Covid vaccine. “It was six months, kind of a rush job and I didn’t feel safe,” Ice Cube said about his widely-publicized resistance to the Covid shot. He also claimed that he’s been banned from appearing on the talkshows The View and Oprah because he is too much of an “independent thinker”.

It seems Ice Cube has become quite the conservative media darling lately, sitting down with not just Carlson, but Joe Rogan and Piers Morgan as well. He’s joining a long list of rappers – Kanye West, Da Baby, Kodak Black, Lil Pump – who have all put themselves in dangerous proximity to conservative politicians even as rightwing populism threatens to destroy their communities.

Kanye campaigned for Trump, and both Lil Wayne and Kodak Black publicly supported the former president after being pardoned by him on his last day in office. In 2020, Trump even brought a supportive Lil Pump out to a Michigan rally (where Trump introduced him as “Lil Pimp”), while Da Baby was also very vocal about supporting Trump’s second bid last year.

We can try to excuse this behavior or dress it up as “opening a dialogue” or “crossing the aisle” as much as we like, but that is not what this is about. So what do these rappers have in common with rightwingers who wouldn’t otherwise touch them with a 10ft pole?

Shared values.

In discussions about money, gender identity, public health and a variety of social issues, rappers and rightwingers have a lot more in common than you’d immediately think. Many people from both groups share hypermasculinity, conservative Christian values, and a distrust of social institutions (justified or not); and on this common ground sits a messy and dangerous alliance full of people who ordinarily would hate each other, but have come together to make vulnerable people their enemy.

Ice Cube, for example, is a well-documented anti-vaxxer, and has expressed bigoted views on gender identity, as have many of his colleagues like Da Baby, Boosie and others.

And when it comes down to the raw cents and dollars, modern-day wealth solidarity between mainly Black rappers and powerful conservatives isn’t entirely surprising. Ownership in hip-hop is whiter than ever and the nature of the music itself has become increasingly capitalistic. Rap is no longer the embodiment of African American resistance it once was. Now, it’s a hyper-commercialized cultural assembly line that’s somehow been re-designed to glorify the very issues it once pushed so hard against.

That’s why society’s current obsession with Black billionaires and one-percenters as “success stories” constantly falls so flat. The notion of building individual wealth as a means of collective liberation is as sinister as it is stupid. We know that Black wealth hoarding can’t save us and that recreating the violent architecture of capitalism – but with Black people in the positions of power, of course – does nothing for the plight of everyday African Americans. Still, hip-hop legends like Jay-Z continue to peddle this demented lie because that is the very function of capitalism: keep the poorest in society busy providing cheap labor while they chase an impossible dream.

Then there’s the pseudo-intellectual bunch, who mask their self-serving motivations as elevated political awareness. Say what you want about Democrats and what they have or haven’t done for Black people in America, but Kanye West campaigning for Trump wasn’t some stroke of genius – it was one of the most self-hating and objectively stupid moves that a person in his position could have made back in 2016. But Kanye’s thirst for relevance, combined with a pathological desire to be contrarian and his new hyper-religious bent, made him the perfect kind of Trump-loving troll.

As many rappers gain inordinate wealth and power, they’re increasingly exposed to the ways that all of that can also be a gateway to political influence and social dominance. These men don’t want a better America for Black people, they want one where their worldviews are advanced, regardless of which enemies they have to sleep with in order to make that happen.

And while Black voters obviously don’t owe loyalty to any one political party, some rappers do function as community leaders in many ways, and they always have: that’s why their allegiance to the right needs to be called out now. The custodians of rap as an art form have a duty to be responsible with their platforms. And when I say responsible, I’m not talking about respectability politics and pearl-clutching about raunchy lyrics. I’m talking about the stuff that materially affects Black people’s lived experience, like what kind of politics to adopt, and why.

What’s perhaps most fascinating about all this is the fact that many rappers are willing to align themselves with white supremacists not in spite of their marginalization, but because of it. I don’t blame Black people – burned by decades of generational disenfranchisement and then walloped over the head with the illusion of meritocracy – for trying to keep their place at the top no matter who they have to play nice with.

But romancing fearmongering xenophobes isn’t keeping us at the top, it’s digging a pitiful hole to the bottom, a new low from which Black people as a community will not recover if we don’t put a stop to it now.

#Black #rappers #aligning #Tayo #Bero

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