COLUMN: Hip hop sees through Trump
President Trump’s relationship with hip-hop through past decades has puzzled recent political commentators and passionate listeners. Rappers across the board laud the man for his material fame and fortune in spite of his business practices and personal prejudices. Lyrics invoke aspiration to be like him, live like him, make money like him.
Rappers shouldn’t idolize Trump. In fact, they should actively try to shed light on his shortcomings.
Even Kendrick Lamar, who has been honored for his civic efforts for raising social-class consciousness with the key to the city of Compton, California, rapped in his 2009 song “Determined,” “I don’t wanna be a dealer, I wanna be a Trump!”
The subgenre of political hip-hop, however, has a distinct history of seeing through Trump’s flashy façade and critiquing corporate culture to a larger extent. Sharp criticism toward the former real estate mogul didn’t start with rapper YG’s “FDT” single.
In its 1993 album “Genocide & Juice,” political hip hop group the Coup took down Trump and the hypocrisy of financial and political elites, in its song “Pimps (Freestylin At the Fortune 500 Club).”
The track is set in the swanky billionaire club and focuses on a conversation over cocktails between people portraying David Rockefeller, Jean Paul Getty and a young woman of similar fortune. In a satirical take on cultural appropriation, the two billionaires play a silly bit of singing “like authentic rappers,” wherein the Coup’s Boots Riley and E-Roc carry out their verses.
Not before long, a caricature of Trump invades their fun and asks if he can join in. His attempted riff at a reggae sound is nothing at all like the appealing billionaire described in lyrics like Lamar’s.
“Trump, Trump check out the cash in my trunk, Trump, Trump check out the cash in my trunk,” the voice growls loudly. “I am Donald Trump me think you might of heard about me, How my last wife Ivana come and catch me money.”
Insulting, jolting and accurate, the Coup portrays the billionaire nothing at all like other songs idolizing his material success. To their socially conscious minds, he is nothing but a plastic coin spray-painted gold.
“Well, we really must be leaving,” said the young woman on the track.
By the time Trump is out of earshot, the listener can hear the faux Rockefeller say, “He really is such a bore, isn’t he?”
Maybe Trump’s net worth is all the reason an artist needs to celebrate his acclaim in their lyrics.
After all, the value of a dollar is all that determines a man’s success according to most interjections in mainstream hip-hop.
Still, even for non-political hip-hop artists who likely don’t possess strong capitalist leanings, it seems odd that so many rap songs of the 1990s, 2000s and 2010s didn’t look past Trump’s surface wealth to account for the classist and racist dealings of his past. Certainly, the Coup managed to look past Trump’s appearance and spoke to his true personhood.
The rest of hip-hop should embrace the legacy of political artists to ensure Trump will be forever known as President Agent Orange.
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