In the world of socially conscious hip-hop emcees, you’ve got your key players: Common, White House favorite and sort of a white-bread-kente-cloth-let’s-all-get-along type; Mos Def, an outspoken motor mouth and Real Time with Bill Maher favorite; and then lesser knowns like Dead Prez, a duo who never quite reached critical mass, but maintain dreams of militant social justice.
Rapper Lupe Fiasco threw his hat into the political emcee ring from jump, broadly expressing his anti-establishment views, and rhyming on topics like the trials and travails of single-motherhood, and the delusions of gangsta greatness. He set himself apart from the typical rapper by avoiding vulgar language (including the normative “b*tch” and “ho”), and proudly proclaiming his Muslim faith. His unique qualities attracted a firm fanbase, fellow intelligentsia and aspiring world changers who saw Lupe as a beacon of hope in the often shallow and vapid culture of hip-hop.
But can a rapper be too political? Lupe’s latest comments may leave some fans thinking he’s gone off the deep end. On a recent TV appearance, Lupe called President Obama “the biggest terrorist in the United States of America.”
WATCH LUPE FIASCO’S COMMENTS ON OBAMA HERE:
Lupe appeared on CBS’ What’s Trending to talk about his recent work, and when the conversation turned to his politically charged single “Words I Never Said,” Lupe clarified his political beliefs. “My fight against terrorism, to me,” Lupe began, “the biggest terrorist is Obama in the United States of America. I’m trying to fight the terrorism that’s causing the other forms of terrorism.”
(Cue the awkward silence, as most of black America, Cornel West notwithstanding, like, no, love, Barack Obama.)
But then it got worse. As Lupe continued to spout his disappointments in U.S. foreign policies, the interviewer asked who he’d be voting for in the upcoming 2012 election.
“No, I don’t vote,” he said. “I don’t get involved in politics. It’s meaningless.”
Huh? Watch the five minute clip to hear the full political rant, but even in live person it doesn’t come off much better — Lupe’s beliefs are extreme, borderline offensive, and somewhat illogical. So could calling the president a terrorist run Lupe’s career into the ground? It feels like the case of socially conscious rapping gone too far. While it’s certainly fine to have your opinions, there are better ways and places to express them without putting your career in jeopardy. Outspoken extremist political beliefs could firmly cement any glass ceiling to success he may have been facing, as fans could defect and major brands could reconsider any type of association.
Not to mention Lupe is already on shaky grounds with the entertainment industry. He fought his record label, Atlantic, for the release of Lasers, his third studio album, with fans organizing protests outside the building. Though their efforts were successful, Lupe has publicly made it known he’s not really feeling this current album.
“One thing I try to stress about this project is, I love and hate this album,” Lupe told Complex magazine. “I listen to it and I’ll like some of the songs. But when I think about what it took to actually get the record together and everything that I went through on this record — which is something I can’t separate — I hate this album. A lot of the songs that are on the album, I’m kinda neutral to.”
Not exactly a shining endorsement to buy the record. So if Lupe is already pissing off the suits, pestering fans with incendiary political statements could be kicking everyone out of his corner.
I get it — people have their beliefs, they may not be popular, but everyone has a right to their opinion. We could argue with Lupe until blue in the face about how terrorist isn’t the right word, or not voting doesn’t solve the problem — he’s probably going to still believe those things. Fine. However running off at the mouth like you don’t have a million people watching you is insane, and virtual career suicide. There are rules and ways of celebrity and success, and political extremism isn’t one of them.
Sometimes it seems entertainers become so doggedly focused on not “playing the game” they basically pave their own path out of the game. You may have to give up somethings or hide others for fame, it’s just the way things work.
If Lupe wants to stay relevant enough to release a fourth album, he may want to stick to metaphor and rhymes, and keep his extreme political statements to himself.