Why do some rappers support Trump?

OPINION: Today's hip-hop lacks the political spine the genre once had.

Kanye West Donald Trump thegrio.com
(L to R) President-elect Donald Trump and Kanye West stand together in the lobby at Trump Tower, December 13, 2016 in New York City. President-elect Donald Trump and his transition team are in the process of filling cabinet and other high level positions for the new administration. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.

Why does it seem like so many rappers are supporting Trump? It’s not just Kanye. There’s also Benny the Butcher, who tweeted that he’s voting for Trump. There’s Sexxy Red, who told an interviewer that “they support [Trump] in the hood.” Why? She said it’s because of the stimulus checks Americans got during COVID. There’s Kodak Black, who Trump got out of prison. There’s Waka Flocka. There’s more. What is going on? Several things.

One big reason why some rappers like Trump is that they’re attracted to the way Trump seems to exude strength. His personality and his propaganda suggest (to some people) that he’s strong and tough. For many rappers, the math is the same as it is for many Trump voters — supporting Trump, who seems strong, makes you feel and seem strong. Kanye, who’s probably the most famous rapper to have supported Trump, once said that wearing the MAGA hat gave him a jolt. “There was something about when I put this hat on it made me feel like Superman,” he said. I want to vomit. Let’s continue.

Another reason why some rappers may like Trump is that it gets them attention. In an attention economy like hip-hop, it’s critical to get people talking about you. Supporting Trump will surely garner attention. It’s a contrarian move in the Black community — you’re taking a minority position and that gets them attention. Yes, some of us will hate you for supporting Trump but these rappers are taking a sort of all-news-is-good-news approach.

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Rappers are normal people at the end of the day, and like most Trumpers, much of their support for Trump is based on alternative facts and misinformation. We’ve all seen the videos where reporters ask Trumpers why they support him and they respond with things that are not true. I saw one today where a woman said she likes Trump because “he always tells the truth.” Are you serious? 

Sexxy Red told an interviewer that she likes Trump because of the COVID stimulus checks but those relief checks were a Democratic initiative and people who truly understand that issue give credit to former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Not Trump. To credit Trump is to misunderstand what really happened. But almost all support of Trump is based on a misunderstanding of reality.

There’s also a class of people who saw Trump get them or a close friend out of prison. Kodak Black was pardoned by Trump in 2021 after he was sentenced to 46 months in prison for lying on a background check as he purchased four guns. Lil Wayne was also pardoned by Trump, and Snoop Dogg now says he has no problem with Trump after the pardoning of Michael Harris, one of the co-founders of Death Row Records. I can’t totally blame the people in this group. If the president made a massive tangible difference in your life, like getting you or a close friend out of prison, that would surely soften your perspective on them. 

But there’s also something implicit in the question — why are rappers supporting Trump? It’s surprising because it’s rappers who are supposed to be political and progressive, right? Like, it’s surprising because we expect rappers to be political or something. It was common to see politically focused rappers in the ’80s and ’90s — Public Enemy, X-Clan, Poor Righteous Teachers, KRS-One, Ice Cube, Queen Latifah and Tupac are just some of the MCs who were so political on the mic that they seemed like activists. Their voices made it seem like hip-hop was progressive and political even though a lot of MCs back then didn’t care about politics. Modern hip-hop doesn’t have a strong political wing like that. Rappers nowadays are far less likely to talk about politics and far more likely to think about branding, being widely palatable and building generational wealth for themselves. Overall, hip-hop has lost the political spine it once had. 

Given that, it’s not surprising that as hip-hop, in general, has moved away from being overtly political and you see a small swath of rappers moving to Trump. I say a small swath because even though some rappers are Trumpy, I’m certain that the overwhelming majority of MCs are Democrats if they vote at all because the overwhelming majority of Black people vote Democrat if they vote.

Touré, theGrio.com

Touré is a host and Creative Director at theGrio. He is the host of Masters of the Game on theGrioTV. He is also the host and creator of the docuseries podcast “Being Black: The ’80s” and the animated show “Star Stories with Toure” which you can find at TheGrio.com/starstories. He is also the host of the podcast “Toure Show” and the podcast docuseries “Who Was Prince?” He is the author of eight books including the Prince biography Nothing Compares 2 U and the ebook The Ivy League Counterfeiter.

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