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Opinion

Millennials, Conservatism And Hip-Hop

Laura Ingraham, the Late Nipsey Hussle, and the Great Drake
Image by Adam Bielawski
Nipsey Hussle at the House of Blues Chicago on March 30, 2009

Laura Ingraham ignited a fire storm in the world of hip hop with comments deemed insensitive after the murder of rapper Nipssey Hussle.

Calls for Ingraham to be fired came from rappers like The Game to pop-stars like Justin Bieber, condemning Ingraham as loudly as if she had just dropped a verse in rap-battle.

The clip on Ingraham’s show featuring Nipssey Hussle highlights another artist (not Hussle), who raps an obscenity before Donald Trump’s name which Ingraham then mocks and laughs at the deceased rapper.

It wasn’t all that long ago that pop musicians had a different view of Trump. The Late Prince had a track named “The Black Donald Trump” and numerous other rappers had lyrics singing his praise prior to 2016.  Rapper Kanye West is a huge supporter of the president.

In fact conservatives like Ingraham may find in Nipssey Hussle, real name Ermias Joseph Asghedom, some qualities to admire.

His father escaped Eritrea, then occupied by an Ethiopian dictator, and emigrated to the United States. Indeed when Hussle was born Ethiopia was Africa’s most brutal dictatorship. Communist dictator Mengistu Haile Mariam  killed a million people through wars, starvation, and a “Red Terror” campaign launched with him throwing a symbolic bottle of blood. Eritrea suffered brutally under Ethiopia’s communist regime and gained independence in 1993. Mengistu now lives a comfortable life of exile in Zimbabwe, occasionally visited by Ethiopian politicians.

Hussle grew up in the freedom of the United States, though he credited a 2004 trip to Eritrea where people went about their lives in spite of the government as changing his views toward activism and politics. He began investing in the neighborhood he grew up in Los Angeles. One of his ventures was a business incubation hub, another a fish market. Elsewhere Hussle worked to end gang-violence despite membership in the local franchise of the Crips during his youth.

I met Hussle briefly in 2015 while covering the Andre Ward vs. Paul Smith fight in Oakland. He was clearly proud of his Horn of Africa roots and knew the best spots to eat on Fairfax Ave’s Little Ethiopia. Yet, he was also kind and humble – a rarity.

In her rant Laura Ingraham throws in for good measure that African American unemployment is at a historic low. Maybe Ingraham and her ilk should take the occasional song criticizing Trump for what is — a rarity.

For the millennial generation pop-music and hip-hop is little more than the soundtrack to the Instagram posts and conspicuous consumption played out online. Not a venue for political protest and discussion.

Canadian rapper Drake was the first major hip hop act to perform following Nipssey Hussle’s death. Not surprisingly during his show at the O2 Arena in London, Drake went out of his way to mention Nipssey Hussle twice in a disjointed concert (attended by the author) which included tiny drone fair lights and a floating sports car.

However Drake, unlike his fellow Canadian Justin Bieber, did not call for the firing of Laura Ingraham or engage with that controversy to any extent.

Drake did make several posts via Instagram about the Hussle; however, the two could  not be farther apart. Hussle had a net worth of perhaps $8 million. Drake’s networth is maybe as much as $140 million. Drake swears plenty but makes nary a mention of politics. Neither does Bieber who has a net worth of perhaps $265 million., despite his comment about Ingraham.

What millennials appear to want (or at least what they are buying) is the vapid navel gazing of a Drake, not the political rapping of a Hussle.

If anything, the message of Drake’s music is about narcissism, a message which has some resonance. Indeed according to one survey 50 percent of Millennials believe their life should be made into a movie.   

Organik (right) with canadian hip hop artist Drake
Image by
MrShamrock

Drake understands this and he might well have read those business publications which speak of the short attention spans of millennials.

He did not sing a single song from start to finish. Instead he wowed the audience with variety. At one point he walked on water thanks to digital projections. Moments later it was lava. Under utilized backup dancers, pyrotechnics, and guest appearances followed. Drake was usually off stage for the latter (presumably checking his phone). 

At one point an apparently random member of the audience had a chance to shoot a basketball into a hoop for over $20,000. He missed; Drake gave him a t-shirt and a charismatic grin.

Born Aubrey Drake Graham, the Millennial rapper was raised in a moderately affluent Toronto neighborhood and already a successful child actor before picking up the microphone.

Yet, in his signature song “Started From The Bottom” the Canadian raps that “No one was famous where I was from.” This is despite the fact as The Financial Times pointed out in their review of his O2 Arena performance pop-singer Nelly Furtado briefly lived in the same neighborhood. An apparent fib from a rapper who once rapped “If I put it on a verse I put it on my life” in his song “Worth It.”

“Started From The Bottom” is a song as relevant to Millennials as Frank Sinatra’s “My Way” was to the Greatest Generation. That generation was showered in ticker-tape when they paraded after deafting the Axis Powers in World War II. But for good measure, as he abruptly ended his London show after vowing to go “all-night long”, he let the audience enjoy their own ticker-tape adornment as they headed toward the exists.

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