Where Was Hip-Hop During This Election?

Donald Trump in 2016
Sara D. Davis/Getty Images

Donald Trump addresses an audience at the 117th National Convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States at the Charlotte Convention Center on July 26, 2016 in Charlotte, N.C.

There’s no silver lining in President-elect Donald Trump’s win over Hillary Clinton this past Tuesday (Nov. 8). As disheartening exit poll numbers tickered across CNN and the media captured every second of Trump’s road to the White House, including his first meeting with President Barack Obama, folks are trying to brace themselves for the country’s future. Is this happening? Did 59 million Americans really choose a bigot to govern them? Well, yes. But when you reflect on everything that led to this moment, a major factor that drove Obama’s wins in the last two elections seems largely absent from this one: the influence of hip-hop.

In 2008, Jeezy’s “My President” was deemed the unofficial theme song of Obama’s win. The song, which peaked at No. 53 on the Billboard Hot 100, gained even more replay value during the second term. The record wasn’t the administration’s first affiliation with the music genre, though. Throughout both runs, major figures in hip-hop like Diddy, Jay Z and Beyoncé flocked to publicly support him, and played a pivotal role in helping get out the vote (in record numbers).

This time around, there was simply a disconnect.

For Clinton, whose marketing campaign was executed by media maven Karen Civil, hip-hop wasn’t fruitless for lack of presence. Its mouthpieces, however, seemed fewer and farther between. "F--k Donald Trump" was a shared rally cry, made popular by YG and Nipsey Hussle’s diss of the same name released back in March. The phrase, shortened to "F--k Donald," appeared on apparel worn by several artists and consumers, including SZA. Around the same time, Mac Miller visited the now-cancelled The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore and white-splained Trump’s agenda while vehemently (albeit hilariously) denouncing the candidate. (Plot twist: This week, Miller’s 2011 platinum-selling cut “Donald’s Trump” returned to charts amid election results.)

Pusha T became a more visible endorsement after partnering with Clinton to help register voters in final weeks, as did Beyoncé and Jay Z who headlined HRC’s Get Out The Vote concert in Cleveland last week. And on the very day of the election, Clinton dropped her version (and the dopest political clip) of the hip-hop-inspired Mannequin Challenge, the viral video trend that requires folks to stand completely still in dramatic poses.

So, why was hip-hop’s clear push for HRC more peripheral than the resounding #BlackLivesMatter and #GirlIGuessImWithHer chants, and even in previous years for that matter?

Much of the hip-hop community was vocally unsure (see: Ty Dolla $ign), which reinforced the reluctance of voters. Hip-hop endorsements were pretty much met with side-eyes like, are you really with her?

But now that the votes for Trump (and rumored write-ins for Harambe and Hennessey) are in, what should hip-hop’s next move be? Well, if these last two years are any indication, America is in desperate need for politically charged messages drenched in soul music; sounds that soothe our spirit in times of great crisis, i.e. Common's Black America Again and Solange's A Seat at the Table. More than ever, it’s time for hip-hop artists to revisit Questlove’s challenge "to push themselves to be a voice of the times that we live in."

In the words of another Clinton endorser, Chance the Rapper, music is all we got, so hip-hop might as well use it to help us all survive these next four years.