Donald Trump’s election in November startled the largely liberal music industry, making it reckon with the prospect of an administration that contradicts many of its values. Billboard asked a group of industry players to discuss how they might best cope with a Trump presidency: Chuck D, 56, the firebrand leader of Public Enemy and member of the rap-rock supergroup Prophets of Rage; 75-year-old folk-rock icon David Crosby; WWPR (Power 105.1) DJ and New York radio fixture Angie Martinez, 45; and 28-year-old female Roc Nation rapper Rapsody.
What were your first thoughts when Trump was elected?
Chuck D: Anything is possible. I was more surprised when Trump beat out all those other Republicans. Hillary Clinton had as much going against her as Trump did, in different ways.
Rapsody: I know a lot of Bernie Sanders supporters didn’t like Hillary, which I understand. But to me, it just felt like the wrong time to rebel. I live in North Carolina, and I know what it feels like to live in a state that has made so much progress, and then — to get a [Republican] governor like Pat McCrory — we lose so much.
David Crosby: The entire country is deeply dissatisfied with the complete gridlock of the two-party system, and a lot of people wanted to shake things up. And they just made a terrible mistake of who to do that with.
Chuck D: I don’t think he’ll realistically be in there more than two years. He’s not used to being told what to do. He’s a billionaire and a New Yorker; I don’t see dude going down quietly.
Angie, you have a huge reach on the radio. Did you feel an immediate need to speak out?
Martinez: At first, I had a hard time — I was so surprised that I didn’t know what to say. Honestly, seeing Dave Chappelle on Saturday Night Live saying he’d give this man a chance is the moment I snapped out of it. I’m being a little bit more sensitive now to listening as opposed to just screaming my opinion.
Is it an artist’s responsibility to be politically outspoken?
Crosby: I remember when Kent State happened, I watched Neil [Young] write “Ohio,” and I sang on it as passionately as I could. Part of our job is to be the town crier. At the same time, our main job is to entertain people and make them boogie and take them on emotional voyages.
Martinez: It’s an artist’s responsibility to be honest, not pretend to have answers.
Chuck D: To make anti-Donald Trump records is so simple, a kindergartner could do it. Prophets of Rage is trying to approach it from a world picture on things. And myself, with Public Enemy, I deal with 108 countries we’ve been to; I have to look at the bigger picture and pull out a small story within that.
What influenced your opinion of him during the election?
Rapsody: He ran on a lot of hatred. He says whatever he wants to. No filter; there’s no poise to it. Especially with international leaders — what does that do for the threat level to Americans, and what kind of harm is that going to put our soldiers in? Having a president that just flies off the handle like that. He talks the way he tweets. And this is what we have representing us as a nation.
Crosby: [During the election campaign] I thought ‘he’s a demagogue and he’s good at it.’ He’s good at telling a bunch of idiot people the exact idiot stream that they want to hear. Telling people that he’s going to bring jobs back from China — it’s nonsense. They work for a lot less, that’s the fact of the matter, and those jobs aren’t going to come back ever.
What issues will be most important to you and your audience?
Rapsody: Immigration, climate change. And taking away Obamacare is troubling to me. I’ve been in a position when I didn’t have health care, and I know how hard that is.
Martinez: Over the past few years I’ve used my voice for criminal justice reform. It scares me to think “stop and frisk” is going to come back.
Chuck D: Artists need the entire world to work, and I know a lot of musicians who can’t leave the country, who have families in another country. Foreign policies can affect musicians terribly.
What can the music industry do to work with — or against — Trump?
Chuck D: It’s always great when musicians can align themselves with organizations. It’s not only the people on the front lines who can effect change.
Martinez: I had a call to my show with [senior Barack Obama adviser] Valerie Jarrett, and she was saying you don’t have to be in the White House to make a difference. That resonated with me: “OK, it doesn’t matter who my president is, I still have a voice, I have a platform.”
Rapsody: It was powerful to see Chance the Rapper having a show in Chicago and then taking the entire crowd to vote. We have to find a way to take our influence and educate people.
Do you think music should be part of his inauguration, and who should perform?
Rapsody: I don’t know who’s gonna perform. Maybe he’ll get Tom Brady to throw him a toy football or something.
Martinez: There are artists that like him, that agree with him, right? But you’re not gonna get Beyoncé singing “At Last.”
Crosby: You got to have some [music]. Because everybody has always had some. I don’t think any of the major acts in America are going to go there and participate, whereas every major act in America wanted to be there for Obama.
Maybe Kanye will perform.
Rapsody: Kanye might be his man!
Crosby: Kanye isn’t really a musician. He’s a poser. He can’t write, sing, or play. But what he’s good at is being famous and he’s very good at it. He’s very good at working the media. But he’s not really a musician or artist, singer or anybody that we respect. He might do it. He has no principles at all.
Are there any benefits of a Trump administration to the industry?
Chuck D: Yes — the unfortunate benefit is that people will have to stay woke by default.