ATLANTA, Ga. (CW69 News at 10/CNN) — Anger, fear, new voters, PAC money, minority turnout are often credited with shaping elections. Heard less often is that rappers in hip-hop’s modern mecca educated voters and got them to the polls to help unseat the current President.
That’s what happened in November. Atlanta’s hip-hop community hit the streets and beauty and barber shops, took to Instagram and YouTube, and helmed voter drives to help turn Georgia from red to blue — and they’re attempting to flip the US Senate in the state’s runoffs next week.
“Minus the hip-hop involvement, we might have had a different outcome,” said Killer Mike, one half of Run the Jewels and a 20-year veteran of his hometown rap scene. “I don’t know of one person in hip-hop who did not do something, from Migos to Lil Baby. I’ve seen everyone from our community take part in some way.”
The 2020 election demonstrates every vote matters, said Derrick Darby, a Rutgers University philosophy professor who studies the intersection of hip-hop and politics and co-hosts “A Pod Called Quest.”
“What that means is in places like Atlanta, Georgia, and more broadly in places that were so closely contested, every single effort to get out the vote was absolutely essential for the outcome we got,” he said. “Artists like Killer Mike, like T.I., Usher, Janelle Monae, they appreciate the celebrity platform and the duties of citizenship that require them to be engaged in using their platform to transform politics.”
Feeding poll workers and voter drives
Atlanta has its way of doing things. The 2020 election was no exception.
Big Boi of OutKast sent meals to hungry poll workers, while Offset of Migos fed folks waiting in line to vote – despite it being illegal, according to Georgia Secretary of State Raffensperger (OCGA § 21-2-570). 2 Chainz educated ex-convicts on their voting rights. T.I. lent his Trap Music Museum for a voter drive. EarthGang and Janelle Monae joined Michelle Obama for voting initiatives.
Even exotic dancers — not necessarily always aligned with hip-hop but who in Atlanta were integral to promoting the local rap scene before the city’s trap music carved out its own subgenre — got in on the politics. Director Angela Barnes saw her viral “Get Your Booty to the Poll” public service announcement as a means of addressing down-ballot issues and the marginalization of Black voters, she said.
“Turning the state blue went through the Blue Flame,” Killer Mike said, referring to one of the city’s famed adult clubs.
As President Donald Trump’s team boasted of meetings with Lil Wayne and Ice Cube, Atlanta’s Jermaine Dupri, Monica and Ludacris joined Biden’s get-out-the-vote efforts targeting Black voters in swing states. Ahead of a highly anticipated Verzuz battle, Jeezy and Gucci Mane lent Georgia Democrat Stacey Abrams their stage and street cred for a message touting the importance of voting January 5.
Abrams, a failed gubernatorial candidate spoke about COVID-19 response, stimulus money and offering second chances to ex-convicts like her younger brother, Walter, before Gucci seamlessly flowed into one of his Jeezy dis records, “The dope game hard; the rap game easy …”
Killer Mike, a longtime backer of U.S. Seantor Bernie Sanders of Vermont, continued his political advocacy well after his candidate dropped out of the presidential race. He’s joined an incoming county prosecutor’s transition team, applauding her stance on restorative justice, and has been filming PSAs ahead of the Senate runoffs, following up on his work before the election.
While he’s happy to advocate for the Rev. Raphael Warnock and he appreciates Jon Ossoff’s team reaching out to him, he said, he’s not shy in letting the Democratic candidates know how they can best serve Black Georgians. (They face Republican Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, respectively.)
For the son of a policeman, it means reminding the Democrats that many Southerners, like him, are “fiercely pro-Second Amendment,” he said.
“It’s important to use every weapon at your disposal to fortify your community,” the Grammy-winning artist told CNN. “If I don’t like your policy, I’m going to call bulls**t, and I’m going to speak against you publicly.”
No one should be surprised. After Minneapolis police killed George Floyd in May, propelling Atlanta and other cities into days of fiery protest, Killer Mike and T.I. appeared alongside Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms to appeal for calm. Mike also tapped the platform for a broader message: It was time for Atlantans to “plot, plan, strategize, organize and mobilize” and take their anger to the polls to hold mayors, prosecutors and others accountable.
©2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. CNN contributed to the story.