Jay-Z, Beyonce, Stevie Wonder and Aretha Franklin performed at Barack Obama’s inauguration concert in 2009, the audience packed out with black music’s cool crowd. The woeful line-up cobbled together for Donald Trump’s event this week speaks volumes as to his fashionability and demographic appeal; a motley crew including country singer Toby Keith, Irish dancer Michael Flatley, and rock group 3 Doors Down.
Besides Sam Moore, one half of soul veterans Sam & Dave, the only showing from the black music world was singer Chrisette Michele, who has previously guested on albums by Jay-Z and Nas, and this decision has already had its consequences. Director Spike Lee has stated he was considering using one of her songs in his upcoming ‘She’s Gotta Have It’ series but has now ditched it. Earlier in the week, The Roots’ ?uestlove had pledged to pay Michele if she would refuse to perform at the Trump event, but she went right ahead. Whilst not entirely endorsing the new president, she recalled a legendary figure in black culture when she Tweeted: “I am here. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, 'Our lives begin to end, the day we become silent about what matters.' I am here, representing you, because this is what matters.” (Just five months earlier, Michele had performed at another concert in honour of Obama.)
To be clear, this piece is is no way intended to glorify Obama - one of the very worst presidents the US has known despite his slick talk and ‘cool dude’ image. His being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize when he had launched unprompted drone bomb attacks on several overseas nations, murdering untold numbers of innocents in the process, was a sick joke. The issue surrounding his fake birth certificate, and therefore his eligibility for the presidency, still has not been resolved to this day. And the fraud continued through him passing off ‘The First Lad’, Michael Robinson, as ‘Michelle’, his wife, and the daughters they so clearly adopted to play their part, as their own. If transgenderism is so socially acceptable these days, and anyone who has a problem with it is a brutish bigot, why were they not upfront about this from the start? The deception foisted upon the general public smacks of mocking contempt for their ignorance, and flies in the face of his carefully cultivated image as ‘a man of the people.’
Anyway, back to Trump. A more contrary polar opposite to Obama’s whole persona would have been impossible to find. Where his predecessor’s vacuous rhetoric was all about ‘hope’ and ‘change’, Trump’s seems far more confrontational when he talks of putting ‘America first’. To many, already disillusioned with his far-right and apparently racist leanings, this carries some quite sinister overtones. Is ‘America first’ a euphemism for ‘white America first’? Some are even going so far as to suggest that Trump’s tendency to divide opinion and pit friends and family members against each other, could lead to a new American Civil War.
The disdain that the hip-hop community has for Trump is ironic considering his father, Fred, was one of the developers of the Queensbridge Public Housing development in New York, home to many a street fable. Either way, anti-Trump sentiments are now making the lyrics of many a mainstream hip-hop track, at least providing a temporary distraction from the usual subject matter of bling, booty and bitches. Not since Ronald Reagan’s harsh tenure in the 80s has politics influenced the hip-hop world so heavily. However eventful 2016 was, it seems this year may just - if you’ll forgive a tenuous pun- Trump it altogether in the drama stakes. I guess we’ll soon know.