If someone would have walked up to Jay-Z on the day he started his rap career and said, "One day, the president of the United States will introduce you at your own music festival," I am sure Young Hov would not have believed it.
Yet nobody seemed to find this surprise unusual when it happened in Philadelphia during Labor Day weekend. Well, except the angry folks who vented online about President Obama "hanging out with an ex-drug dealer." Those folks seem to have forgotten that George H.W. Bush once invited the "original gangster," Eazy-E, to the White House for grub back in 1991.
Let's keep it trill (that means "true" and "real," in case you didn't know): Musicians and politicians have always buddied up because popular entertainers have influence over their fans.
I'm a musician, so it's hard for me to view the influence we have on our fans as a bad thing when it is used responsibly. However, the whole politics/entertainment hybrid becomes weird once political views get confused with publicity stunts, and it makes people wonder if politicians and pop stars are slowly becoming the same thing.
Take, for example, Nicki Minaj's recent endorsement of Mitt Romney. Her line in a verse on Lil Wayne's new mixtape states, "I'm a Republican voting for Mitt Romney/ You lazy bitches are [bleeping] up the economy." Minaj is known for using sarcasm and humor in her raps, so nobody really knows if this was a serious political statement or a witty jab at Republicans. Personally, I think Minaj is entitled to her opinion and has a right to state it. Yet the comment drew criticism as bloggers and tweeters swore they would never support her music again.
It all makes me wonder: Why should artists' political opinions affect whether fans support them or not? If all a musician has to do to get attention is praise or criticize a politician, then doesn't that open the door for entertainers to use politics to get publicity? And if so, then who's to blame—the artist who took advantage of an opportunity to gain more attention or the easily influenced people who fell for it?
Critics can accuse Obama of using stars such as Mick Jagger and Will.i.am to sway voters, but Romney's bromances with Ted Nugent and Kid Rock prove that he plans to go the same route. I mean, he invited Clint Eastwood onstage to debate invisible Obama, so Romney clearly sees the benefit of being endorsed by entertainers.
The same people who decry Obama for paling around with "former drug dealer Jay-Z" are probably people who buy magazines published by ex-con Martha Stewart and pretend that Kid Rock's tour bus never got busted for drugs. And the same people who are strongly against Republicans will still tune in to watch Romney-loving Donald Trump's antics on "The Apprentice."
To say that entertainers and politicians should steer clear of each other sort of implies that entertainers aren't capable of using star power responsibly, which is ironic because politicians seem to know how to use it very well.
Don't get mad at me for stating my political views. After all, I'm only a musician. I'm just keeping it trill.
RedEye special contributor Nikki Lynette, a Chicago native, is an indie recording artist whose music appears on MTV, VH1, Showtime and more.
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