The Second Coming of Gangsta Rap: What George W. Bush Could Mean to Ghetto Music

Hillary Hardcore

Issue 3 * Summer 2000

"I'm never givin' love again
Cuz blacks are too fuckin' broke to be Republican"

- Ice Cube, "A Bird in the Hand" (1991)

"Locked in a trap by Republican villains
Pinstripe suits, experts at killin'
. . .
Now I'm ashamed of my National Anthem"

- Sir Mix-a-Lot, "National Anthem" (1990)

As Margaret Thatcher is to punk, so is George Bush to gangsta rap. Punk is generally recognized as a direct musical reaction to the economic recession, unemployment, crime, and other social misfortunes of the late 1970s in Great Britain, and to a lesser extent, the United States. I have argued elsewhere that punk's later incarnation, grunge, resurged due to the recession occurring during George Bush's presidency. There were basically two clear musical paths developing in 1990: grunge (the Seattle sound of Nirvana, Soundgarden, Temple of the Dog, Mother Love Bone, Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains, etc.) or gangsta rap (Ice-T, N.W.A members Ice Cube and Dr. Dre, Geto Boys, etc.). Grunge did little to express the social conditions other than highlight depression, suicide, drug use, and miscellaneous existentialist musings. Gangsta rap was the poetry of the streets; sure, it was often anti-white, anti-woman, and anti-status quo. There was real anger, real passion, real urgency in most of these songs. Rage over the Rodney King beating, the Willie Horton saga, Iran-Contra hearings, Desert Storm, fat-cat capitalism, sexually transmitted diseases, and, most predominantly, inner-city violence and drug use, came through these songs.

The Rodney King beating, since it occurred in LA, definitely received attention from the gangsta rappers, many of whom hailed from the LA area, particularly Compton. Ice Cube's stunning record Death Certificate was released in 1991 by Priority Records and addresses several defining issues through rap music, shorts, and samples. Concluding "My Summer Vacation" is a short dialogue asserting the African-American anger towards police brutality:

WHITE COP: Get down on the god-damned ground. Fucking move now!
WHITE COP 2: Let me shoot him! Let me shoot him!
WHITE COP 1: We're gonna do him like King.
ICE CUBE: What god-damned king?
WHITE COP 1: Martin Luther King, Rodney King, and all those god-damned kings from Africa.

In recent headlines, police brutality against African-Americans has been commanding more attention. In New York, the officers who shot unarmed West African immigrant Amadou Diallo forty-one times were acquitted, yet musical tributes to Diallo have appeared in the songs of Bruce Springsteen and Wyclef Jean, according to the Associated Press. Thomas Jones, an alleged carjacker, was hit 59 times on videotape by members of the Philadelphia police department (Morgan). Immediately following the National Puerto Rican Day Parade in New York City, police officers ignored the pleas of women attacked and raped; now the organizers are discussing banning rap from next year's instead of focusing on the reasons why offensive lyrics are popular (Comerford). It seems that times have not changed that dramatically from the dark, previous era of police brutality.

And police brutality just goes right along with the most common theme in political rap: if a black man and a white man do the same thing, the black man is always punished while the white man is let off with a slap on the wrist. Anyone interested in political statements made through rap music cannot forget the powerful "Imprison the President" performed by Laquan and written by Kenneth Green, Richard Wolf, and Bret Mazur. In his rap, Laquan mentions the Keating Five (a scandal involving ex-Presidential hopeful John McCain), Willie Horton, and Panama. Laquan is just one of many rappers who pin the blame of cocaine's deadly spread, the "white plague of da ghetto" according to MC Cheri Icee's "White Rings Around Ya Black Nosey," on George Bush (senior, not his son who has used coke). Goldmoney, ahead of their time, forecasts the drug use issue surrounding George W. Bush most directly in "Mnniiggaahh": "Ya say that brothers get addicted to seed / But even Bush and Quayle smoke weed." With the number of black men who have died from the death penalty in Texas, the state governed by George W. Bush, combined with Bush's own past cannot possibly be overlooked by the next generation of gangsta rappers.

The Republican Party is the party of big business (the rich people side, not the labor union side) and no business is better represented than oil: both George W. Bush and Dick Cheney were heads of oil companies. Cheney refuses to admit his role as an oil fatcat by claiming his company just made valves: we know that those valves are every bit as important to oil companies as themselves. With gas prices and energy rates soaring, I can't help but remember the Persian Gulf War-I'm not alone. The Persian Gulf War, now glorified by the Republican Party ten years later at convention and campaign stop, brought the wrath of Paris, whose "Bush Killa" makes one of the strongest statements against George Bush (I wonder if this explains why his album Sleeping With the Enemy is now out of print?). In his song, Paris hints at racism and the questionable goals of Operation Desert Storm.

Tolerance is getting thinner
'cause Iraq never called me nigga.
So what I'd want to go off and fight a war for?
You best believe I got your draft card.
. . .
Why must Black folk be made to die?

I wonder where Paris is at today, if he knows about the Persian Gulf Sickness, if he is terrified or angry about Bush's son running for President, if he is amazed at how much the nation has forgotten about what happened during the Reagan and Bush administrations.

Judging by the lyrics of N.W.A., DJ Quik, Too Short, and the infamous 2 Live Crew, I can assume that they don't blame Clinton at all for grabbing a piece of tail when it showed up or lying about it later. It ain't no thang. Sisqo's current top hit is "The Thong Song," and, unfortunately, we all remember Monica flashed Bill to show her thong. And yet the nation not only won't forgive Clinton, they're threatening to hold it against Gore, his vice-president. Embezzling, Iran-Contra hearings, picking Dan Quayle because he's "cute and will get the woman vote," capitalism to the extreme, coke addiction, drunk driving, refusing to give a mentally retarded man a stay of execution, arms for hostages, the failure of the savings and loans: those are things I guess we as a nation can forgive. It's a sad day when DJ Quik makes more sense than the nation's consciousness.

Our climate is right, minus the economic progress made by the Clinton-Gore administration. Imagine what a Republican presidency could do for the state of rap music! Even though Bush and the "compassionate conservatism" seem to include persons of all colors, let's see what his policies do. I didn't see Ice-T performing at the Republican National Convention even though he has attacked Gore (Mrs., not Mr. though) more strongly than anyone in "Freedom of Speech." Black anger and rage is still incompatible with compassionate conservatism and republican politics. So on Election Day, we'll either have the son of George Bush as President or Tipper "Parental Advisory Warning" Gore as First Lady. I guess the choice is yours, but it seems as if it's already been made.


Works Cited

Associated Press. "Wyclef Jean's Album Has Diallo Song." Yahoo News. 26 July 2000. Available online.

Comerford, Will. "Puerto Rican Day Parade Organizers May Limit Rap." Yahoo News. 5 August 2000. Available online.

Goldmoney. "Mniiggaahh." GLG Music II (BMG). 1992. Reprinted in Stanley 143-44.

Ice Cube. "My Summer Vacation." Lethal Injection. Priority Records, 1991.

Laquan. "Imprison the President." Polygram/Island Recording Group. 1990. Reprinted in Stanley 196-98.

Morgan, David. "Philadelphia Police Face Raft of Probes Over Arrest." Yahoo News. 14 July 2000. Available online.

Paris. "Bush Killa." Sleeping With the Enemy. Scarface, 1993.

Sir Mix-a-Lot. "National Anthem." Locked Up Music. 1990. Reprinted in Stanley 294-96.

Stanley, Lawrence A., ed. Rap: The Lyrics. New York: Penquin, 1992.