Kevin Powell’s Open Letter: “I Am Hip Hop”

The aspiring politician tries to paint himself as the new alternative for black New Yorkers.

By Jamilah King Sep 09, 2010

Kevin Powell, the Jersey-born former star on MTV’s Real World who’s currently running for Congress in Brooklyn, recently wrote an open letter to Hip Hop America. This is Powell’s second run attempt to unseat longtime Rep. Ed Towns, and the aspiring lawmaker is working hard to court young voters in next week’s Democratic primary.

Powell writes:

I am hiphop. And I am also a public servant and activist for people, all people. For the past 25 years, in fact, since I was a youth.


Not only would I be the first true hiphop head in Congress, but I also would be bringing a fresh take on leadership, blending the best of grassroots politics with Washington, D.C. maneuvering, all to that boom-bap beat.

And, as dead prez once famously said, this is actually bigger than hiphop. This is about my being a leader, a bridge-builder, and all of us weaned on hiphop music and culture understanding the power of this, the most dominant art form of the past 30 years. If not us, then who?

While the odds are stacked against Powell, his efforts to paint himself as part of a new generation of black politicians is useful. New York is already in a pitched battle over who will define black politics in the coming years, and several longtime black lawmakers are already battling against ethics charges that have led some to question whether incumbency fosters corruption.