Lupe Fiasco isn’t known to mince his words, but his recent comments about President Obama have got folks talking. This week the rapper appeared on CBS’s "What’s Trending with Shira Lazar", and when asked about the dearth of politically outspoken pop artists, he explained his own outlook:
In my fight against terrorism, to me, the biggest terrorist is Obama, in the United States of America. For me, I’m trying to fight the terrorism that’s actually causing the other forms of terrorism. The root causes of the terrorism is the stuff that the U.S. government allows to happen and the foreign policies that we have in place in different countries that inspire people to become terrorists. And it’s easy for us because it’s really just some oil, which we can really get on our own.
Then, when asked who he’d vote for in next year’s presidential election, he added:
I don’t vote. I don’t vote. I don’t get involved in the political process ’cause it’s meaningless, to be honest. First of all, I’m a real big believer if I’m gonna vouch for someone, then I’m gonna stand behind everything that they do. So that can be you, that can be the cameraman. If I’m going to say I stand behind this person, and write on a piece of paper that says, ‘Hey, I stand by this person,’ then I have to take responsibility for everything that he does. ‘Cause that’s just how I am as a human being. So politicians aren’t gonna do that because I don’t want you to bomb some village in the middle of nowhere.
Lupe grew up the son of an African drummer on Chicago’s West Side. He’s known mostly as a gifted lyricist who draws beautiful and heart-wrenching connections between America’s impoverished black communities and conflicts abroad, notably in Africa. Fans are so taken with his message that when he announced that Atlantic Records had refused to release his third album "Lasers" because it was "too dark", they collected over 28,000 petition signatures and staged protests in front of the company’s headquarters in New York City. The project was finally released in March and includes visionary tracks like "All Black Everything" in which the rapper paints a fantasy picture of a world in which "racism has no context." One memorable verse: "Malcolm Little dies as an old man/Martin Luther King read the eulogy for him/followed by Bill O’Reilly who read from the Koran/President Bush sends condolences from Iran/Where Fox News reports live/that Ahmadinejad wins the Mandela peace prize."
All that to say that Lupe’s criticism shouldn’t come as a surprise. But what makes it important is that President Obama has tried hard to court hip-hop’s biggest stars. The president has boasted about having Jay-Z on his iPod while his wife, Beyonce, appears to be on the BFF fast track with First Lady Michelle Obama. Right wingers went into panic mode when Chicago rapper Common, whose discography includes a song dedicated to exiled political prisoner and former Black Panther Assata Shakur, was invited to the White House earlier this year.
Like everywhere else, the political spectrum among black artists in hip-hop is vast and constantly evolving. But seldom has anyone with Lupe’s stature publicly and so brazenly criticized the president’s actions, much less with a short and succinct argument that can’t easily be dismissed.