The 44th president sat down with The Atlantic to discuss his memoir and the state of American politics. During the talk, Obama weighed in on the amount of Black men who voted for Trump. He argued the values pushed by hip-hop are like those promoted by Trump.
“It’s interesting — people are writing about the fact that Trump increased his support among Black men [in the 2020 presidential election], and the occasional rapper who supported Trump,” Obama said. “I have to remind myself that if you listen to rap music, it’s all about the bling, the women, the money. A lot of rap videos are using the same measures of what it means to be successful as Donald Trump is. Everything is gold-plated. That insinuates itself and seeps into the culture.”
Based on recent headlines leading up to election day, Rapper Lil Wayne was the only publicly known hip-hop artist to endorse Trump, with there being no clear indicators that the hip-hop community as a whole was backing Trump. Actor and rapper Ice Cube has said he pitched his “Contract With Black America” to both parties. Rapper and television producer 50 Cent reportedly expressed his support for Trump then retracted his comments, saying he wasn’t serious about backing Trump.
Still, when it comes to Black voters, Joe Biden received an overwhelming amount of support. Biden secured 80 percent of the Black male vote this year, while 19 percent supported Trump. In 2016, 15 percent of Black men voted for Trump. There isn’t a clear reason for the increase, but Biden’s selection of Kamala Harris as a running mate could be a factor. Harris has been criticized for her track record as a prosecutor and attorney general of California. Biden’s support of the 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act could be another factor. Trump experienced an increase in support from Black women as well, with that number doubling from 4 percent to 8 percent.
During the interview with The Atlantic, Obama also pointed to America’s transformation to a culture that promotes excess and materialism.
“Michelle and I were talking about the fact that although we grew up in very different places, we were both very much working-class, lower-middle-class, in terms of income, and we weren’t subject day to day to the sense that if you don’t have this stuff then you are somehow not worthy,” the former president added.
“America has always had a caste system — rich and poor, not just racially but economically— but it wasn’t in your face most of the time when I was growing up.”
Obama’s commentary sparked a debate on Twitter.
“I guarantee if you took a poll of the black men who voted for Trump, the single most common phrase would be ‘Obama didn’t do anything for Black ppl’ you may disagree with that assessment but to say it’s bc of rap music,” wrote one critic.
“Obama has been guilty of respectability finger wagging a lot of times, but he’s not wrong here,” tweeted another person. “The rap game used Trump as a poster boy and punchline for decades prior to his presidency, and just like a lot of rap, his fortune is more show than substance.”
“Obama talking down on rap music but didn’t mind rap and rappers being one of his biggest supporters and endorsers. Hypocrite just like the rest of em,” an additional user stated.
“He’s actually right here. Many people pointed this out when Wayne endorsed Trump,” argued one more. “I can think of at least 3 Trump references in rap songs pre 2015. That’s a micro point, but it’s still part of what he’s saying here. Also, Obama is pushing 60. So, save the conscious or underground takes.”