In 2019, the rapper Noname tweeted in defense of Black capitalism. Some people reminded her that view was antithetical to progressive and radical politics. No less than Fred Hampton, before he was murdered by the US government, stated: “We’re going to fight racism not with racism, but we’re going to fight with solidarity. We say we’re not going to fight capitalism with black capitalism, but we’re going to fight it with socialism.” As Rawiya Kameir documented on Pitchfork, Noname, instead of getting defensive,“did her own research, and publicly admitted she was wrong.” One of her actions was to launch her Noname Book Club, where her fans and followers were introduced to Angela Davis’ ideas about prison abolitionism or that classic of revolutionary politics, The Wretched of the Earth by Frantz Fanon. In the process, she pointed, in Kameir’s terms, to “a version of artist activism that is more in line with the collective goals of movement work.”
That can’t be said for all of hip hop which still more broadly, like mainstream black American political culture, continues to have hope in the promises of American capitalism. And as Su’ad Abdul Khabeer, assistant professor of American Culture at the University of Michigan, wrote last week on AIAC, that “what we learned about hip hop this election season is how it, and the Black political mainstream more broadly, continues to have hope in the promises of American capitalism.” Ice Cube, Lil Wayne, 50 Cent and Kanye West’s either open support, praise for or rationalizing Donald Trump’s rule is not that radical. “Hip hop is often seen as a counterculture that will challenge the status quo. While this view is valid, it is also incomplete because hip hop has always had a parallel track about getting money, power, and respect. So, while open support of Trump makes many of us clutch our gold chains, hip hop’s embrace of Obama was not exactly chanting down Babylon.”
Su’ad, who has written a book Muslim Cool: Race, Religion and Hip Hop in the United States, will join us on Tuesday, November 17, on AIAC Talk to to discuss hip hop and its relationship to politics, along with ethnomusicologist Warrick Moses (who has done research on hip hop in Cape Town, South Africa) and photographer and musician Ts’eliso Monaheng, who has an extensive knowledge of hip hop in the Southern African region. On the African continent, political parties co-opt rappers for their agendas (as Boima Tucker, our managing editor, has shown in his own research), but at the same time, as Fees Must Fall in South Africa, People’s Power in Uganda or #EndSars in Nigeria, has shown, hip hop is at the head of movements to make leaders more accountable and to make Fred Hampton’s world possible for people of African descent. Watch the show here free for one week:
If you missed our previous episode—we skipped a week because of the US election—we had Abraham T. Zere and Aya Saed on to chat with us about African migration to the United States. Abraham is a US-based Eritrean exiled writer/journalist and Aya Saed is a Bertha Justice Fellow at the Center for Constitutional Rights challenging unlawful detentions, counterterrorism practices, the criminalization of dissent, and systemic unlawful policing practice.