Donald Trump used to feel OK about rap music — or, at the very least, he used to present himself as someone who felt OK about rap music. He sort of had to. Trump was a participant in the New York new-money celebrity-glamor economy, which meant he moved in the same circles as plenty of people on rap’s A-list. When Puff Daddy launched his restaurant, Justin’s, in 1997, Trump showed up to the opening. When Trump launched a line of vodka in 2006, he got Busta Rhymes to perform at the launch party. Trump cast Lil Jon on two different seasons of Celebrity Apprentice; he was reportedly calling him “Uncle Tom” behind the scenes, but we didn’t know that at the time. And when Trump sat for his Comedy Central Roast in 2011, Snoop Dogg was one of the people roasting him. He sat there with a strange rictus grimace-smile on his face while Snoop said, “Now, I may not have half his paper, but I got twice the dick, and you can believe that.”
By that same token, rap music used to feel OK about Donald Trump, a tabloid figure who presented himself as a common man and who’d somehow become a billionaire while pushing his own image of moguldom. He had none of the snobby restraint of the white moneyed elite, and he showed off his money with a sort of fuck-you defiance that made him appealing, in a way, to plenty within the rap world. Rappin 4-Tay called himself “New Trump” in 1996. In 1998, E-40 rapped that he didn’t have chump change; he had Donald Trump change. That same year, Smif-N-Wessun and Raekwon recorded “Black Trump.” Jeezy in 2011: “Richest nigga in my hood, call me Donald Trump.” This type of thing kept going until Trump, when announcing his candidacy, made that speech where he called Mexican immigrants rapists. Up until that point, he was still a cartoonish dollar-sign in human form, a walking symbol of ostentatious wealth. Six months before that speech, after all, Rae Sremmurd released “Up Like Trump.” Talking about the song, Swae Lee said this to Complex: “I think Donald Trump is cool. I see him and I’m like, ‘That’s a cool motherfucker.’ He’s rich as fuck.” Slim Jxmmi added this: “He has a suit on on a boat.”
I can’t find the quote now, but I can remember seeing Method Man talking about Trump in an interview once, claiming that he liked Trump because Trump would just put up his big, ugly-ass buildings wherever and sneer at whoever was trying to stop him. Meth was sufficiently impressed that he somehow recruited Trump to record a skit for his 1998 album Tical 2000: Judgment Day.
Apparently, it didn’t bother anyone that Trump had publicly called for the deaths of the Central Park Five, a group of young men (four black, one Latino) who had been wrongfully convicted of the 1989 rape and assault of a female jogger in Central Park. Trump took out a full-page ad in four different New York newspapers calling for all of them to get the death penalty. Even after their exoneration, after another man confessed to committing the attack on his own, Trump maintained that they were guilty — something that, incredibly, he was still saying while campaigning for President. This is, of course, some textbook rich-white-guy evil shit, the sort of thing that should’ve been a decades-early warning for the sort of racism that Trump would bring into the American conversation. For whatever reason, though, he got a pass. Maybe because beyond that and a Twitter campaign against wind-turbine energy, Trump had never shown the remotest interest in politics until he’d accused President Obama of being a foreign citizen and hiding his identity. And even after that, songs like “Up Like Trump” were still coming out.
That, of course, is a distant memory. Trump has been a complete rap villain for at least a year now, and it’s not like he’s had a whole lot of nice things to say about the genre. In the past week, since Jay Z and Beyoncé did a big get-out-the-vote concert for Hillary Clinton in Cleveland, Trump has been making weird little digs at the two of them, intentionally mispronouncing Beyoncé’s name and claiming that he draws bigger audiences than they do. He even dug out the old clueless-dad thing, pretending that he didn’t know what rapping was: “The language is so bad and as they were singing — singing right? Was it talking or singing? Right?” But he also said, “I actually like Jay Z.” Of course he does. They’re both big, outsized figures from New York, both symbols of ostentatious success. It’s just that one is one of the greatest rappers of all time, and the other is the first president-elect in my lifetime who’s been endorsed by the KKK.
I know this is probably foolish, but I’ve been hanging onto the tiniest shred of hope in the sentence, “I actually like Jay Z.” It’s impossible to imagine a stereotypical Republican Bible-thumping goon like Ted Cruz or Mike Pence saying anything like that. Trump has been existing in proximity to guys like Jay and Puffy for decades. I was at the same Justin Timberlake show as Trump about a decade ago, and no part of me thought, “There goes the man who will lead America into a new dark age.” And during a hellacious, intolerable day like this one, that’s my one little sunbeam mirage of hope: Trump has interacted with rap music without treating it like a blight on humanity. That’s probably nothing, but given that he’s pretty much been elected on a platform of explicit racism, it’s all I’ve got to hold onto today. Maybe he won’t govern like the bully that he’s been portraying during this whole campaign. Maybe he’ll just govern like a person, albeit a stupid and venal and thin-skinned one. He’s the first president ever to appear on a Method Man album. That could be something right?
But no. No, it couldn’t. I’m fooling myself, and I know it. The next four years are going to suck, and the fact that Trump gave Puff Daddy a tie once isn’t going to change any of that.
1. YG – “FDT (Fuck Donald Trump)” (Feat. Nipsey Hussle)
2. YG – “FDT (Fuck Donald Trump)” (Feat. Nipsey Hussle)
3. YG – “FDT (Fuck Donald Trump)” (Feat. Nipsey Hussle)
4. YG – “FDT (Fuck Donald Trump)” (Feat. Nipsey Hussle)
5. YG – “FDT (Fuck Donald Trump)” (Feat. Nipsey Hussle)
IT WAS ALL GOOD JUST A WEEK AGO
🇺🇸Go vote for her🇺🇸 pic.twitter.com/VSqC8Qpc6S
— Black Beatles (@RaeSremmurd) November 8, 2016