Hip-hop has a strange — and sometimes strained — relationship with official Washington. Here are just a few examples:
It seems fitting the hip-hop world’s pre-eminent titan of industry appears to enjoy the coziest relationship yet between official Washington and those who know every word to “99 Problems.” From an inauguration eve show at Washington’s Warner Theatre celebrating Barack Obama’s election to the president famously brushing his shoulders off a la Jay himself at a campaign stop in Raleigh, Jay-Z has had a good relationship with the administration. In March 2010, the administration confirmed Jay-Z had visited the White House before a performance in Washington. That visit may only be a warm-up: That November, the BBC quoted him as saying, “Give me a chance. Maybe in eight years, I’ll be the president.”
Those who objected to Michelle Obama’s invitation of Chicago rapper Common to the White House earlier this year might have been living in a different town in 1991. That’s when former N.W.A. member Eazy-E (whose family-friendly numbers include “2 Hard Muthaf—ers” and “Ruthless Villain”) attended a luncheon at President George H.W. Bush’s White House after the National Republican Senatorial Committee extended an invitation to honor the rapper’s charitable efforts.
Looking to get dropped from your record label faster than you can say “artistic license”? In 1992, Bay Area rapper Paris provided a blueprint to do just that: His song “Bush Killa,” which includes lyrics openly advocating the assassination of then-President George H.W. Bush, worried executives at Tommy Boy Records so much that the label elected to buy out Paris’ contract and sever ties. It probably didn’t help that the artwork inside the album cover depicted Paris, who would later claim he was visited by the Secret Service amid the controversy, appearing to take aim at the president with a rifle.
Try to follow this one: Singer Carly Simon — who recorded a song written by Sen. Orrin Hatch called “Are You Lonely Here With Me?”— launched a campaign with the support of the Senator that culminated in former Fugees producer and rapper John Forté receiving a presidential pardon from George W. Bush during the waning days of his presidency. Forté, who was serving the seventh year of a 14-year federal prison sentence for a cocaine conviction, knew the oldies radio favorite from his days as a classmate of Simon’s son at a New Hampshire prep school. The Senator, meanwhile, wrote to Bush in a 2007 letter, “Now is the perfect opportunity for John to be given the chance to provide positive benefits to society through his considerable musical talents.”