What happened? Hip-hop and Donald Trump used to be such great friends.
“I have a great relationship with the blacks,” Donald Trump once bloviated in 2011. But unless he was talking about checkers or Crayola Brights, he was sorely mistaken. He’s even more wrong now.
Trump is currently polling around 3 percent with black voters. Sure, he has "black friends" (they all do) — but some of them probably spit in his coffee when he's not looking.
It wasn't always that way. Some minorities in this country once loved Donald Trump. Or at least the idea of him. So when did it turn so disastrous? One way to track it is through the lyrics of hip-hop, the street poetry of modern America.
In 2004, Trump was able to brag with half truths about being an icon in the community.
“Did you know my name is in more black songs than any other name in hip-hop? Black entertainers love Donald Trump,” he said then. “Russell Simmons told me that. Russell said, ‘You’re in more hip-hop songs than any other person,’ like five of them lately. That’s a great honor for me.”
Like a lot of things Donald Trump says, this was also an exaggeration bordering on distortion. A host of names were mentioned more than Donald Trump’s, from Pablo Escobar to Michael Jordan to Louis Vuitton. But Trump was right in spirit: rappers loved to mention the name "Donald Trump." And why shouldn’t they? He was the pinnacle of money-cash-hoes. Rappers in the '90s and early '00s used the synonym as shorthand for “fabulously swaggerish, with ludicrous piles of Fuck You Money.”
1991: “Stacking paper like Trump” — Scarface
1992: “Fuck black Caesar niggas / call me black Trump” — UGK
1994: “Put more cash in my pockets than Donald Trump” — Master P
1995: “Guess who’s the black Trump?” — Raekwon.
1997: “Livin lavish like Donald Trump” — Jay-O-Felony
As praiseworthy as they seem to be, the lyrics are also generic and nonspecific. Which makes sense. Trump’s a cartoon, the rich guy that a dude in the gutter imagines he’d be: “If I was rich, I’d have big buildings with my name on ‘em, in gold letters! And I’d own a contest where pretty ladies wear swimsuits all day and have to talk to me!” Rap loves big, broad gestures, too. Especially if it rhymes with something, somewhere else in the bars.
So the Trump lyrics flowed like this for two and a half decades, hundreds of references, most of them treating Trump like a baller. It's when he wasn't so polarizing.
Hip-hop has always grasped at things that mainstream culture does not, though — hell, it’s been telling us blacks and whites get treated differently by cops for more than 30 years. Looks like we're listening now.
But in this case, hip-hop missed the man’s essence. It didn’t notice at first that Trump was a racist who didn’t like renting to blacks (allegedly [but probably]), and didn’t even truly notice when, in 2011 Trump grabbed the spotlight by pushing the bigoted idea that Barack Hussein Obama is a foreigner. Yet, even at that point, rappers still bragged about being rich like Trump.
But by 2014, things changed. Drastically. Trump was vocalizing the anger of the racist white underclass. And as bad as his real statements were, the perception of him grew even worse. Rumors scorched through the Internet that Trump wanted to deport every Muslim and ship all blacks to Africa. Those things aren’t true, to be fair, but they feel true. Hate for Trump is volcanic. And hip-hop eventually switched up its flow to spit fire the other way: Insults, threats of violence, kidnapping and rape.
“Donald Trump in my trunk” — French Montana
“Assassinate Trump like I’m Zimmerman” — Rick Ross
“I’m fucked worse than Donald Trump on Lexapro in Mexico across from a Texaco” — Eminem
It’s funny shit. But what’s fascinating is the vicious way rap has turned on him. Aside from Meek Mill, not one person in 2016 has gotten bodied more in hip-hop than Trump has.
Some classics from just this year:
“Where I stay all they say is ‘Fuck Trump’ all day” — T.I.
“I fantasize shooting Trump down, A shot for every black man who got gunned down” — T.I.
“Trump win, I’m flying off the soil” — A$AP Ferg
“Donald Trump ain’t safe on my block” — Dave East
“My main problem with Trump is how he uses money as distortion / Shows that one man's cash can be everyone's misfortune” — Limbz
And our personal favorite, “Flame your crew quicker than Trump fucks his youngest” — which is a line from El-P, and a reference to an Internet meme saying that Trump won’t release his taxes because he donates to NAMBLA.
Likely the most aggressive is also a track that's the most straightforward: YG and Nipsey Hussle recently put out “FDT (Fuck Donald Trump).” Macklemore has even remixed it. They’re both three minutes of straight Donald hate, unlike anything ever put out by major artists pertaining to an election cycle, with lyrics like:
"I like white folks, but I don't like you
All the niggas in the hood wanna fight you
Surprised El Chapo ain't tried to snipe you
Surprised the Nation of Islam ain't tried to find you"
… and …
"Man America is fucked if he's next up
Take a day to undo what Obama fixed up"
Sure, hop-hop came out big for Obama in 2008. But, generally speaking, mainstream music now is pretty detached from culture and politics at large, even though rap has always been the voice of the street, and still is to some extent today.
What’s interesting, too, is the fact that the lyrics are so much better when they’re full of hate for Trump than they were when they were filled with bland admiration, proving that culture can be at its best when it’s motivated by genuine emotion.
“Fuck Donald Trump,” they’re chanting in concert halls now. Let’s see whether that chant resonates in voting booths in November.