This past weekend a video surfaced of DJ Khaled and J. Cole together at the White House. The two together isn’t mindblowing, but for the pair to be in the nation's most powerful residence threw the internet into a state of shock and confusion. DJ Khaled’s Snapchat was filled with short clips of what was transpiring and incredibly it wasn’t just those two. Chance the Rapper, Pusha T and many others were also in attendance. Could this be real life?
There was no press, no big announcement, nothing indicating this meeting of the rap minds was taking place. To a conspiracy theorist it could easily be seen as a meeting for the Illuminati. If it wasn’t for Khaled's compulsion to snap every second of his increasingly unbelievable existence, the secret meeting would have stayed a secret for just a little longer.
DJ Khaled, J. Cole, Wale, Ludacris, Nicki Minaj, Alicia Keys, Janelle Monae, Pusha T, Chance The Rapper, Rapsody, Talib Kweli, Busta Rhymes and Common were all there. Incredible for all these artists to be under one roof, even more astounding that the roof happens to be the home of the President of the United States, and they were all there to discuss Obama's criminal justice reform attempts and the My Brother’s Keeper initiative. When Obama met with Kendrick a few months back it was for the very same reason, resulting in “Pay It Forward," a short video promoting My Brother’s Keeper.
Criminal justice in the United States needs to undergo seismic changes if this country hopes to stand by its promise of liberty and justice for all. It’s a job that one man can not do alone and Obama reaching out to Kendrick, Cole and others reminds us just how powerful the artform is. Hip-hop culture doesn’t always get credit for being more than sex, drugs and destruction, many rappers are only seen as violent, gangbanging monsters who tear down more than uplift, even when that's far from the truth. It’s a terrible viewpoint of a beautiful community. Obama recognizes the beauty, he understands the power that hip-hop has, and he wants to work within the culture to help make America great again. Especially for the youth of every creed and color.
Sadly, recognition for Obama seeing hip-hop's potential for positive transformation is rare. Way back in 2011, when Common was invited to the White House for a poetry event Michelle Obama was hosting, Fox News questioned why she would bring such a vile rapper into her home. Similar sentiments were recently echoed as an outraged writer attacked Chance The Rapper after it was announced he would be working with the Chicago White Sox. Ludacris may star in Fast & Furious now, but back when he was mainly known just as a rapper he was targeted by Bill O’ Reilly after aligning himself with Pepsi for an advertising campaign. There’s countless stories of rappers being upheld as terrors against society. Now it’s 2016 and Pusha T is sitting in the White House, the same Pusha who once rapped, “So much white you might think your holy Christ is near.” If there wasn’t pictures to prove he was there, I wouldn’t believe it.
It’s incredible that we have a President that looks beyond the surface and understands the worth of hip-hop and its culture. Some people are inspired by witnessing a black President, but then there’s others who hear TheBlack Album and it reaches a part in their soul politics could never touch. It’s a huge win for hip-hop having Wale, J. Cole, and Chance representing the new generation, with Busta Rhymes, Common and Ludacris figures of hip-hop's true explosion into the mainstream and Nicki Minaj, Alicia Keys, Rapsody and Monae all examples of the best and brightest women the music industry has to offer.
All these wonderful black artists sitting in the White House with our first black President during the last days of his final term, it's more than I could have ever hoped for.