Wu-Tang’s “C.R.E.A.M.” is an acronym that stands for something very simple, but also very profound: money is the merciless ruler over those that have none. Method Man’s hook is about how cash is king, while both Raekwon and Inspectah Deck illustrate the grimy crime and poverty-stricken world they battle in.
Rappers have always been honest about the allure of money and how far they will go to obtain wealth. You can see in hip-hop and rap music how money can represent power, status, and respect―no different than money’s influence outside of music—but money has always been a source of infatuation in a genre where artists detail their journey from rags to riches. It only makes sense that someone who already has riches, someone who has accumulated the kind of wealth they desire, would be looked up to.
I didn’t know much about Donald Trump growing up. I knew his face, I knew his terrible toupee, I knew his enormous tower, and I knew his television catchphrase, but most importantly, I knew about his money. Donald Trump is a rich man; his wealth made him someone people spoke of. He would appear in rap music, rappers would namedrop him the same way they would namedrop Bill Gates; two men who gained acknowledgement for their incredible wealth. Nelly mentioned both Donald and Bill on “Country Grammar,” demanding that the two, “Let me in now.” J. Cole would later borrow the same line for “Song For The Ville.”
On his most popular song, Yung Joc described himself as, “The black Donald Trump.” Raekwon would actually claim to be the black Trump many years before Joc on the song “Incarcerated Scarfaces.” Jeezy rapped on “Thug Motivation 101,” “I’m Donald Trump in a white tee and white 1’s” and would later make a song called “Trump” for his The Real Is Back 2 mixtape. Rae Sremmurd paid homage to Trump on their song “Up Like Trump”―they would later tell Complexthey think Donald Trump is cool because “He’s rich as fuck.”
In my eyes, Donald Trump represented the kind of millions and billions rappers hoped to obtain or the kind of money they bragged about having. Hip-hop is littered with lyrics about Trump and his money. Donald Trump was less of a man and more of a metaphor for wealth. An icon that we knew from afar.
The most popular Trump song has to be Mac Miller’s “Donald Trump” from 2011. Mac was coming off the success of K.I.D.S. and scored a massive viral hit with a song that used Donald Trump as a metaphor for how he was about to take over the world. Donald fully endorsed the song initially, but their relationship soured in 2013 when Donald threatened to sue Mac Miller for illegally using his name and likeness. Cash rules everything around Donald Trump and the fact he didn’t receive compensation from Mac was reason enough to go after the young rapper. It was strange to witness a man with so much money trying to drain the pockets of a fairly new rapper on the rise. I understand business, and I understand receiving what you’re owed, but his actions toward Mac left a bad taste in my mouth.
In 2016, Donald Trump is no longer just a symbol of wealth. The moment he decided to step into the world of politics, when he decided to run for president, we were forced to see the man and not the money. Donald was supposed to be a joke, a candidate we would look back on and laugh, but he has gone the distance, and actually has a chance of becoming the President of the United States. The deeper he got into the race, the more he revealed himself as a man who carried vile, repulsive and shameful views. He is full of problematic ideas and controversy, and he has brought a feeling of mockery to the election. From his speeches to his rallies, everything that Donald Trump represents could not be further from what the spirit of hip-hop embodies.
The blissful ignorance of not knowing the real Donald Trump is no more. We all see who he really is, and that has completely changed how rap and hip-hop once perceived him. YG was one of the first rap artists to make a bold, outspoken, musical statement against Donald Trump with “FDT.” Other artists tweeted their disdain, but YG put all his frustration against the Republican candidate into a song that was one big middle finger. The Game detailed knocking Donald out of his toupee on single “El Chapo,” a reference that was likely due to the song being named after the infamous Mexican drug kingpin. Ty Dolla ends the song “Hello” from his new Campaign project with a rant about how he doesn’t fuck with Trump and fully endorses voting for Hillary.
Rap is slowly coming together as a community to speak out against Donald―Mac Miller has been very loud and vocal about his disdain for the man who was once a big part of his biggest single. Rae Sremmurd also changed their minds on Donald during their set at SXSW. There’s an excellent article on FiveThirtyEight (titled “Hip-Hop Is Turning On Donald Trump”) which documents all the Trump references in rap that have been made throughout the years, and how they have shifted from positive to negative. It’s a testament to the overall disdain toward his politics. I don’t know any artist that would describe themselves as the “Black Donald Trump” in 2016.
Trump’s money hasn’t changed, but how we view him is much different from before. Donald Trump didn’t become this man overnight; the more I dig into his history the more I realize he’s far from the person rap believed him to be.
Rap and hip-hop will always have an affinity for money, riches and wealth. Politics is also ingrained in the very DNA of the genre and culture, and because of his politics, Donald Trump will forever be a target. There are no more kind words; no more lyrics in his favor—he is now a symbol for what we don’t want in a president and who we don’t want representing our country. Cash may rule everything around us, but money can’t buy our vote, and it can’t buy our silence.
I may not always be the proudest American, but I am proud that hip-hop knows when to speak up and speak out.
By Yoh, aka Yohald Trump, aka @Yoh31.
Photo Credit: astralproductions