The views and opinions expressed in this piece are those solely of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the position of Highsnobiety as a whole.
Rather than spending very much time politicking, Donald Trump has seemingly spent most of his first year in office engaging in public spats with anyone who dares mention his name without kissing his ass in the same breath. His latest beef erupted after JAY-Z appeared on CNN to describe him as a “superbug”; comparing him to a stinking trashcan full of roaches whose owner prefers to incessantly hose down with bug spray because they’re too lazy to throw out the garbage. Perhaps the most interesting moment, however, came when CNN host, Van Jones, suggested that Trump might be “the first hip-hop president.”
Mr. Z disagreed with this assessment, arguing that “he doesn't have the struggles, right? That's the key.” Which is true; but it also ignores the fact that, long before Young Jeezy rapped “my president is black, my Lambo’s blue” on the eve of Obama’s inauguration, Trump was getting shoutouts on hip-hop tracks since 1989, at the very least, when Donald D rapped on Ice-T’s "My Word is Bond": “Yo Ice, I did a concert in the White House, and after that me and Donald Trump hung out."
In the 26 years that stretched from the inaugural year of the first Bush presidency to the launch of Trump’s White House bid in 2015, The Donald has been mentioned on at least 66 rap records by artists ranging from Ice Cube to Kendrick Lamar via Redman and Kanye. By contrast, Obama has only appeared on 25, if this GQ roundup is anything to go by.
In Barry’s defence, it should be noted that he is both 15 years younger than Trump and only really entered the pop cultural spotlight in 2007, nearly three decades after The Donald. As it stands right now, P45 has left much more of a mark on the history of hip-hop than P44 but does this make him the first hip-hop president?
Well, that’s a chicken-and-egg conundrum: Trump is ahead in numbers and got there first, but Obama was actually president when he started appearing in rap lyrics, which certainly adds substance to his case. But if you were to pick the candidate who best embodies the values of hip-hop, Trump would emerge as the clear winner.
In the Netflix documentary, Dirty Money, hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons explains that Trump’s value as a hip-hop muse always lay in his gaudiness: “Rappers rapped about success, like how do we get that? Trump was for the hip-hop community, and really all Americans and underserved community members, what they thought was the American dream…Donald would be like: ‘look at my limo, Russ! Look at my Trump water! That’s my helicopter! Look, my name’s on the side!…Donald was the image of the gold, over-the-top stuff. So I understand why people aspire to be like him. They want to own shit too.”
There are many men richer and more successful than him, but there’s a reason why The Donald gets more mentions on rap records than the Koch brothers: because he’s not blue-blooded wealthy, he’s vulgar wealthy. Have you seen his taste for interior design? His apartment looks like it was decorated by Lil Jon.
Vanity Fair columnist Fran Lebowitz aptly described him as “a poor person’s idea of a rich person. They see him, they think, ‘If I were rich, I’d have a fabulous tie like that. Why are my ties not made of 400 acres of polyester?’ All that stuff he shows you in his house—the gold faucets—if you won the lottery, that’s what you’d buy.”
In a genre like hip-hop, where unsubtle, nouveau riche sensibilities rule supreme, men who resemble Scrooge McDuck hold a very valuable kind of stock. Their wealth is relatable and easy to understand for those that have never experienced it in a way that familial connections and fine tailoring are not. Your average GOP voter or aspiring rapper wouldn’t know what to do with a Davos invitation or Obama’s Columbia degree, but they could sure as hell imagine taking a dump in Trump’s gold toilet.
I’m sure that the hip-hop community would love to rescind its endorsements now that Trump has revealed his true colors but the uncomfortable reality is that they share far more in common with President 45 than they do with his predecessor. If I recall correctly, 50 Cent said “get rich or die tryin’," not “go to Harvard then pursue a career in constitutional law.” Fiddy’s mantra, Wu-Tang’s “Cash Rules Everything Around Me,” “Money Over Bitches” and so on, are all far more likely to come out of the Donald’s mouth than Obama’s.
Although he styles himself as a real estate tycoon and some sort of commercial mastermind, his involvement in real estate is minimal. Of the 17 skyscrapers that bear Trump’s name in New York City, only five are actually his. His socialite wives and regular appearances in tabloids over the years have given him such name recognition that companies will pay for the right to stick his last name on whatever they’re trying to sell so it’s immediately smothered in an aura of tasteless prestige. Licensing is where most of his money comes from, not selling, but when you see his name everywhere you get the impression that it’s all under his ownership.
Ultimately, debating whether Trump is the first hip-hop president or not misses the bigger picture. He’s America’s president: the commander-in-chief of the only country in the world that could possibly elect someone like him in a free and fair election.
Trump is president for the same reason why so much modern day hip-hop looks like "Gucci Gang": because America is a nation where money equals virtue regardless of where that money comes from or how it was made. When the anti-Trump #resistance kicks and screams “this is not who we are!”, they are battling the uncomfortable realization that, actually, this is exactly who they are. Trump, like hip-hop, is America in its truest form.
For more in-depth hip-hop pieces, take a look at why the days of women needing a cosign in the business may finally be coming to an end right here.