How Jay-Z Went From Rap Mogul to Political Force For Obama in Election 2012


Last month, rapper Jay-Z stood on the iconic steps of the Philadelphia Art Museum to announce his latest music undertaking: the “Budweiser Made in America” music festival, scheduled for Labor Day weekend. The event will benefit the charity organization United Way. Set to perform at the festival are Jay-Z himself and co-headliner Pearl Jam, along with an all-star supporting cast including pop DJ Calvin Harris.

General admission tickets went on sale May 23, but Jay-Z seems to be most interested in whether one special VIP will grace Philadelphia with his presence: President Barack Obama.

Most people associate Jay-Z with “Empire State of Mind,” his 14 Grammys, and the rest of his impressive music repertoire, but ever since Obama’s 2008 campaign, Jay-Z has been as outspoken in politics as he is in his music. In other words, Jay-Z is becoming a major political influence who is making politics and election 2012 even more relevant to Black and millennial voters, especially those who are music fans. 

After all, who doesn’t love Jay-Z?

2008 Presidential Elections:

In 2008, Jay-Z said: “Rosa Parks sat so Martin Luther King could walk. Martin Luther King walked so Obama could run. Obama’s running so we all can fly.”

These expressive and lyrical words were Jay-Z’s mantra throughout the 2008 presidential race. Not only did Jay-Z hold numerous concerts for Obama during the presidential race, including a private one during inauguration week the following year, but he also held rallies for the Democratic presidential candidate, recruiting the help of wife Beyoncé, R&B singer Mary J. Blige, and fellow rapper P. Diddy. Obama even went as far as calling Jay-Z in the last days of the presidential race asking for his help to finish the campaign “Jordan-style.”

Arguably one of the more memorable moments of the campaign was when, while discussing Hillary Clinton’s “textbook Washington” mud-slinging tactics, Obama referenced Jay-Z’s 2004 hit song “Dirt Off Your Shoulder” in gesture by brushing his shoulders off.

2010 Midterm Elections:

In 2010, Jay-Z, along with the non-partisan, grassroots organization HeadCount, whose mission is to reach out to young, music fans in order to raise political awareness, released the “Vote Again 2010” public service announcement attempting to inspire millennial voters to vote during the 2010 midterm elections just as they did in 2008. In it, Jay-Z, in front of thousands of fans, proclaims that the generation of millennials has “changed the world” and that they should continue to “fight for what’s right, fight for what you believe in.”

Support For Same-Sex Marriage:

Most recently, Jay-Z has wholly backed Obama’s recent and controversial support of legalizing same-sex marriage. Specifically, in an interview with CNN, Jay-Z outlines that opposing gay marriage is “no different than discriminating against Blacks” and that it is an issue that is “still holding the country back.” In response to whether this proclamation will lose Obama votes, Jay-Z notes that “it’s the right thing to do, so whether it costs him votes or not, it’s really not about votes, it’s about people.”

2012 Elections:

As the Election 2012 race really heats up, it will be interesting to see whether Jay-Z will continue his unrelenting and ultra-visible support of Obama for re-election. However, given his recent activity regarding same-sex marriage as well as his generous invitation, it seems as if things have not changed.