While Obama does not officially have any hip hop on his Presidential Playlist for 2012, unofficially, he and Michelle invite more hip hop stars to the White House than any United States President, ever. However, the heat Barack Obama has received from Fox News (calling it “the White Hizzouse,” “the Big Crib,” and other racial slurs), is upsetting the hip hop industry.
Here are the artists who have been invited to the White House recently, and the fallout each visit created for the president in question.
ARTIST: Janelle Monae
Shining in front of 35,000 people, Janelle Morae performed at the annual Easter Egg Roll. The song of choice was “Tightrope,” which had visitors singing and dancing along at the event.
Fans of hip hop were relieved to see a performer who (at least somewhat) represent hip hop. In the past, hip hop fans have been outraged that industry artists have largely been ignored for event performances.
Israeli Hip hop violinist Miri Ben-Ari was invited by First Lady Michelle Obama to perform at the White House. Miri Ben-Ari is famous for her classical take on hip hop, which has won her a Grammy award.
First Lady Obama invited many performers to celebrate Women’s History Month. Miri Ben-Ari’s invitation was notable because of her lineage: she was the only Israeli performer at the event.
Common’s visit to the 2011 poetry reading at the White House was openly attacked by the right-wing conservatives and their news agency, Fox News. Sarah Palin commented sarcastically, “Oh lovely, White House” in a tweet.
While Common has written lyrics that upset many people, presidents inviting rappers to the White House is nothing new. Common was gracious and tight-lipped about the event, which went well.
ARTIST: Beyoncé & Jay-Z
Supposedly Jay-Z and Beyoncé Knowles just ‘popped-in’ for a visit in the White House Situation Room; as anyone knows who has been on the waiting list for a 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue visit, it’s not something you can ‘pop in’ for on a whim. The process requires background screenings and organization.
While it’s possible that a power couple like Jay-Z and his wife Beyoncé could stop-by, it was a surprise to journalists that the event took place.
ARTIST: Trey Songz
Trey Songz gushed like a young girl after meeting the Commander in Chief of the United States. He immediately tweeted to his fans about the event.
His tweet, “GOD bless the President and his family,” spurred endless articles and criticisms about Obama’s choice of ‘friends.’ Although Obama invites performers from every genre to the White House, critics hone-in on the hip hop industry’s artists.
ARTIST: P. Diddy
PRESIDENT: George H.W. Bush
Back in 2004 President George H. W. Bush invited Puffy to the White House, in spite of critics’ complaints and slander. Puffy—in a rare display of discretion—did not react to journalists’ reports.
Reverend Al Sharpton was especially vocal. He lambasted President Bush, the White House, the entire Republican Party, and Puffy (for having the audacity to accept).
PRESIDENT: George H. W. Bush
Eazy-E was invited to an exclusive White House luncheon by Senate Leader Bob Dole back in 1991. His reputation preceded him, but journalists were kind. Senator Bob Dole was inspired to invite the rapper in response to Eazy-E’s generous $2,500 donation to the Republican Party.
To this day, journalists are still reeling about the Republican response to Common’s reception at the White House, in contrast to Eazy-E’s. The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart reported on the crazy contrast.
NOTABLY NOT INVITED:
ARTIST: Young Jeezy
While Young Jeezy did a lot to help the Obama campaign, including hit single “My President,” which got a lot of attention and air time, he was never invited to the White House. He complained openly about the slight, and said it hurt his feelings that the Lady Gaga types made it into the House, and he was left out like a dog. Here is Jeezy’s full interview, for sympathizers.
It is worth mentioning that Young Jeezy did get a presidential shout-out at the Correspondents’ Dinner in 2012, so he wasn’t totally forgotten. Also, journalists have reported that it was Jeezy’s status as a felon that made it nearly impossible to get him through White House security.
PRESIDENT: Bill Clinton
In spite of extensive efforts to raise funds for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, Timbaland was never invited to the White House. Furthermore, he was insulted for his efforts in her campaign.
Hillary Clinton showed open contempt for Timbaland, proving that political fundraising is indeed a thankless job. Hopefully Timbaland learned his lesson, and will save his efforts for more worthy people in the future.
Whether or not you believe Ice-T’s allegation that Obama is in the White House because of rap music, you have to admit that there’s a love affair going on. While the Obama family may not openly add hip hop sensations to their playlists, they certainly do listen.