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Politics With A Backbeat: Hip-Hop Lyrics Weave In Trump, Clinton


How about some political coverage with a backbeat?


LIL B: Shouts out to Hillary Clinton, you about to win that president [expletive]. For me, you going to be a president soon, baby. Lil B. White House, White House...

GREENE: That is the rapper Lil B from 2013. You know, hip-hop has always been a genre that infuses politics and music. So Hillary Clinton is popping up a lot in songs. So is Donald Trump. Here's the YG and Nipsey Hussle song from this year called "FDT." I will let you guess what those letters stand for.


YG AND NIPSEY HUSSLE: Donald Trump. Yeah, yeah, [expletive] Donald Trump, yeah. I like white folks, but I don't like you.

ALLISON MCCANN: I heard that song and I was just, like, wow. This is the first hip-hop song that I can recall that was explicitly anti-Trump. And so I got curious, like, is this actually the first?

GREENE: We'll get to that question in a moment. That is Allison McCann there. She is not a musician, not a music journalist. She works for the data website FiveThirtyEight. She crunches numbers, but she's also a casual hip-hop fan. And so she had this idea. What if she used Genius, a lyric annotation database, to see how many times Clinton and Trump have shown up in hip-hop songs? The YG song "FDT" was just one of 266 references to Donald Trump.

MCCANN: So YG is really interesting in that he's from Compton in LA. And he had heard of these African-Americans being kicked at a Trump rally. He has a lot of close Hispanic friends. So the song is really complicated, and it touches on all of these parts of Trump's campaign saying things about young African-Americans. So the whole song is really thoughtful about all these different parts of Trump.

GREENE: You said something interesting that this is the first really negative hip-hop song that you heard about Donald Trump. Did things used to be much more positive for him in the past?

MCCANN: (Laughter) Yeah, absolutely. He's been a mainstay of hip-hop all the way back to 1989. It was almost like his brand just became this signifier of wealth and all things cool.

GREENE: Does one positive one stand out from the past?

MCCANN: A lot of the positive ones were so lazy. Like, they're just, like, you know, I'm at the Trump. I'm...

GREENE: (Laughter).

MCCANN: ...Like, I'm hanging - penthouse at the Trump.


MAC MILLER: (Rapping) Take over the world when I'm on my Donald Trump [expletive]. Look at all this money.


QUAVO: (Rapping) Billionaire looking my way, I’m on pace, feeling like Donald Trump back in the day.


LIL WAYNE: (Rapping) A lot of lumps - next time you see me, I'll have money like Donald Trump. I'm off the heezy (ph).


SHEEK LOUCH: (Rapping) Then to the wife, welcome to the life. Big trips, Louis bags - welcome to the ice - bling - rock big enough to make Trump look twice, nice.

GREENE: OK. So on the other side of the aisle, Hillary Clinton has appeared in 92 songs since 1993. Some of those songs embraced her.


RICK ROSS: (Rapping) Hillary Clinton - she my best friend - tell them - even co-signed for that new white Benz. Yeah, I'm sticking...

GREENE: Many songs rejected her.


ICE CUBE: (Rapping) Never on top, always on the bottom - never put your trust in Hillary Rodham 'cause I can tell you now it's going to turn out rotten.

MCCANN: A lot of her references that were negative occurred during her first run for the Democratic nomination. So around '08, she had this big spike in references. And a lot of them were that, you know, hip-hop artists and young African-Americans obviously were really resonating with Obama. So a lot of them were saying things about - how could you pick Hillary when you have Obama?


KUTT CALHOUN: (Rapping) Look at Hillary Clinton when she speak, looking like the devil with a grin. Got it in for what Bill did then, can't wait to put it to an end. Hope Barack Obama got a plan.

GREENE: We were talking to Allison McCann, a writer for FiveThirtyEight.com and also a hip-hop fan.


LIL B: (Rapping) White House, White House, White House, White House, White House, White House, White House. Swag, swag, woo (ph), woo, swag, swag, swag, swag, swag, swag, swag. Cut, knife, knife, knife, swag, swag, white - White House, White House. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.