Hip-Hop’s Response to the 2013 State of the Union Address


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“There is much progress to report…”

I can only imagine the conversation that President Barack Obama had prior to crafting this speech, his first State of the Union address since his historic reelection. With much of the nation still in dire straits, what could he possibly say to uplift the nation? And frankly, how should I respond as a man, father, business owner and hip-hop head.

We know the statistics are staggering – BLAH. At the end of the day, we’re just regular people, right? All the jargon, all the talk, all the optimism isn’t really what people want is it? We want to see – and I do mean see -is  change is here, as we all hoped would manifest within President Obama’s first term. Sure, things have gotten somewhat better, but its time for things to really change.

There are positive signs. Did you see the beacons?

Barack Obama used the word “poor” in his State of the Union speech. I can’t lie, I gasped aloud like I did when Marcellus got raped in Quentin Tarantino’s “Pulp Fiction.”

During my many visits to the White House (I was invited with other media professionals of color who were given the task of helping bridge the gap between Washington and the urban reader) we were told  “an Obama that doesn’t have to worry about re-election is a dangerous man.” Once the word poor entered into the congressional hall last night, my mind immediately thought, “Obama: Unchained.” My president didn’t say “those aspiring to be Middle Class” or some other coded lingo for po’ folk. He said, “And for poor kids, this lack of resources and education can shadow them for the rest of their lives.”

Hot damn.

This is a big step.

When white America catches a cold, the saying goes, black America gets pneumonia. I happen to think Black America just dies when America catches a cold. You know the stats, right? Is there any disputing this notion? You better not or I’ll hit up google. I swear to God. So, there’s really no reason to regurgitate them? Nope.

But this isn’t about stats, because for all of America, the stats suggest we are on the uptick. What do you say to the reality staring at you when the stats are giving you a sarcastic wink like “yeah right”? What do you say when life is defined by BR and AR (Before Recession and After Recession)? How do you maintain hope steadfastly, when just about everything suggests otherwise?

At first, the State of the Union sounded like more of the same. But it wasn’t. I know President Obama mentioned Hadiya Pendleton and that was commendable. That was likely all he could do, because some things just don’t change. You didn’t really think he was going to mention Lil JoJo, did you? But, when we are talking about gun violence, we have to mention Chicago, where statistics show every four hours somebody is shot – that’s is not a typo. Every four hours somebody is shot in Chicago, I repeat. Here’s another for you. More people were shot dead in Chicago than Afghanistan, where we are at war. We cannot blame Chief Keef for this war at home.

ALSO READ: The Creation of Chief Keef: Fixing Chicago’s Teen Murder Culture

The president said and I believe it. “We can fix this…and we will.”

“What I said tonight matters little if we don’t protect our most precious resource – our children” and he is correct. We, because they won’t. Because you better believe that there is a we and a them. Be clear, the “we” I speak of includes POTUS.

As I glanced over his left shoulder at Speaker of the House John Andrew Boehner, I knew his poker face was not indicative of what resistance was to come. Chicago deserves a vote and it was well-earned before the tragedy in Newtown.

I’m happy to see that the wars are wrapping up. I mean, Kanye and Kim are covered more than our decades-long wars, both home and abroad. I don’t even know people in the military anymore. Its like they are a covert group of people that go away and come back without their stories being told. They are wrapped up in a nice bow at sporting events and called “wounded warriors.”

ALSO READ: 5 Takeaways From President Obama’s State of the Union Address

Thank goodness for my homegirl Nikki Lynette, a supremely talented Chicago-based singer/rapper. She kept me up on her brother, who has finally returned to America after faithfully serving in the military. Her joy was my joy. Her brother straight up escaped death, but returns to his family alive. That’s real.

Nikki’s brother is a hero but that doesn’t necessarily help in this search for a job.

6 million new jobs? Where are they?

My people need some.

Housing market healing and stock market rebounding?

My people need some houses to stick the bandaids on and their stocks need hot air in order to rebound. Obama knows. “We cleared away the rubble of crisis and we can say with renewed confidence that the state of our union is strong, but…(Note: people started clapping before the “but”) we gather here knowing that there are millions of Americans whose hard work and dedication have not yet been rewarded.”

Obama knows.

My people need rewards.

Can we get a violence against African America Men Act passed?

Forgive me. I know you cannot lobby for Black men, but with incidents like Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis happening repeatedly, I thought I’d toss it out there. My bad. Jumping in for the ladies, Rubio knows he’s ruined for 2016, by voting against the Violence Against Women Act. Played yourself on that, homey, and I thought you knew so much about Tupac. You gotta keep your head up.

I’ve maintained my faith in Obama and self through all of this, but my tone is different than previous “Hip-Hop Responses To The State Of The Union.” I feel like Sweet Brown this time around. I ain’t got time for that stress. This time, its about smiling when the blood, sweat and tears roll down your face. We keep it pushing because we never had any choice. We’re not like the billionaires that were killing themselves in ’08. We may kill ourselves, but its out of a sense of intense fear and sheer, unrelenting hopelessness. But its time to be attentive. We must keep educating the youth, starting with our own. Encourage each other. Guide one another without judgement. We’ll invest that dollar in ourselves and deposit $7 later on.

ALSO READ: The Hip-Hop Response To The 2011 State Of The Union

ALSO READ: The Hip-Hop Response To The 2012 State Of The Union

“We know this works so lets do what works,” Obama said. So, look back a few simple decades to a more prosperous era and then look forward an even more prosperous future. Put the info and knowledge in your head and where you want to be in your GPS.

Lets go.

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