With the exception of “Shake It Off,” I couldn’t recite the lyrics to a Taylor Swift song if my life was in danger. What I do know, however, is that if Megan Thee Stallion, Drake, Chris Brown and other young R&B and hip-hop artists follow the 12-time Grammy winner’s political lead, it will have a huge impact on the upcoming election.
Consider that a few months ago on National Voter Registration Day, Swift posted this message to her more than 270 million followers on Instagram:
“If you’re registered to vote in Colorado, Kentucky, Maine, Mississippi, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas or Virginia, it’s time to use your voice.”
According to Vote.org, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that works to increase voting rights for underserved and underrepresented populations, nearly 40,000 new voters responded to Swift’s message. One day after an Instagram post, the group saw a 115% jump in 18-year-old registrations to vote.
This isn’t the only time Swift has used her influence to inspire young voters. Vote.org, which has a partnership with the singer, praised the singer for a “surge in traffic” on its site, leading to tens of thousands of votes cast and new registrations this year alone.
Swift made many conservatives lose their crazy minds and that makes my soul happy.
Mark Hemingway, a columnist for the right-wing website The Federalist Papers, wrote that her popularity was “a sign of the nation’s decline” and that her music was “defined entirely by self-obsession rather than introspection.” Former White House press secretary Tomi Lahren defined Swift as “lefty, liberal, with brain-dead political views.”
These are just two of dozens of conservatives who currently despise Swift. Personally, I’d love to see Usher, J. Cole, Sexy Red, or 21 Savage take the Republican spotlight, as their lyrics or lyrics also draw millions of young people to the polls.
Some experts say Gen Z and Millennials (anyone born between 1981 and 2012) who have historically read the Democratic Party will make up about 49% of the voting population. This is a powerful demographic group; even more so if there is motivation to vote in November.
The black artists I mentioned also have huge platforms. What’s stopping them from using their talent and fame to inspire and encourage fans to register and vote for what could be the most important election of their lifetimes?
I know I’m generalizing. Beyoncé encouraged her hive to support Obama in 2008 and 2012, though she publicly endorsed Biden ahead of the 2020 election. There are certainly other young black musical artists who have discussed key political issues.
I know I’m an old guy. Maybe I just wasn’t hearing those conversations. But somehow, I’ve heard countless discussions on social media about P-Diddy’s sex act, Cardi B and Offset’s on-again, off-again relationship, Katt Williams’ jibes at Steve Harvey, Tiffany Haddish, Cedric the Entertainer and the list goes on. Other black comedians.
These are relatively trivial matters compared with the immediate political risks.
Where are the heated discussions about the Republican seizure of voting rights or women’s reproductive rights? Both will disproportionately impact poor and marginalized communities. What about attempts by far-right lawmakers (local and national) to remove Black history from public schools? Children are very concerned about this, right?
Where is the anger at a party that calls the January 6 insurrectionists “hostages” and a presidential candidate who votes to pardon those sentenced?
Remember, it was the Trump administration that coined the term “Black Identity Extremist,” and Republicans pushed for proclamations to specifically target Black protesters for invoking the Insurrection Act. With fewer than 20 Black faces on the Capitol lawn or steps, some right-leaning candidates still insist the riot was orchestrated by Black Lives Matter, Antifa and the FBI.
A poll of young people conducted late last year by Harvard University’s Institute of Politics showed that fewer Americans ages 18 to 29 plan to vote in 2024, in part because of concerns about President Joe Biden and his likely challengers, There was widespread dissatisfaction with former President Donald Trump.
It’s a not-so-subtle sign that there’s still a lot of work to be done between now and the November election. I would like to see a strategic, national hip-hop political movement where rappers target their hometowns. Nelly, Murphy Lee and Chingy could lead the St. Louis effort; Waka Flocka Flame, Gucci Mane and T.I. could tackle their hometown of Atlanta, while Nicki Minaj, 50 Cent and Jay-Z lead the movement in New York City.
So, my dear young hip-hop musicians, singers, and entertainers, I urge you to organize, preach, and politically proselytize until your followers follow you to the polls. Be strategic, innovative, bold, pioneering, persuasive and influential.
In other words, more like Swift.
Sylvester Brown Jr. is a Community Advocacy Fellow at the Deaconess Foundation.