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From Sada Baby to Queen Latifah: Rappers and what they mean to Trump and Biden in 2024

Rapper 50 Cent weighs in on Trump's 2024 bid
Rapper 50 Cent says he sees Black men "identifying with Trump" 03:10

Former President Obama picked Kendrick Lamar over Drake when asked in 2016 who would win in a rap battle. Since his presidency, rappers have had an elevated, if informal, platform in politics, making their own preferences for president known too. 

And in 2024, while notable rap artists lean towards President Biden, former President Donald Trump has also seen his support grow, too, especially among younger rappers.

On Tuesday, Vice President Kamala Harris joined rapper Quavo, of the "Migos," in Atlanta for a summit centered around gun violence prevention. Last Saturday, Detroit rapper Sada Baby was outside the 180 Church in Detroit, encouraging people to vote for Trump. 

File: Vice President Kamala Harris speaks with rapper Quavo at the Rocket Foundation Summit on gun violence prevention at the Carter Center on June 18, 2024 in Atlanta. ELIJAH NOUVELAGE/AFP via Getty Images

Trump and the rappers who back him

Some of the rappers supporting Trump have cult, regional followings, while others are charting on Billboard. They cite a variety of reasons for backing Trump: COVID-19 era stimulus checks, the Payment Protection Program, his pardons of rappers and a dissonance in the current political system. 

In 2020, Trump pardoned both Lil Wayne and Kodak Black on his way out of the White House in 2021. Kodak Black is among those in the "Black Americans for Trump'' coalition this cycle.

Celebrity Sightings In New York City - May 23, 2024
File: Donald Trump is endorced by rappers Sheff G and Sleepy Hallow Speaks at a campaign event at Crotona Park in the South Bronx on Thursday, May 23, 2024. in New York City.  Steven Ferdman/GC Images

New York City rappers Sheff G and Sleepy Hallow, fixtures of Brooklyn's "drill" rap subgenre, spoke at a Trump rally in the Bronx in May. Both were indicted on murder conspiracy charges in May 2023. 

97.9 WJLB Big Holiday Show
File: Rapper Sada Baby performs onstage during the WJLB Big Holiday Show at Little Caesars Arena on December 17, 2021 in Detroit. Aaron J. Thornton / Getty Images

Sada Baby, whose 2020 single "Whole Lotta Choppas" has over 55 million listens on Spotify, was one of three Detroit rappers, joining Peezy and Icewear Vezzo, to attend Mr. Trump's roundtable last week with local Black community leaders.

"A lot of Democrats assume that [we're] just supposed to vote blindly. I feel like our votes should be worked for, I feel like our parents blindly voted for generations, but I think this generation is now understanding that we have to ask questions," Vezzo, who said he's leaning towards Mr. Trump for his vote, told Fox News

St. Louis rapper Sexyy Red, who has two singles on Billboard's "Hot 100" chart, cited COVID-19 stimulus checks as part of why she supports the former president. 

"Once he started getting Black people out of jail and giving people that free money. Aww baby, we love Trump… We need him back because, baby, them checks," she said on a podcast with comedian Theo Von in October 2023.

Mr. Trump's past campaigns have involved rappers — one of his closing rallies in Michigan before the 2020 election featured Florida rapper Lil Pump, who Trump mistakenly called "Lil Pimp." Ice Cube was an adviser in 2020 to Trump on a proposal to help Black Americans. 

And while controversial rapper Kanye West ran his own tumultuous third-party 2020 presidential campaign to challenge Trump – the former president dined with West and white nationalist Nick Fuentes in 2022, and the two have known each other for years. West endorsed Mr. Trump in February.

Kanye West Meets President Trump In The Oval Office Of The White House
File: Rapper Kanye West, left, shakes hands with U.S. President Donald Trump during a meeting in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018.  Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Janiyah Thomas, the Trump campaign's Black media director, said Trump is meeting with rappers, pastors, and business leaders and argued his engagement with rappers is "completely organic." 

"His message resonates with these artists and their audiences, largely in Black communities, who feel ripped off by Joe Biden's terrible economic and immigration policies," Thomas added.

In response to Trump's pursuit of support from rappers, Biden campaign senior spokesperson Sarafina Chitika said Trump has "spent his life and political career disrespecting Black communities every chance he gets."

"It's why the first thing he did after taking over the RNC was shut down its minority outreach centers, and it's why his campaign keeps staging their so-called 'outreach' in white neighborhoods and in front of white audiences," she added. "Our campaign is on the ground engaging with our communities on the issues that matter."

Trump's past support from rap artists didn't translate into decisive electoral gains among Black or younger voters – often Democratic leaning groups – who make up the bulk of rap listeners according to a CBS News 2022 poll

According to CBS News exit polls, Trump won 8% Black support in 2016 and 12% in 2020. Among younger voters, those between 18 and 29 years old, 2016 Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton (55%) and Mr. Biden (60%) still captured a majority of their support. 

Biden campaign leans into music festival canvassing, Black outreach events

But polls this year also show Biden's support among Black and younger voters slightly softening. The Biden campaign has responded with record investments of money and time in voter outreach.

New York City rapper Fat Joe, an advocate for affordable healthcare, took part in a March panel with Harris about decriminalizing marijuana. Queen Latifah and Lizzo performed at a New York City fundraiser for the campaign in March. Singer John Legend, whose catalog features frequent collaborations with rappers, is backing Mr. Biden for a second time and called Trump a "dyed-in-the-wool racist" in an MSNBC interview. 

President Biden And First Lady Host The Kennedy Center Honorees At The White House
File: President Joe Biden and Queen Latifah at the The Kennedy Center Honorees reception at The White House on December 03, 2023 in Washington, DC.  Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images / Getty Images

The Biden campaign notes it's been active in not just courting rappers' endorsements, but their audiences as well. 

The Biden campaign told CBS News it will have a presence at the "Essence Festival of Culture," the largest Black culture and music event in the U.S., and have paid media partnerships and meetings planned with Black celebrities and musicians at the upcoming BET awards in Los Angeles. 

The campaign also had canvassers at the April "Dreamville Fest" in Raleigh, North Carolina, put on by Grammy-nominated rapper J Cole, and had plans for R&B singer Usher's "Lovers & Friends" festival in Las Vegas in May, though the festival was canceled due to weather.

"The Democratic party has been very intentional and consistent about their outreach and engagement [with Black voters]," said Democratic strategist Antjuan Seawright. "I recognize that certainly there's more work to do because when you are the most decisive and loyal [voting] bloc– the biggest room in the house is the room for improvement."

In 2020, Mr. Biden was backed by Offset, another Migos member, and Chicago rapper Common, who performed at an Atlanta campaign rally. Puerto Rican rapper Bad Bunny also voiced campaign ads targeting Latino voters in Florida, Arizona and Pennsylvania.

Skepticism about impact of Trump's popularity with rappers

Political strategists, and political science professors who study rap music don't believe either candidate's support from artists will shift the race in a meaningful way. 

"We're not monolithic in any way shape or form," Seawright said of Black voters. "I don't think you'll see some mass sprint to Donald Trump because you have a few artists who show up with him or make an appearance."

Corey Miles, a Tulane University sociology professor who studies the intersection of trap music, a rap subgenre created in the south, and incarceration, said Trump has "always had a connection in the Black imagination," primarily from his days as a celebrity businessman.

"I don't think it's any different than what we've kind of always seen Black people do in terms of our diversity [in voting]. I just think Trump is such a sensationalist person, that when Black folks support him, it feels different or more of an outlier than it actually is," Miles said. 

During a February speech at the Black Conservative Freedom Gala in Columbia, S.C., Trump suggested Black voters support him because they view him as "being discriminated against" following his indictments.  "They see what's happening to me happens to them," he added. 

Following the release of his Atlanta mugshot in August 2023, rapper Chief Keef posted a photoshopped picture of Trump throwing up gang signs and wrote, "I know whatever deck he on[,] he good in the hood for sure[.] he finna run the prison."

A majority, 85%, of Black voters surveyed in a June CBS News poll believed Trump received a fair trail in his hush money payments case. A majority also considered it "very serious" and a "major factor" in their vote. 

"What's crazy to me is from the beginning of time, America has always told how to treat a convicted felon. Now that he's a convicted felon you want the rules to change," Florida artist Plies, a frequent critic of Mr. Trump, said on his song "Convicted Felon."

Tricia Rose, a Director of the Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in America at Brown University who has authored books about rap history and race, said Trump has "manipulated that ID of what Black felony status means for his own purposes."

Rose noted some of Trump's disparaging comments about crime in predominantly Black cities and his call for the death penalty of the "Central Park 5," five minority teenagers wrongfully convicted of raping a woman in 1989.

"What he's done is using kind of grotesque imagery — gold sneakers and so on — to create a relationship to a constituency that he's been brutal about," Rose said, referencing the Trump campaign's sale of limited edition gold sneakers.

"It's a very shrewd manipulation, that hopefully other young MCs who have a different understanding, perhaps a broader understanding, can jump in and challenge this," she added. 

The undecided and those to left of Biden

Other rappers remain undecided. 50 Cent, who was on Capitol Hill to talk about Black entrepreneurship, told CBS News he's unsure who he'll vote for this time. He switched his support from Trump to Biden in 2020.

Cardi B, who backed Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders in 2020 and Mr. Biden in the general election, said she won't vote at all due to disappointment with the economy. 

Some artists have also been outspoken about the Biden administration's response to Israeli strikes in Gaza. Macklemore's pro-Gaza single, "Hind's Hall," where he explicitly states he will not vote for Mr. Biden, has become an unofficial anthem for pro-Palestinian protests. 

Biden administration officials have supported sending more military aid to Israel, but has also been working towards a ceasefire in Gaza. 

"The blood is on your hands, Biden, we can see it all. And **k no, I'm not votin' for you in the fall," Macklemore raps.

Taurean Small and Shawna Mizelle contributed reporting to this story.

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