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Opinion

For a 2012 Obama win, hip-hop stars must 'Barack the vote' like they did in 2008

Rap and hip-hop artists have turned down the volume on their once-boisterous efforts to rally their fans – a key part of President Obama’s base – to support him in 2012. To see Obama take office for a second term, the hip-hop community needs to return to the momentum it built in 2008.

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In April 2011, Russell Simmons, founder of hip-hop label Def Jam Records, posted an open letter to Obama on The Huffington Post. He cautioned, “As a passionate advocate of yours since I joined your campaign in 2008, there is something you need to hear: in trying to soar above party politics, you risk forgetting your most important commitment to inclusion and empowerment.”

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Of course, it may be too early to say whether the hip-hop community will show up to help Obama for the 2012 election as they did 2008. And key members of the community continue to show support for Obama – including those who have criticized him in the past. Last month, Mr. Simmons told Vibe Magazine, “The President has made tremendous progress on a number of issues from ending the war in Iraq to job creation and Wall Street reform, however there are many of his policies that need time to go into effect and we have a lot more work to do.”

Artists like Common and moguls Simmons and Jay-Z have all been invited to the White House for various events and continue to support the Obama campaign for 2012. The Roots performed at a recent fundraiser in New York where the president raised millions for his 2012 campaign from benefactors who included Simmons.

Both Mr. Combs and Simmons have designed shirts for the Obama campaign’s Runway to Win project, a collection of Obama 2012 merchandise from top fashion designers, with purchases funding his re-election campaign.

But if Obama wants to breathe new life into the electorate, influential hip-hop artists need to step up to the microphone and lobby more young and urban voters. The challenge is more than just registering people to vote; it’s getting them to the polls and getting them to volunteer for the campaign as they did in 2008.

The hip-hop community can influence the return of the millions of voters that came out for Obama in 2008. There are also 46 million eligible young voters in this country – many of whom are new voters who may not have followed the 2008 campaign, or the past three and half years of the Obama presidency.

Getting their attention with an impressionable beat and politically infused lyrics chanted by one of their favorite rap artists could spark their enthusiasm for Barack-ing the vote in 2012.

Nakia Hill is a journalism graduate student at Emerson College in Boston and an intern on the commentary desk at The Christian Science Monitor.

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