Ben Carson's rap ad: Will it appease or offend black voters?

In April, Carson said hip-hop 'destroys' values and communities. On Friday, the candidate will release an ad featuring rap artist Aspiring Mogul.

David Zalubowski/AP/File
Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson speaks in Lakewood, Colo, on Oct. 29.

Ben Carson wants to court the black vote, so he's turning to a new medium: rap.

On Friday, Dr. Carson's campaign will launch a 60-second radio advertisement featuring rapper Aspiring Mogul and interspersed with portions of Carson's stump speech.

The $150,000 radio ad buy, called “Freedom,” will air in eight urban markets, according to ABC News.

"America became a great nation early on not because it was flooded with politicians but because it was flooded with people who understood the value of personal responsibility, hard work, innovation, and that’s what will get us on the right track now," Carson says between Mogul’s lyrics.

The ad seeks to reach black voters "on a level they appreciate and follow and see if we can attract their consciousness about the election," Carson campaign spokesman Doug Watts told ABC News. "They need to get involved and express their voice through their vote."

As Carson rises in the polls – the latest Quinnipiac poll shows him with 23 percent support among Republican respondents – the campaign is working harder to court African-Americans, who they have said will give Carson an edge over his competitors. But given his stance on a number of issues traditionally deemed relevant to black voters, Carson's appeal to the African-American community is decidedly mixed, and it's not clear how the ad will be received.

In a head-to-head match-up with Hillary Clinton, Carson receives 19 percent of the black vote, compared to Clinton's 73 percent, according to the Quinnipiac poll. This marks the first time since George W. Bush that a Republican candidate has received black voter support in the double digits.

"Even though he may not be courting African-Americans as aggressively as Clinton, Carson is polling better with African-Americans than any of the other Republican candidates and better than either John McCain or Mitt Romney in the last two elections," says Nick Clark, a political scientist at Susquehanna University, in an interview.

"If he is the eventual nominee and maintains even that level of support amongst African-Americans, that could be enough to tip a close race in his favor," he says.

Which is why the Carson campaign is working to bolster black support.

Certainly, Carson is a shining example of success. Raised by a single black mother in inner-city Detroit, he went on to become the first black chief pediatric neurosurgeon at Johns Hopkins Hospital.

He has spoken at schools to inspire young black students, raised money to refurbish libraries in nearly 150 of the country’s poorest schools, and been honored by a Detroit public school and a Nigerian medical school, both named for him.

Given that background, "the ad is quite effective in establishing his appeal, not just as an establishment outsider, but as a candidate coming from a similar background as many Americans," says Professor Clark. 

But Carson has also struggled to attract support from the black community. He rose to prominence by publicly insulting the first black president. The Republican brand is still viewed as toxic by many African-Americans, and some of his views are seen as antagonistic to black communities.

During a trip to Ferguson, Mo., where black teen Michael Brown was shot by a white police officer in August 2014, Carson slammed the Black Lives Matter movement as "sickening" and "bullying people," and has said America should "de-emphasize race and emphasize respect for each other."

"Ben Carson would be terrible for black Americans," former NBA star Kareem Abdul-Jabbar wrote in a recent op-ed for Time. A President Carson would be "an unmitigated disaster" for blacks on a number of issues, he argued, including healthcare, government assistance, and education.

"He rejects race as a construct for explaining social and economic mobility, just as white conservatives do; and he even rejects the public programs that helped his own family survive, mirroring the donor class of his party who want to get rid of those programs," Joy-Ann Reid, a national news correspondent for MSNBC, told the Daily Beast.

Carson criticized hip-hop in April, saying it plays a role in destroying African-American communities. Whether his new embrace of rap will help his campaign remains to be seen.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
Real news can be honest, hopeful, credible, constructive.
What is the Monitor difference? Tackling the tough headlines – with humanity. Listening to sources – with respect. Seeing the story that others are missing by reporting what so often gets overlooked: the values that connect us. That’s Monitor reporting – news that changes how you see the world.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to

QR Code to Ben Carson's rap ad: Will it appease or offend black voters?
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today