Barack Obama’s Spotify playlists always go viral for their hip-savvyness. And for the most part, they actually are on brand. One could definitely imagine Obama listening to Kendrick Lamar and relating to the lyrics of To Pimp a Butterfly. It was both genius marketing, and subtle identity politics that actually had a kernel of truth to it.
And while Joe Biden has played into the ‘lovable uncle’ branding, and Kamala Harris’ experience as a woman of colour lends her credibility with many sectors of the BIPOC community, the inauguration playlist they released…just doesn’t quite sit right.
I took a brief statistical look at the music they chose, and the results are as follows:
I applaud the efforts by the Democrats to relate to the youth vote…but we must not forget to not mindlessly welcome any politician on accounts of who they aren’t.
One inclusion on the playlist that ruffled some feathers in the hip-hop community was MF DOOM’s “Red and Gold”. Given DOOM’s recent passing, on its surface, it could seem like a fitting tribute…but hip-hop fans were quick to remember DOOM’s run-in with visa issues in 2010, under the Obama-Biden administration.
DOOM, real name, Daniel Dumile was born in London, and never naturalised to become a US citizen. This led to him being unable to re-enter the US after a European tour, eventually separating him from his wife and family for two years.
Understandably, DOOM fans were critical of the playlist.
Now you may think, it’s just a playlist, who cares? Rather, it should serve as a caution to listeners and voters to be aware of pandering to audiences in such disingenuous ways.
Just because “Orange man bad”, doesn’t excuse any Biden/Harris missteps in the past. From Biden’s sketchy history with the criticised 1994 anti-crime bill, to Harris’ history as attorney general (in a time when police brutality is a number one issue), we should be on the watch more than ever to keep these politicians accountable.
It’s all too easy to fall victim to their games of identity and visibility politics, even in something as innocuous as a Spotify playlist.
The MF DOOM track included on the playlist was the instrumental version. In the actual lyrics, DOOM raps on the cycle of inner city violence and system of police brutality stacked against his “melanin”. His words serve as a prophetic warning, even in this context of holding those in power accountable:
Hold your head, use your head and hold, or be dead and cold
In the worsest way, soon as the leaves show red and gold
Listen to the playlist yourself, and be your own judge!