I do not have a shrine in my room. But is my wall — plastered with a poster of the much younger, much hotter, and much more stoned version of this nation’s president — a place of casual worship?


Yes — I love Barack Obama. His face is the last thing I see before the lights go off every night, and that hazy black and white image of a genius thriving in his college days is sometimes the only thing that motivates me to get out of bed in the morning, It’s safe to say I felt like I know him— until today.

When I was mindlessly scrolling through Pitchfork this afternoon, I came across a headline that confused me: “Obama Discusses His Favorite Rappers: Chance, Kendrick, Kanye, Drake, Jay Z.”

Okay wait, hold up. Barack. My dude, my guy, my role model: I respect the shit out of you, but sometimes you make it a little harder than it has to be. Your suuuuuuper vanilla list that screams “Hey Malia, name five uncontroversial hip-hop artists who you also think are hot,” left me cringing and begging one very serious question:


He started this gangster shit, and this the muthafuckin thanks he gets?

Let’s back up.

Obama has proven to be absolutely woke in terms of pop culture—specifically sports and music. In 2013, he picked Cal over Stanford in men’s hoops to reach the NCAA Final Four (which neither team ultimately accomplished, FML)  and in the same interview where he was wrong in his rapper rankings, he switched gears and picked the Warriors to win the NBA championship this next season. Even though any intelligent person looking at the Dubs’ Starting Five — which includes Kevin Durant and Steph Curry, two of the best players in the country — could predict the team’s probable success, it still serves as proof that our president was not delusional and/or high when he spoke to SiriusXM’s Sway in October — which only further fuels my confusion around his flawed ranking of still-alive rappers.  

And his music taste has been equally on point. According to WOLB Talk four years ago, he ranked The Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter” #4 on his Top 10 songs on his iPod, which, as you all know, sent me to Enlightenment at Desert Trip this October. His wedding song was Stevie Wonder’s “You and I”; he’s known and loved Chance The Rapper since he was eight years old. And his 2016 Summer Playlist featured songs from queens of R&B, including Mary J. Blige, Aretha Franklin and Billie Holiday.

I assumed that all people intelligent enough to lead a nation were also boring enough to have zero taste, the thrill factor peaking at maybe one of Frank Sinatra’s more upbeat songs. But damn, Barack. Respect.

We get it, Mr. President. You’re obviously not George W. Bush….or Donald Trump…or even Hillary Clinton — who is using Rachel Platten’s “Fight Song” as her campaign song (the use of a textbook, bubblegum pop song strikes me as shockingly anti-feminist, but I digress).

Obama. Sir. Please hear me out.

In spirit, you are a gangster rapper. When 2Pac famously rapped, “We ain’t ready to see a black president,” in his 1998 work of genius, “Changes”, he was begging the universe for you to come along.

I love and respect you deeply. So when you told SiriusXM’s Sway that your favorite current rappers are Chance, Kendrick Lamar, Kanye West, Drake and Jay-Z (who you proceeded to preface with the title “King”), my entire faith in your leadership, morality, and most of all, intelligence, was thrown into question.

One of men who spearheaded the genre of gangster rap, the mastermind lyricist who once rhymed “taxidermist” with “thermos” (see “Pushin’ Weight”, War & Peace Volume 1: The War Disc) and wrote an entire song about how he will never have sex with white women (“Do I wanna fuck, not hardly / That’s kind of like Barbie fucking Bob Marley” — my favorite line from “Cave Bitch”), and a Founding Father of the this-is-not-fucking-okay attitude — Ice Cube is undeniably brilliant. His voice presents listeners with an incredibly potent formula of politics, rage and comedy. His lyrics rage with the simultaneous tenacity of Muhammad Ali (in and out of the ring) and the eloquence of Albus Dumbledore. His songs have defined gangster rap and used the medium to reinspect institutionalized oppression and racialized violence in America, specifically in the hood.

So, in this October 28 interview with SiriusXM’s Sway, when Obama forgot Ice Cube’s name but remembered Drake’s, I couldn’t just let it be.

Stay woke, Obama. But next time you say Jay-Z is King…well, you better check yo self.  


**Writer’s note: I also love Jay-Z. I promise.**


\Written by Natalie Silver.
Design by Shirin Sadjadpour.



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