But while many artists steer clear of name-checking one candidate over another, there’s a faction of the industry — especially in hip hop — who have never had a problem dropping names in their music. The majority of the lyrics reference current POTUS Barack Obama, though there are a few Mitt Romney refs to throw in for good measure. So get those ballots ready and head below to see which ones made the cut.
Kanye West, “Power”
They say I was the abomination to Obama’s nation/Well, that’s a pretty bad way to start a conversation
Admittedly, this namedrop may not be the most politically relevant on the list. But in the context of Kanye West‘s brilliant “Power” — built around the memorable hook “No one man should have all that power” — name-dropping the POTUS himself adds a new potency to the track’s take on struggle and justice.
Nicki Minaj, “Mercy”
I’m a Republican voting for Mitt Romney/You lazy bitches is fucking up the economy
This was a lyric that sparked a lot of conversation, even though listeners probably should have guessed that on this Lil Wayne track, Nicki Minaj was just playing a part with her typically satirical lyrics. Turns out that Minaj is actually an Obama supporter, but that doesn’t stop the media from going cross-eyed.
Lupe Fiasco, “Words I Never Said”
Gaza strip was getting bombed/Obama didn’t say shit
Lupe Fiasco‘s single “Words I Never Said” may have been built around a hook courtesy of Skylar Grey that she wrote about the death of a loved one, but the rapper didn’t miss an opportunity to turn it into a torch anthem. Breaking from the Obama adulation that’s common in hip-hop circles, Fiasco’s well-documented political radicalism comes through loud and clear here when he criticizes the President’s policies in the Middle East.
You know I wanna lift your confidence/Skip across continents/Vacate places Mrs. Obama went
When “Mo Money Mo Problems” rapper Mase put his signature spin on Miguel‘s single “Adorn,” the best part (besides having Mase back in the game) was his shout-out to Michelle Obama and her presidential swag.
Nas, “Black President”
On the positive side/I think Obama provides hope and challenges the minds/Of all races and color to erase the hate
Nas‘ song “Black President” might be the defining song of Obama’s rise to prominence, a smart and well-observed bit of unapologetically political rap. While the rapper’s lyrics open on a note of frustration over generational poverty and racism, the track ultimately concludes on a hopeful note.
Jay-Z, “My President Is Black”
Martin Luther walked so Barack Obama could run/Barack Obama ran so all the children could fly
Young Jeezy‘s “My President Is Black” was already a politically charged song, but when Jay-Z jumped on a remix of the track, he lent it new gravitas with his chill-inducing lyric about the passing of the torch from one landmark civil rights hero to another.
Kanye West, “To the World”
Mitt Romney don’t pay no tax, Mitt Romney don’t pay no tax/Chi-Town ’til I’m on my back, Chi-Town ’til I’m on my back
Yup, another political namedrop from Kanye West — but this one actually references Obama’s opponent instead of the current commander-in-chief, who West has made it abundantly clear he admires. Having perhaps exhausted that line of discussion, West turned instead to dragging his opponent, referencing Romney’s much-discussed taxation.
Someone I can love up like men/Like Obama needs to love up Chen
Like Lupe Fiasco’s lyric above, this sees M.I.A. — easily one of the most polarizing artists in the industry when it comes to her take on political issues — tackling Obama’s handling of the case involving Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng. Based on this, it seems like she wasn’t impressed with his policies.
Slim Thug, “I Run”
I’m writing a book, how to survive in a recession/Mr. Obama, we so tired of selling crack
Slim Thug‘s circa-2008 single “I Run” feels very much like the product of its moment (rappers aren’t as big on the recession any more, are they?) but his plaintive call for assistance amidst the fray of poverty hits close to home.
Childish Gambino, “My Girl”
So let’s not pretend like every girl don’t wanna be ya/You can be my Miss Obama minus Sasha and Malia
Childish Gambino (known as Donald Glover to his fans on Community) wins extra points for not only name-checking the First Lady on this track he laid down over Animal Collective‘s hipster classic “My Girls,” but also the First Daughters, packing in an especially clever rhyme.