Last week, Russell Simmons, the founder of Def Jam Records, sent shock waves around the hip-hop and various political communities when he sat down and met with Ken Mehlman, chairman of the Republican National Committee. The word around town was the GOP was reaching out to Simmons in an attempt to start a relationship and boost its political presence among an increasingly politicized hip-hop generation.
Simmons, who in the past has made no bones about his dislike for many of George Bush’s policies, noted that he was so engaged with Mehlman that he wound up blowing off a previously scheduled meeting with Howard Dean, the new head of the Democratic National Committee.
So, while the GOP and hip-hop may not seem to be immediate allies, we should note that for the past year and a half the Republican Party has been making moves to start swinging people over. This was really apparent during the GOP convention when talking to the party’s proponents, ranging from Don King, J.C. Watts and Newt Gingrich, on down to Guardian Angel Curtis Sliwa. When I asked them why the hip-hop community should look at the GOP, they said that the GOP admires and respects the entrepreneurial genius and spirit of the hip-hop community. Folks would cite the success stories of P-Diddy, Jay-Z and Simmons and note that the GOP was about encouraging ownership and could help the hip-hop community build upon that in many ways. If I had not recorded these interviews, I would not have believed how sharp some of these GOP folks were coming across in terms of having down their key talking points for the hip-hop community.