Posted on June 21, 2024

Trump Courts Rappers as Surrogates for His Campaign to Win More Voters of Color

Nnamdi Egwuonwu, NBC, June 20, 2024

At Donald Trump’s Black voter outreach event at a Detroit church last weekend, the church’s pastor and several prominent Black Republicans joined the former president onstage. So did another unlikelier figure: rapper Casada Sorrell, better known as Sada Baby.

Most Republican voters may not be familiar with Sada Baby, but there’s a good chance their kids are. In 2020, he went viral with his single “Whole Lotta Choppas,” a pandemic mainstay on TikTok that was among the first viral records on the app.

Years later, he sat onstage inches from Trump and said, “He might be the first person to make me vote,” fueled in part by the mere fact that Trump’s team reached out to him.


And it’s not a one-off move. As Trump works to court young voters of color, one strategy his campaign has pursued is to turn rap stars into surrogates, pursuing not only nationally renowned names but also smaller acts prominent in their local communities.

The campaign hopes the outreach will create a permission structure for undecided voters in communities with little history of supporting Republicans to at least consider Trump’s message. And Trump is embracing rappers — and they are embracing him — as polling data suggests this election may feature a generational split among Black voters, with younger members of the community showing much more openness to Trump.

Icewear Vezzo, another Detroit-based rapper who was at Trump’s event in Michigan, encouraged his fans to consider Trump after having gotten backlash for posing with him after the roundtable discussion.


During Trump’s rally in the Bronx, New York, in the waning days of his criminal hush money trial, he brought onstage Brooklyn rappers Sheff G and Sleepy Hallow, both mainstays in New York’s increasingly influential drill scene. The week before, they were both charged in a 140-count indictment in Brooklyn that accused a group of “allegedly committing shootings, possessing guns, and using stolen cars during shootings, to eliminate” rival gang members.


A spokesperson for the Trump campaign called Trump’s engagement with the rap community “completely organic,” saying the message resonates with the artists because they’re unhappy with President Joe Biden’s immigration and economic policies.


Trump’s reputational redemption from some rap artists has been fueled in part by praise he received for his handling of criminal justice matters.

Rappers Lil Wayne and Kodak Black became vocal supporters of Trump after he included both in his list of 143 pardons and commutations in the final hours of his term in 2021.


The First Step Act, the most significant federal criminal justice reform in this century, which Trump signed into law in 2018, has also been praised for shortening prison time for some nonviolent offenders and implementing sentencing reforms. It’s among the reasons Billboard chart-topping rapper Sexyy Red cited for her support of Trump.

“I like Trump,” Sexyy Red said in an interview with comedian Theo Von. “Once he started getting Black people out of jail and giving people that free money. Aw baby, we love Trump. We need him back in office.”

As Red alluded to, Trump has been praised for the stimulus funds his administration gave to tens of millions of people during the Covid-19 pandemic under the Paycheck Protection Program, with his name printed on the fronts of paper checks mailed across the country.

“The Black community was not f—— with Trump, but when that PPP and all that came out, Black people forgave him,” West Coast rapper YG said, nearly eight years after he released a diss track protesting Trump’s 2016 presidential bid.

Rapper 50 Cent, during a visit to Capitol Hill in which he met with Republicans, including House Speaker Mike Johnson of Louisiana and Rep. Lauren Boebert of Colorado, told reporters he sees Black men “identifying with Trump” because “they got RICO charges [too].” That belief has been perpetuated by Trump and shared by some of his Black supporters, as well.

Emmuel Brown, 77, a Detroit resident who attended Trump’s recent event there, said that “there are a lot of Black men that have been in trouble, so they can identify” with Trump.


Some critics have downplayed the significance of Trump’s embrace of rappers, noting that he boasted endorsements in 2020 from the likes of legacy acts like Kanye West and younger acts like the then-viral Lil Pump — but didn’t get a substantial increase in support from Black voters compared to 2016.