Two nights ago, rapper Lupe Fiasco (pictured) made an impromptu appearance at a townhall community gathering in Philadelphia, where a debate on hip-hop, the youth vote, and the 2012 election was well under way.
For the first time, Fiasco responded in person to a debate that began on Twitter last week, when comedian D.L. Hughley and journalist Roland Martin criticized him for saying that he would not be voting for president in 2012. The two also argued that Fiasco’s voice could influence young Black men to stay away from the upcoming national election.
Although he wasn’t scheduled to appear at the Rap Sessions event hosted by Art Sanctuary, Fiasco tuned in to the event’s twitter feed and tweeted to panelists, “I’ll be there in 5 minutes,” while in town promoting his new album “Food and Liquor II.”
Moments later, he joined the panelists on stage at the historic Church of the Advocate on Diamond St., in North Philadelphia.
Saying that his views had been misrepresented in the aforementioned Twitter beef, Fiasco clarified that while he will not vote for president, fans should follow their own interests:
“I’m not there to tell you who to vote for, what to drink and what to dress,” Fiasco said. “I’m there to tell you the ingredients. I’m saying this has a whole lot of high fructose corn syrup in it and you know what high fructose corn syrup is…but I’m not saying don’t drink it. It’s not my role.”
For Fiasco, voting on the local level was where he felt the emphasis should be put, because those issues, involving the school board to judges to contests, are immediately important to people’s lives. The rapper also referenced various moments in Chicago when he was actually engaged in the voting process, including his support of fellow rapper Rhymefest’s run for alderman in 2010.
For nearly a decade now, Rap Sessions has consistently pushed the limits of the traditional panel. Through a continuously rotating line-up of scholars, artists, and activists, Rap Sessions has become the panel of choice for communities and colleges alike. Past iterations of the panel have featured Chuck D, David Banner, Dr. Tricia Rose, and Duke professor of Black popular culture Mark Anthony Neal, among others.
Wednesday night’s discussion included the League of Young Voters’ Rob Biko Baker, Alexis McGill Johnson of the American Values Institute, Author Bakari Kitwana, political consultant Angela Woodson, and Lehigh University Africana Studies professor James Peterson.
Hip-hop artist Jasiri X, who was also part of Wednesday’s discussion, said,“I think Lupe coming through Rap Sessions shows not only the power of hip-hop and social media but also the need for a deeper conversation around participation in the political process.”