Recently, Turn It Down - a national campaign against white power music - was asked to contribute an article to a magazine overseas regarding the existence and potential of white power hip-hop here in the United States. Several European nations are seeing a sharp rise in racist and nationalist hip-hop, and our sister organizations wondered if America is seeing a similar cultural absurdity, particularly since America is essentially the birthplace and epicenter of hip-hop.
A large portion of membership and participation in the Turn It Down Campaign (also found on myspace) comes from bands and fans within the punk and metal genres, along with indie, alt.country, and other subgenres of rock. This may be due to the fact that these genres are the ones most often hijacked by white nationalist music. Additionally, or perhaps as a reason for this tendency, white nationalists find their most fertile recruiting grounds among the fans of these predominantly white music subcultures. But hip-hop?!
Whether or not you’re a fan of the genre, it seems common cultural knowledge that hip-hop emerged from the black and Puerto Rican communities, initially in New York and soon after in Chicago, Los Angeles, and across the nation. The notion that hip-hop could ever find validation within our nation’s enclaves of white nationalism seems ludicrous. But believe it or not, there is white power hip-hop out there.
You may have heard of Woodpile. They were a blip on the controversy radar a couple of years ago when they were signed to West Coast Mafia Records, run by well-known black rapper C-BO. The band and the label have staunchly maintained that Woodpile, who market their music to incarcerated white listeners and often pay homage to ‘the Woods,’ a white racist prison gang, are not in any way racist. They admit that they encourage ‘white pride,’ but their lyrics stop there. If anything, we’ve concluded that Woodpile is a bit silly, somewhat contradictory, but not explicitly racist.
Politiko, however, is less ambiguous. Politiko emerged as part of the brief ‘Ron Paul Rap’ trend, in which artists created and posted tracks endorsing Ron Paul all over the internet. Politiko’s track was fairly benign, but his follow-up work spelled out where he stands:
“I’m a conservationist Conserve America, ’cause the white man created it
Other races are defacing it. Soon they’ll be renaming it to Aztlan…
This is how every civilization has fallen.”
Here we have one example of what most culturally literate Americans would consider unthinkable – a white artist using hip-hop to spread racist hate. (Go ahead. Take a moment to get your mind around it. We needed to do so ourselves.) But if you think WE find it hard to stomach, you should read the chatter among white racists on the subject.
Messageboards across the white power online community contain heated debates around the question of whether or not the white power movement should acknowledge and use the power and popularity of hip-hop to further their cause. Some admit that it would be an undeniably effective tool in reaching alienated white youth, as white youth are the single largest consumer group of hip-hop music. Other hardliners refuse the possibility of having anything to do with a distinctly minority form of music; they feel that to use hip-hop, even for the purposes of recruitment and propaganda, would be to sink to the level of one of the groups they hate most.
We can’t say for sure if white power hip-hop has a chance of taking off in the United States. Our gut and sense of cultural history both say it’s impossible, but our research forces us to acknowledge at least a shred of possibility. We also can see that the white power movement is actively considering it – only the latest of many calculated possible efforts, directly aimed at recruiting new membership by infiltrating another music subculture.
What do YOU think?
*Image gratefully borrowed from stuttermonkey’s photostream