November 26, 2008
There are many defining images from the 2008 presidential election, but perhaps none more iconic than street artist Shepard Fairey‘s Barack Obama posters. The print shows only Obama’s face, head tilted, eyes gazing upward, shadowed in patriotic red, white and blue. The image’s clean, minimalist format was the perfect visual for Obama’s campaign, which focused on simple and savvy messaging. Not long after its release, the image appeared on everything from posters and stickers to T-shirts.
The image epitomized the convergence of urban art and politics that characterized this election year. Progressives organized record numbers of new and young voters, and proved to critics that the youth vote was a force to be reckoned with at the polls. These voters invented new ways to engage in electoral politics by making mixtapes, building mini-fashion empires and holding sold-out concerts.
With so much talent circulating, organizers from Generational Alliance’s Generation Vote coalition (including WireTap) sought to bring young artists together in a space where they could express their election-cycle enthusiasm. In July 2008, Vote Hip Hop‘s online music, art and video contest was born.
Vote Hip Hop’s purpose was to link youth civic engagement with politically inspired art and music. For nearly three months, young artists from around the nation submitted 70 songs, designs and 50 videos that showcased their desire for changes in our political process.
Vote Hip-Hop fans, along with a panel of judges, chose two winners and four runner-ups, announced on November 15th. Oakland, Calif. group Tha Faculty won in the music category for their song “Change the Nation” while fellow Oakland hip-hop group Napalm Clique took honors in the video category for “We Need a President (It’s Obama!).”
Both groups were invited to perform live at a Vote Hip Hop celebration held at the Oasis in Oakland. We caught up with them to talk about their projects, and hopes for the future.
When Napalm Clique’s emcee, Unity Lewis, and video producer, Trevor, aren’t making music, the 26-year-old Oakland residents are in the classroom, teaching media and technology to teens in the Bay Area. Lewis and Trevor sat down with WireTap to talk about this year’s historical election.
Wiretap: Where were you two on election night?
: I was downstairs at the homie F-L-O’s house [in Oakland]. He’s got third verse on the song. I was downstairs with him and his family in Oakland kicking back. We were cooking dinner, everybody was happy and it was a festive night. Right when we heard Obama got elected, right in front [of the house]–boop!–the police are pulling over somebody out front.