President Barack Obama has touted hip hop endorsements more than any other candidate on the national stage. His campaign doubled down on that strategy Monday, launching a flashy ad touting Jay-Z, the rapper, business mogul and former drug dealer, as the embodiment of the American dream.
"The idea of America is that no matter who you are, what you look like, or where you come from, you can make it if you try," says Obama, adding, "Jay-Z did."
The ad shows Jay-Z, clad in a black suit and tie, talking somberly about how many people's voices have been "silenced" in the political process, either because they were prevented from voting or because they "didn't believe their voice mattered." "Now people are exercising their right," he adds, "and you are starting to see the power of our vote."
President Obama's lines in the ad were from a recording made for "Jay-Z's Made in America Festival in Philadelphia on September 1st," an Obama aide told The Nation. While the video is not running as a television advertisement, it could draw significant attention online, especially from young voters and African Americans. In 2008, the Obama Campaign distributed several Jay-Z videos that went viral, including footage of Jay-Z's poem about the legacy of Rosa Park, MLK and Obama; a clip of then Senator-Obama using Jay's signature hand gesture to dismiss political attacks by figuratively brushing them off his shoulders; and a detailed briefing on voter-ID rules for Michigan voters. The Michigan video, like this new ad, focused on mobilizing supporters, not persuading swing voters. The Obama Campaign has adeptly used YouTube and social networks as a relatively thrify way to do targeted messaging. TV ads are great for broadcasting, but voter turnout is about narrow-casting.