Lil B explains why he switched his allegiance, his take on the black vote in the 2016 race and the "Black Lives Matter" movement
"To win African-American voters you have to feel them" and a lot of these candidates "don't understand what that means," Lil B said
Editor’s Note: Art often reflects the political pulse of society and the issues that people care about. Throughout the 2016 election cycle, CNN Politics will be profiling various influential and politically conscious artists in the “Get political” series.
California rapper Brandon McCartney, known by his professional name Lil B The Based God, released a track last year expressing his love and respect for Bill Clinton.
And in his ode to the former President, titled “B—- I’m Bill Clinton,” he raps a sort of endorsement for Hillary Clinton even before her 2016 presidential bid was announced: “Shout-outs to Hillary Clinton. You gonna win that presidency.”
But last month, Lil B took that endorsement back, and in a series of passionate tweets, he publicly endorsed Bernie Sanders, saying, “As much as I want to a woman leading the USA, right now it’s all about Bernie … he’s the real he loves us.”
The 25-year-old rapper is a former member of the San Francisco rap crew The Pack, who were best known during the mid 2000s for their Billboard-charting hit “Vans.” He is outspoken about racial inequality, the criminal justice system and poverty in both his freestyle lyrics and as a motivational speaker, and he has given lectures at universities including MIT, UCLA and NYU.
In an interview with CNN, Lil B explained why he switched his allegiance from Clinton to Sanders, his take on the black vote in the 2016 race and the “Black Lives Matter” movement.
On why he dropped Clinton for Sanders
“No one’s really been saying anything about Hillary Clinton besides that she’s a woman and running for office,” Lil B said. “To me, it’s kind of like the same thing when Obama was running, but the difference is Obama seemed to have a more down-to-earth personality.”
Lil B said he was excited by the prospect of the first woman president and had planned to vote for her, and liked her husband.
But he said what he learned about Clinton and Sanders’ backgrounds changed his mind.
“Once the people started telling me about Bernie Sanders and comparing what he was doing back in his younger days and what she was doing, it made me kind of look at her different – not really respect her as much as I thought,” adding that “she was doing some other stuff for some Republican,” citing Clinton’s support for Sen. Barry Goldwater’s failed 1964 presidential campaign as a “Goldwater girl.”
“She didn’t have any part in trying to march against segregation. She was just a follower,” Lil B said.
And when Sanders followed him on Twitter, the rapper’s admiration for the Vermont senator grew because to Lil B, who candidates follow on social media tells him about who they feel they should be listening to.
When asked whether he vote for Clinton, who received a wave of endorsements from rappers over the last year, in an general election, Lil B said “I want to feel her out … I always look at where people started and I want to know what she has to say about that.”
The Clinton campaign did not respond to requests for comment.
On the black vote and #BlackLivesMatter
After the recent deaths of several young black men and women at the hands of police officers, civil rights and criminal justice reform are high on the rapper’s priority list this election cycle. He released several tracks addressing racial inequality, including “I Can’t Breathe,” in reference to the choking death of Eric Garner last summer in New York.
And for “Black Lives Matter,” a national movement that was initiated after George Zimmerman’s acquittal in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin in 2013, activists are pressing candidates on their plans for tackling racial injustice. Many remain unimpressed and disappointed by both parties.
When asked what candidates need to do to court black voters, Lil B said that if they are not connected to the community, they will not succeed.
“To win African-American voters you have to feel them,” and a lot of these candidates “don’t understand what that means.”
“I wish people grew up in the hood and grew up with adversity and seen s—,” he said.
He added that black-on-black crime is “real,” but asks “What about the dirty landlords … the dirty bankers … the police that are dirty or the dirty court system? With black-on-black crime, most of the times, that comes from poor black people that’s trying to get out. They’re misguided,” he said.
On Sanders’ run-ins with #BlackLivesMatter demonstrators
When asked about Sanders’ tense interaction with “Black Lives Matter” demonstrators, who interrupted a town hall for liberal activists last month, the rapper said that while he did not watch the interaction, the movement should give Sanders a chance.
“It might be uncomfortable for him to talk about the issues but he has a leg to stand on,” Lil B said. “I mean, if he was marching for civil rights back then, he was protesting against segregation … and all the youth, the black youth, should be able to hear him out.”
But the rapper added that candidates have to be able to take the heat.
“Of course, with age differences … he might feel a little weird talking to younger people that might look different … or might feel a little different,” he said of Sanders.
Sanders had another run in with #BlackLivesMatter protesters Sunday, in which about a dozen demonstrators took the stage and grabbed the microphone from the Senator.
Sanders stood a few feet off stage and his aides said that he had no intention of leaving during the protests, but when the mic was not handed back to Sanders, organizers effectively shut down the event.
“I think he handled it very classy,” Lil B said. “There’s some times when these people, they feel the need to speak and they feel like there’s an urgency … I think Bernie let them speak and its the admirable thing to do … He didn’t have security escort them off stage. That’s another plus side for Bernie.”
Lil B’s advice to 2016 candidates
While addressing a largely black audience at the National Urban League conference in Miami last month, Democratic presidential candidates Clinton, Sanders and former Maryland Governor O’Malley seemed to have learned from past troubles, as they each called for racial justice by invoking the three key words: “black lives matter.”
But Lil B said that candidates should not only be addressing people at conferences, but should also be talking to people like him.
“I really do represent a lot of people, the poor people … people who barely got $20 to their name … the middle class, the teenagers … people who aren’t paying attention but they still have questions and have voting power,” he said.
And his advice to candidates who are trying to connect with a diverse group of Americans? “You gotta rock with the people.”