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.
He’s a spoken-word poet, a longtime producer/co-writer for Kanye West’s G.O.O.D Music, and a five-time Grammy winner.
Malik Yusef is also a Republican, albeit of the hip-hop variety.
“I’m a Republican because that’s where all my relationships are. The Republican Party is good for small business,” Yusef said. But, he added, the party has now “become a welfare system for big business.”
Yusef, who voted for President George W. Bush and called Arizona Sen. John McCain “my number one candidate in the world,” has become “disappointed” by the Republican Party’s shift to the right.
“Social conservatism is a moral choice. If you are pro-life, by all means be pro-life. But you can’t legislate that,” Yusef said.
But in this hyper-partisan atmosphere, Yusef believes in crossing party lines on issues that matter to him — civil rights and climate change.
“Police brutality has a long and carved history in America,” Yusef told CNN. “The candidate that I’m going to choose is going to have this issue at the forefront of their mouth, as well as climate change.”
As a Chicago native, Yusef experienced firsthand the effects of poverty and pollution and as a former gang member, he has firsthand experience of life on the streets.
“The phrase ‘Black Lives Matter’— I really love that phrase because I feel like America for so long has not understood that,” Yusef said.
President Barack Obama “didn’t talk about race enough or not at all” and that the #BlackLivesMatter movement is a reminder that “hey, I’m alive too and I have a right to be on the planet just as much as anyone else,” Yusef said.
Yusef is also a gun rights advocate, who believes that lack of access to mental healthcare is the issue leading to violent shootings across the country, echoing what many Republicans in Congress have said for years.
Gun control is not the answer, Yusef said because “People get guns because it’s a release” and “Those people that are getting guns in Chicago are getting guns illegally, anyways.”
He teamed up with the Hip-Hop Caucus to raise awareness about climate change and its disproportionate effect on low-income communities and people of color.
Yusef grew up in a place called “the toxic donut,” where the Little Calumet river was polluted as a result of four factories that operated alongside the river bank.
“You have to take care of the earth, so it’s a non-political issue,” Yusef said. “I don’t think there should be an argument about that,” criticizing the Obama administration and Congress for failing to regulate big businesses that are harmful to the planet.
In 2016, Yusef said that he would like to hear more from Bernie Sanders, even though Sanders is far from a Republican.
“I like the aggressiveness of Bernie Sanders. ‘Hey, this is what’s happening I don’t give a f— what you think about it,’” Yusef said, but added that as a Democratic socialist, Sanders is “too forward for America.”
Asked whether Kanye West still plans on running for president in 2020, Yusef said “the last time I talked to him” he said he would.
“He would run as a democrat or possibly as an independent,” Yusef said, adding “I’d run against him.”
See Yusef discussing climate change in the video above and check out more from the series.