• The Star Staff

Lil Wayne, latest rapper in Trump’s orbit, sees backlash over photo


By Joe Coscarelli


For as long as Donald Trump has been a brand name — representing playboy bling and New York business savvy in the 1990s up through his freestyle approach to presidential politics today — he has flirted with hip-hop. Sometimes, famous rappers reciprocate.


Yet even for a man who once palled around Manhattan nightclubs with Puff Daddy and Russell Simmons, and later hosted Kanye West in the Oval Office, Trump can still surprise with his Black celebrity alliances, judging by the reaction Thursday night to a photo op with Lil Wayne.


“Just had a great meeting with @realdonaldtrump,” the multiplatinum rapper posted to his nearly 35 million followers on Twitter after the two posed together in Florida, earning a retweet from the president. “He listened to what we had to say today and assured he will and can get it done.”


The photo immediately went viral on social media, but the backlash was swift as well, making Lil Wayne the latest in a recent line of rappers to align themselves, however briefly, with the president’s reelection campaign, only to face criticism from fans and fellow artists. Lil Wayne, like Ice Cube before him, had cited the president’s Platinum Plan, a two-page document rolled out in September that promised to “increase access to capital in Black communities by almost $500 billion” over the next four years.


Radio host Charlamagne Tha God, of The Breakfast Club on Power 105.1 FM in New York, responded in a segment Friday morning, calling Lil Wayne’s apparent endorsement a distraction. While he noted that Black voters are not monolithic, Charlamagne added, “Trust me when I tell you, Black people are not on the Trump administration’s agenda, nor will we ever be. All of our civil liberties are at risk.”


Representatives for Lil Wayne did not immediately respond to a request for comment Friday. Previously, before the 2016 election, Lil Wayne had distanced himself from politics and the Black Lives Matter movement, saying he preferred to focus on music. Asked about Trump specifically, the rapper responded with a laugh: “Who’s that?”


Earlier in October, New York rapper 50 Cent also seemed to endorse Trump in a post on Instagram, claiming that Joe Biden would raise taxes. “I don’t care Trump doesn’t like black people,” 50 Cent wrote. “62% are you out of ya [expletive] mind.” (Instagram marked the post as “missing context” and in need of a fact-check.) But the rapper soon walked back his support for Trump, and on Thursday, he reacted negatively to Lil Wayne’s political post.


“Oh no,” 50 Cent wrote Thursday evening. “I WOULD HAVE NEVER TOOK THIS PICTURE.”


Ice Cube, a founding member of N.W.A, who released a song called “Arrest the President” as recently as 2018, faced similar scrutiny after it was announced in October that he had consulted with the Trump administration on the Platinum Plan. He said later that he hoped to work with both sides and was not endorsing Trump, adding, “I don’t trust none of them.”


“Black progress is a bipartisan issue,” Ice Cube said. “I will advise anybody on the planet who has the power to help Black Americans close the enormous wealth gap.”


Trump has called himself the best president for Black Americans since Abraham Lincoln, despite a questionable record on race, including his pronouncement that there were “very fine people on both sides” after white supremacists rioted in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017. His campaign has said that it hoped to slightly improve on its performance with Black voters in 2016, when Trump earned about 8% of the Black vote. Of course, plenty of rappers have endorsed Biden, including Cardi B, Offset and Snoop Dogg, while others, like Waka Flocka Flame and Lil Pump, who is of Mexican and Cuban descent, have signaled an openness to supporting the president.


In an interview, writer, filmmaker and activist Dream Hampton called it “the hubris of the celebrity” for rappers to “kind of saunter in during the fourth quarter, talking about making demands.” She noted that while Black men will still overwhelmingly vote for Democrats — Biden holds a 78-11 percentage point lead among Black men, according to a recent Times/Siena poll — a macho affinity for Trump and the allure of economic success could explain his inroads with a certain segment of the hip-hop community.


“It’s the same reason they were referencing him in the ’90s — it’s about the lie of the American dream,” she said. “It’s about the lie of Black entrepreneurship somehow being a panacea to these larger social problems. Hip-hop became a stand-in for that, lifting up individual Black accomplishment.”


“There are real reasons to criticize Joe Biden, even in this eleventh hour,” Hampton added. “But we” — Black activists and organizers — “were already doing that.”

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