The 2008 presidential election, for more than the obvious reasons, is certainly one for the history books. Aside from what we already know–that for the first time in recent history, one woman and one African American were strong, viable contenders for the Democratic party’s top nomination; that record numbers of voters turned up at polls across the nation; that the possibility that the United States could elect its first African American president created a global groundswell of excitement among many, raised doubts among some, and triggered the ire and vitriol of an increasingly vocal few; and that ultimately, Senator Barack Obama was elected as the 44th President of the United States–the 2008 presidential election was far more than a typical democratic political process. It was, by all accounts, a cultural phenomenon.
Long before then-Senators McCain and Obama clinched their respective parties’ nominations, American voters had already begun to make their decision about which candidate would get their vote. The standard issue buttons, bumper stickers, and yard signs would eventually follow, but in the case of candidate Obama there was something more. Almost immediately following his official announcement stating his intent to run for president, the internet, as well as urban areas around the country, exploded with goods touting all things Obama. From blinged out T-shirts to homemade quilts and throws, one could hardly turn a corner in cities like Dallas, Harlem, and Oakland without stumbling upon kiosks, storefronts, and independent entrepreneurs hawking Obama-themed wares. And it didn’t end with apparel and home goods; singers and musicians of all stripes seemed to be teeming with inspiration following President Obama’s nomination and election, channeling their enthusiasm into hope-filled, celebratory song.
Although the initial exuberance that accompanied Barack Obama’s first campaign may have waned considerably over the past four years as Americans once again focused their attention on issues such as the economy, jobs, and healthcare, it would be erroneous to suggest that Obama supporters have completely abandoned the president in his bid for re-election or that the push to secure a second term for the administration lacks the heart and gusto that came to personify the 2008 campaign. On the contrary, not unlike what we saw four years ago independent artists and entrepreneurs are making their voices heard and positioning their creative output right alongside official campaign paraphernalia.
SoulTrain.com gives you a look into what three enterprising artists are doing to show their support for President Obama, and to encourage everyone to get out the vote come election day.
Martin Luther McCoy
Last week, Rebel Soul recording artist Martin Luther McCoy dropped his new song and video “Be the Best,” directed by Brian Bradley. A composite of bold graphics, historical film footage, and scenes featuring Martin standing before a backdrop of an American flag, the song is a cry to all to get to the polls on November 6. Although clearly in support of President Obama, the over-arching theme of the clip is that each of us has a voice and all of us are responsible for making sure our voices are heard. The video went viral just days ago, with an initial bump on Martin’s Facebook page followed by substantial buzz on Twitter as fans of both McCoy and President Obama retweeted and shared the video link.
In addition to “Be the Best”, Martin Luther McCoy is promoting his new album Love is the Hero, which is available for download.
If you’re a fan of the Minneapolis sound–not to mention some of Prince’s earliest (i.e., pre-1999, pre-Purple Rain) work–then you’re no stranger to André Cymone. Twenty-five years after his last official album, Cymone’s new offering is a single entitled “America”, and was released in September as a digital download for $1. Cymone is donating the net proceeds from the download of the song directly to the Obama campaign, and regularly updates his Twitter feed (@AndreCymone) with shouts out to those who’ve purchased the single and acknowledgements of donations made to date. The song itself evokes the best soul rock of the 1980s, yet rings fresh and current and manages to deliver a pointed message without being preachy. It’s danceable and inspiring, a tune that one could definitely listen to over and over again well after the election. And hopefully, it’s an indication that this venerable musician is on his way with new music for us in the very near future!
Photographer and graphic designer Rance Elgin was inspired to create and launch his exclusive line of T-shirts in support of President Obama while driving home from work one day. “I was driving home from the office and thinking about my pick for president.” The shirts feature the slogan “Pick Obama”–the word “pick” substituted playfully by a graphic of the iconic afro pick–emblazoned in white across your choice of a dark or light blue tee. Why the pick? “I couldn’t tell you how the actual pick came about…other than I was initially thinking about making a shirt for myself with something that represented something clever and something culture.” Elgin says that the shirts have been a great success since the site launched just a few weeks ago, with people rushing to the website to purchase as soon as they see photographs of the shirt on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. Truly a grassroots effort, Elgin tapped friends, co-workers, and colleagues to model the shirts on the website, and to participate in a YouTube video he produced where these everyday people express the specific reasons they “pick” President Obama.
Rhonda Nicole is an independent singer/songwriter, lovin’ and livin’ in Oakland, CA, currently performing with San Francisco-based soul band Midtown Social. Download her EP “Nuda Veritas” on CDBaby and iTunes, check her out on Facebook, and follow her on Twitter and Instagram @wildhoneyrock.