It’s been tough holding back the news for over a week, but Bernard Freeman better known by his stage name Bun B, endorsed Senator Bernie Sanders for President in the first episode of a new podcast by promoter Matt Sonzala called “Hip Hop for Bernie Sanders.”
Bun B was one-half of the influential duo UGK from Port Arthur, Texas, and has since achieved major acclaim and success as a solo artist. Freeman is also an educator at the prestigious Rice University in Houston, Texas.
Bun B hasn’t been a total stranger to politics. In 2008 he endorsed Barack Obama for President and has done several PSA’s including: in 2009 for a Senate Runoff Election in Port Arthur, an anti-littering campaign in Galveston, and a no texting while driving initiative in Houston with Mayor Annise Parker.
Joining Sonzala and Bun B on the podcast was upcoming Houston rapper Fat Tony (he ain’t fat). Tony has been on the festival circuit and was doing the show at Warehouse Live in Houston where the episode was recorded.
Sonzala said the formula for the show he has in mind is to bring a politically minded artist on with one that is less so to try and bridge the gap for an audience who may also be less politically motivated.
In that vein, Bun B described how Hip Hop can help empower and give a voice to young people and how voting can translate that into political power and ultimately, change. He outlined the ubiquitous feeling that some things in our world just aren’t right, that they are happening to those we care about, and that we can no longer ignore it as they are “staring us in the face.”
“This is the opportunity and this is time to speak out. That’s what we try and do with Hip Hop, to educate, inform, and pass that knowledge on. With knowledge comes power, the power to stand up, be heard, and make change. The primary way for young people to stand up, be heard and affect change is to vote. And we’re trying to give people the kind of information they need so they can differentiate who they need to vote for.”
He also focused on getting young people engaged in the process earlier because people need time to make up their minds but also to spread “awareness.” The more young influencers who are calling for change early, the greater the chance we have of succeeding in seeing them come to fruition.
“As you get older and you become more involved in the political process and get a deeper understanding of civics in American and how these things work, you realize the more people hear the more they want to know, right? The more of us start voicing our opinions earlier, the more other people start getting informed or wanting to be informed. And that’s really what this is about, it is about awareness. We want to let people know early on how we rock.”
He continued saying that the dialogue allows people to understand the ‘why’ behind their support for Bernie as a candidate. Speaking as an “elder in the Hip Hop community” he said he was making it known that artists shouldn’t stay silent for fear of “compromising yourself with the corporate world,” but instead, “worry about compromising yourself and your family’s future, by not being man enough, or woman enough, to speak up about how you feel.”
That message began the segway into the reasons they were supporting sanders. Sonzala asked Fat Tony if he was aware of Sanders push to legalize marijuana. Tony said, “no,” but that he had recently recorded a song about Marijuana. It wasn’t a typical rap song about sitting around getting high, “that’s too easy,” he said. This was about the history of prohibition and the continuous marginalization of people of color. The subject is also personal as both Bun B and Tony recanted their brushes with being on the wrong side of marijuana laws.
The topics ranged from criminal justice reform to wealth disparity, but the binding theme was education. Sonzala mentioned Sanders plan for universal college education and Tony said it would have helped him finish college. He said he comes from a family of educators but simply could not afford to keep up with loan payments.
This is a message Bun B has heard before as an educator at Rice, from people who would like to take his class but can not afford Private School tuition rates. Earlier this year he explained the way he viewed the opportunity to teach the class, “But looked at it like, if I can do this, it will inspire kids, but what this says about how hip-hop lives and breathes made me want to do it. I knew it would be a lot of hard work, and I knew it would be not paying well. But it felt right and here we are.” Now his class is offered free online.
After the success of Killer Mike’s endorsement of Bernie Sanders, the concept has a huge potential to be a boon for the Sanders campaign. We have seen how the youth vote can make a difference especially for Barack Obama, in 2008. After they returned to the polls in 2012, Rock the Vote declared higher turnout among young people to be “the new normal.”
Sonzala plans to continue his outreach on behalf of Sanders and help the Senator gain prominent endorsements from the Hip Hop community. Now it’ll be up to the Democratic Party and progressive organizations to channel that energy and enthusiasm into issues that transcend individual candidates and trickle down to local community level politics.