Music and politics have always been intertwined, especially in the world of hip-hop. But not all rappers relegate their political viewpoints to the confines of their art. Sometimes, they bring political candor to an actual campaign trail.
Plenty of rappers have flirted with the idea of running for political office. However, there have been a few who have thrown their hat in the ring, earnestly. From Belizean rapper-turned-congressman, Shyne to Kanye West, here are five rappers who have legitimately run for political office.
Before his career in politics, Belizean rapper Shyne was probably best known for his hit song “Bad Boyz.” The track reached number 9 on the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop chart. Shyne’s musical career was hit with some turbulence after he was convicted and imprisoned for assault and reckless endangerment.
While incarcerated, Shyne signed a multi-million-dollar contract with Def Jam Records and released his second album Godfather Buried Alive. The album was a hit. After Shyne’s release from prison in 2009, he was deported to Belize. A year later, he was appointed the Belize Music and Goodwill Ambassador. In 2020, he was elected to the Belize House of Representatives. Shyne’s political career shows no signs of waning as he is currently looking to run for prime minister of Belize in 2025.
Detroit-based rapper Esham has had a long career in the world of underground rap. His breakout album Bruce Wayne: Gothom City 1987 reached number 57 on Billboard’s Top R&B/Hip-Hop Album chart the year of its release. In 2002, Esham signed to Psychopathic Records and released a string of experimental “acid rap” albums including fan-favorite release Repentance.
In 2008, Esham told Metro Times he was in the process of petitioning to run for Mayor of Detroit. His petition was ultimately denied. However, his potential bid for candidacy did give fans a mayoral campaign EP. And to be honest, it was kind of ill. Seriously.
3. Uncle Luke
Luther Campbell (aka Luke, Uncle Luke, or Luke Skyywalker) was the leader of one of rap’s foremost group of provocateurs, 2 Live Crew. With that in mind, it’s hard to believe Miami native would ever run for office. After all, this was the guy who co-wrote “Throw the D.” So, make of that what you will.
However, in 2011, Campbell ran for mayor of Miami-Dade County. He ran on a somewhat(?) progressive platform that looked to bring transparency to local government (and tax strippers). Uncle Luke came in fourth among a group of eleven candidates. Regardless, he still managed to get 11% of the vote, which seemed like an impressive percentage, all things considered.
2. Kanye West
Kanye West has been the subject of countless controversies over the course of his career. From interrupted awards shows to several public feuds, West was no stranger to combative behavior. However, one of the strangest moments in his career was his bid for the presidency of The United States. On July 4th, 2020, Kanye West announced his campaign for President of the United States. In what seemed like another media stunt by the controversial rapper, West managed to qualify for ballot access in 12 states. His bid for the highest office in the US garnered over 66 thousand votes, receiving an average of 0.32% of voter support
1. Wyclef Jean
Wyclef Jean has never been stranger to politics in his art. He helped galvanize the socially conscious rap group The Fugees in the early ’90 and has been politically active ever since. Jean has tackled several political topics in his art, but in 2010 he went a step further.