BREAK It Down!
At first blush, the notions of conservative, hip-hop, and Congressman may seem incongruent, if not mutually exclusive. However, as we wind our way through the 21st century, we must be aware that some paradigms have shifted; after all, we have a black President. There are other instances in which, while the paradigm may not have changed or evolved, there are exceptions. I give you Florida Congressman Henry Jude “Trey” RadeI, III.
Mr. Radel maintains a Twitter account. He describes himself, in his Twitter profile, as a “hip hop conservative.” He is a 37 year-old conservative Republican who represents Florida’s 19th Congressional District, which includes Fort Myers, Naples, and Cape Coral in southwest Florida.
“Trey,” who grew up in suburban Cincinnati, lists the musical influences of his youth as, Eric B., Big Daddy Kane, and Chuck D of Public Enemy. In other words, he was part of the “quiet as it’s kept,” majority white culture support system of the rap music industry. He claims as his 1989 introduction to the world of hip hop, NWA’s “Straight Outta Compton.” The first words he heard: “You are now about to witness the strength knowledge.”
Congressman Radel found a way to integrate the spirit of hip hop into his conservative political vision. As he framed it:
“I find a conservative message in “Fight the Power (a Chuck D meme)” because I believe when government expands it becomes a political tool meant to oppress.”
Radel may be a part of hip hop records’ majority of buyers, but his affiliation with conservative Republican politics is another thing altogether. While I have no statistics on the question, I have a sense that his avowed hip hop flava makes him a minority of one among Republican Congressmen. In his allegiance to the musically crafted views of Chuck D, he is almost certainly unique in the club that is Republican Congressmen. In July 2013, Congressman Radel, in describing why he is a hip hop conservative, wrote this:
“My goal as a Member of Congress is to connect and communicate the conservative message to people, cutting across cultural, generational, and ethnic lines. My love for music has helped me do this, and as much as we may disagree philosophically, Public Enemy and NWA have helped me do this. Music has always been a way to bridge people together, whether it’s sharing a head nod to hip hop or having a jam session with a few Fenders.”
On October 29, 2013, law enforcement officials arrested Congressman Radel on cocaine charges, in Washington, DC. Today he will appear in court on misdemeanor charges of possession; he could serve a maximum penalty of up to six months in jail along with a $1000.00 fine.
The Congressman, married and father to a son, has apologized to his family and his constituents. He has admitted, in addition to letting down his family and the voters, that he is an alcoholic. He notes that a positive outcome of this unfortunate event is it has nudged him to seek treatment and counseling.
I hope Trey can pull it together, for the sake of his family, for the sake of his constituents, and most important, for the opportunity to save his life. This is my wish for him, as it would be for anyone, our ideological differences notwithstanding. For nearly eleven months, Mr. Radel has been an interesting person, an oddity in his field. Today, he is…” The Conservative Hip Hop Congressman: Busted!”
I’m done; holla back!
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