- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 2, 2008

ATLANTA - Ludacris‘ new song, “Politics as Usual,” may have cost him one of his biggest fans, Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Barack Obama.

And for good reason: It points up the dilemma facing the nation’s potential first black president, who wants the support of the influential hip-hop community but needs to steer clear of the controversy so commonly associated with its music.

Ludacris’ “Politics as Usual” alludes to an imminent victory for Mr. Obama by handing out major put-downs to his rivals. It dismisses Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton as a vice presidential candidate - “that [expletive] is irrelevant”- and says presumed Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain doesn’t belong in “any chair unless he’s paralyzed.”

Mr. Obama, usually a Ludacris fan, was quick to distance himself Wednesday.

“While Ludacris is a talented individual, he should be ashamed of these lyrics,” Obama campaign spokesman Bill Burton said in an e-mail statement. He also called the song “outrageously offensive.”

Calls to Ludacris’ publicist and manager were not returned.

That Mr. Obama’s one-time praise for Ludacris has turned to scorn really is politics as usual, said John McWhorter, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, a conservative think tank, and author of “All About the Beat: Why Hip-Hop Can’t Save Black America.”

“Of course, Obama and his people have to condemn the rap, because it does say some vulgar things,” he said. “If you’re running for president, you’re supposed to be an upstanding individual.”

While hip-hop fans are expected to be a factor in the November election, the song is not.

“Hip-hoppers and black folks understand the game,” said Jeff Johnson, an activist and host of an upcoming news and public affairs show on Black Entertainment Television. “They’re thinking, ‘An Obama who knows how to play the game is still better for me than a McCain.’ ”

“There are a ton of people who clearly are looking for [Obama] to denounce this in order to continue to view him as credible,” Mr. Johnson said. “He, for political purposes, has to separate himself from anything controversially black.”

During the Democratic primary, Mr. Obama was bolstered by the black vote, and he has pledged to boost black participation by 30 percent in November - potentially adding nearly 2 million votes in 11 Southern states, enough to tip the balance in several states that have been solidly Republican.

The hip-hop generation stands poised to help him meet his goal.

Last week, the nonpartisan group Hip-Hop Caucus and hip-hop star T.I. launched the “Respect My Vote” campaign. The group conservatively estimates they will register 75,000 voters on the ground and 150,000 on the Internet, focusing mainly on those between the ages of 18 and 29 who are not on college campuses.

In March, hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons endorsed Mr. Obama. The group estimates that the hip-hop generation will be nearly 50 million strong this year - representing nearly a third of the electorate. (Mr. Simmons has temporarily stepped aside as chairman of the New York-based Hip-Hop Summit Action Network, which is nonpartisan, until after the election.)

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