Blogs Noise

A critical discussion of Ben Carson's rap ad

Ben Carson is buying airtime for a rap ad, featuring MC Aspiring Mogul, in Miami, Atlanta, Houston, Detroit, Birmingham, Alabama, Jackson, Mississippi, Memphis, and Little Rock, according to a report this morning by ABC News.

And there's no secret of Carson's intentions: "The Carson campaign is convinced that if he gets 20 percent of the black vote, Hillary Clinton would not win if they are head to head in the general election," says ABC.

"The purpose of the new ad is to awaken, appeal to and motivate the urban market," the report goes on to say, "specifically catering to younger black voters."


If you've somehow managed to make it the whole day without listening to this gem, here it is:

We couldn't just let this go unnoticed, so we asked some of our music writers and a rapper, JPEGMAFIA, to weigh in on the track from the campaign of the former Hopkins neurosurgeon.

Back in April, Carson, who is inexplicably the leading Republican candidate for president right now, told New York R&B radio station WBLS that black America "allow[s] the hip-hop community to destroy" its Christian values in this country, or something like that (just ignore that, save for actual Christian popular music, no genre is more aggressively Christian than hip-hop). But now, because he is full of shit and totally disconnected from the real world, he's using this anti-Christian music himself, with a new rap-oriented campaign ad aimed at, um, "urban audiences." The 60-second tin-eared clip has a fumbling, deep-voiced MC (imagine 50 Cent after he ate a really big turkey dinner) attempting to spit hot fire over a beat that is some kind of flute-based sub-Timbaland instrumental with clomping, fart-y synthesizers. Also, there are just two couplets in the whole thing: "Vote and support Ben Carson/ For our next president to be awesome"; "If we wanna get America back on track/ We gotta vote Ben Carson, a matter of fact." Otherwise, it's just this drowsy 50 impersonator chanting "Vote!" a bunch of times and audio clips of Carson himself, and his weird aww-gee-whiz voice providing a truly bizarre reading of American history and progress. Points for not going "old school" with it at least, even if its aesthetic is still firmly stuck in 2004. -Brandon Soderberg

Ben Carson is an anomaly to me i’ve never seen a man so smart be so stupid. It makes me question life in general. This guy separated conjoined twins and yet thinks Obamacare is akin to slavery. The cognitive dissonance here is fascinating. With that being said i can’t front about this ad, I'm neutral right now......that beat would go hard in 2002. .... & if i wasn’t of sound mind, He might have got my vote off the strength of how well the song is mixed and mastered. I would love to see hidden video of the strategy sessions at the Ben Carson for President HQ. Shit has to be hilarious. HEAL, INSPIRE. THAT'LL GET THE BLACK FOLK ON OUR SIDE! LMAO. The only problem i have with this ad honestly is the fact that he claims rap music ruined the black community, yet uses it here for an ad.... wtf is that? He also says that america became a great nation because people understood the value of personal responsibility, hard work, creativity, and innovation? America became a great nation on the backs of slaves and the deaths of the natives. I mean i guess thats creative in a way.....and i suppose it was hard work enslaving & murdering people, i don’t know. But it certainly was’t innovative and my ancestors never received a dime for their hard work because no one wants to take responsibility for slavery. So basically Ben Carson just lied, lol, so he’s off to a good start as politician. I’m gonna personally make sure he gets a copy of my "Black Ben Carson" album when it comes out because he’s definitely the white version of me. -JPEGMAFIA

This track should put to rest, once and for all, the idea that Ben Carson is a Baltimorean. You can tell that the Detroit native has been listening to Big Sean, with his offbeat spoken-word flow, but hasn’t kept up with Young Moose or Tate Kobang when he’s back in Maryland. And while the loping, unquantized drums and flute loop owe a clear creative debt to J Dilla, the post-"Aftermath" polish of the track is more in line with Eminem’s producer and D12 groupmate Denaun Porter. The violent fantasies Carson has shared with reporters on the campaign trail point toward his longtime fandom of the Insane Clown Posse, but he keeps things clean here, spilling neither blood nor Faygo. Although the intro features the campaign slogan “Heal, Inspire, Revive” that nods to Carson’s professional background, the accomplished surgeon and amateur wordsmith once again fails to take advantage of the numerous medical puns and references that Dr. Dre—who Dr. Ben will remind you is not even a real doctor—has exploited throughout his career. You’d have to pay 92Q to play this—and he probably will. -Al Shipley

Why should you vote for Ben Carson? Rapper Aspiring Mogul is here to tell you, and it's because, uh, well, Carson is awesome? Yes. And as a matter of fact, he would make a great president who will get America back on track. These strong talking points bookend samples of audio from Carson's stump speech. "America became a great nation early on not because it was flooded with politicians but because it was flooded with people who understood the value of personal responsibility, hard work, innovation and that’s what will get us on the right track now,” the first clip says, before giving way to this: “I’m very hopeful that I'm not the only one that’s willing to pick up the baton to freedom. Because freedom is not free and we must fight for it every day. Every one of us must fight for us because we are fighting for our children and the next generation." That's a more dressed-up version of "Make America Great Again," the slogan of Carson's biggest competitor, business mogul Donald Trump. Here's hoping next time Carson will lay down some bars on topics such as job creation, health care, and the pyramids. -Brandon Weigel

Not a good sign that that first thing that springs to mind while listening to this is a rich old white dude. Remember when Warren "I'm-the-Ishtar" Beatty tried rhyming about big money in "Bulworth"? Shudder. Second thought: those Ethereal Cereal and Fan-a-Way TV spots from "Putney Swope." Sure, those flicks are intended satires, but a real political campaign releasing something that reads like a joke isn't exactly a good look.

It's not Carson's campaign releasing a hip-hop spot to try to reach black voters that's cringe worthy; it's the condescending attitude that hip-hop is the default lingua franca in which to say absolutely nothing to black voters in America today that is. This "rap" is but two weak hooks bookending samples of Carson robotically speaking the kinds of strategic banalities—hard work, innovation, creativity, something called a "baton of freedom"—that spill from CEOs' overpaid mouths the country over. I'm sure nothing motivates the supposed base like empty rhetoric.

And, yeah, sure: What can you really say in the spot's 58 seconds? Well, Bay Area MC Andre Nickatina sketches an entire memory of the Fillmore District neighbor he grew up in on 'Ghost of Fillmoe' in less than 40 seconds. Of course, it probably helped that he had something he wanted to say. -Bret McCabe

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