When the general election campaign began in the fall of 2008, few expected Barack Obama to make much of a showing in the overwhelmingly republican South. Yet as the first African American to head a major party ticket, Obama did strikingly well in a region not particularly known for its recent sympathies for white Democrats, much less black ones. The South somewhat surprising role in the 2008 presidential election can best be appreciated in the context of a regional political tradition which, since the end of Reconstruction, has been marked less by true two-party competition than sustained periods of domination by each.
This article identifies a particular aspect of hip-hop’s range of cultural production – conscious rap – in order to isolate one of the more politicized discursive options available to youth in America and a site where critical perspectives on post-Civil Rights America have emerged most forcefully. It further suggests that Obama’s political rise corresponds with a new phase in hip-hop and has impacted the ways in which its creative artists frame and articulate issues of race, class, and identity.