| Essay |

South Florida Rappers: Challenge Yourselves to Make a Difference on Your Block in 2017

Miami-Dade Superintendent of Schools Alberto Cavallo with Luther "Uncle Luke" Campbell after making a major donation to Liberty City Optimist and Overtown Optimist.
Miami-Dade Superintendent of Schools Alberto Cavallo with Luther "Uncle Luke" Campbell after making a major donation to Liberty City Optimist and Overtown Optimist.
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We’ve all fallen victim to the abundance of viral challenges. Musicians, their fans, schoolteachers, and even families in the suburbs have participated in posting their best responses to the #MannequinChallenge, spitting dope bars on the #SoGoneChallenge, and flexing every creative dance move possible for the #RunningManChallenge. But while these entertaining yet competitive social media prompts floated around the internet, there was another challenge that few rappers took advantage of last year.

During the historic 2016 presidential election, a record number of MCs vocalized their politics. Bobby Shmurda pledged his loyalty to Hillary Clinton, while Kanye West shocked us with outlandish support for Donald Trump. Meanwhile, rap stars such as Pusha T and Jay Z attempted to influence the vote through social media campaigns and free concerts. Hell, even Beyoncé tried to slay the vote yet failed to get her candidate of choice elected.

In the days leading up to Trump's inauguration, the biggest challenge that lies ahead is to uphold social justice for people of all colors and ensure our country runs smoothly during the Trump administration. If we plan to instill more accountability in our national government, the next generation of voters must start from the bottom and move up, especially in Florida.

To all the rising rappers throughout the state, now is your time to make a real change in our nation, beginning in your own communities.

The presidential election shouldn’t be the only time local artists speak about their political views. Between county, state, and even Congress, there’s an opportunity to exercise our rights as Americans at least every two years. Florida’s native rappers have the power to make an impact on local politics and defend social justice on their own blocks. In our politically divided state, local lyricists have a unique platform that can be used not only to push new music and shows, but also to benefit their friends and neighbors.

Our local rap veterans continue to boost Dade County’s economy. Rick Ross is trying to “buy back the block” one Checker’s at a time. Last month, Trick Daddy proved he still loves the kids after hosting his 15th-annual #TrickLuvDaKidsFoundation toy drive. And Luther "Uncle Luke" Campbell does wonders for youth football programs in Dade County. Everyone has their own way of getting involved in their communities, but young MCs here can switch everything up.

If you don’t like the way our government works, get involved with city and county elections. In a world where “Trumpism” is actually a thing, it’s imperative to pay attention to local politics in each city and town in every county in the Sunshine State. Push the vote for trustworthy candidates running for local office. Promote and perform at any local rally and festival that will give you the stage. Collaborate with Scratch Academy or other revered community organizations, such as P.A.T.H (Preserving and Teaching Hip-Hop) and the Dream Defenders, to create meaningful and creative events that will benefit your block and allow you to voice your opinions.

Learn from your fellow stars on the rise, such as Prez P, who assisted Team H.O.P.E for its #HashtagLunchBagNorthMiami event before Thanksgiving distribute food to the community in North Miami. Weeks after Hurricane Matthew blew through Haiti, Freebandz rapper Zoey Dollaz kicked off his Art Basel plans by hosting an event that helped collect funds and supplies for Haitian communities affected by the storm.

Uncle Luke has a point about local artists not getting the airplay they deserve on our hottest radio stations. However, based on what I hear on the airwaves and see on social media, SoFlo rappers have the power to step up to the challenge and change the way the communities perceive them.

If Pitbull and DJ Khaled have taught us anything, it’s that any artist who struggled at the bottom of the map can make moves to influence the world one tweet or Instagram post at a time. SoFlo rappers, I’m not asking you give up your swag, nor am I nudging you to become politicians. All I ask is that you promote awareness of local government and add more community service goals to your list for 2017. With the inauguration of Trump just days away, we need refreshing community leaders and lyrically assertive freedom-fighters more than ever.

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