The XX Factor


What would possess a wildly popular hip-hop artist to give up a successful music career for the chance to run a crippled, problem-plagued country?

Depending on how you feel about Wyclef Jean , you might say he’s motivated by good intentions, ego, or even lunacy. If you’re like me and you think his bid for the presidency of Haiti is a really bad idea , you might believe it’s a combination of all of these things.

Judging by the widespread coverage Wyclef has been getting since his big announcement last week, his motivation for running now seems beside the point. Although plenty has been written about why he wants to be prez-including this piece penned by the candidate himself-there’s clearly a fascination with the idea of a hip-hop artist running for high political office. While Wyclef won’t be the first musician to run for president ( see Ruben Blades ), he may be the first American rap star to do so, and in a foreign country no less-even if it is his native country.

Still, I wonder if he would be taken as seriously if he were just your run-of-the-mill rap star and not one with an actual humanitarian/ roving-ambassador portfolio . Imagine Mick Jagger running for prime minister of Britain. Hard to picture, right? Mick would certainly get lots of media attention, but would his candidacy be taken as seriously as a run for office by Bono?

And what if Kanye West wanted to be the next black U.S. president? Never mind, Kanye would not only expect to get lots of coverage, he would demand it. And if it wasn’t forthcoming, he would complain, very loudly, that he was robbed of attention he was rightly due, and then blame the media for causing him to loose the White House.

Maybe there’s a larger question here: If rappers are indeed powerful cultural trendsetters, can they successfully transition into being political trendsetters as they age? Could the run by Wyclef (who is either 38 or 40, depending on which article you’re reading) be the start of something bigger, prompting say Eminem to run for mayor of Detroit in a couple of years and become the real “hip-hop mayor” and not some poser like the discredited Kwame Kilpatrick , who now resides in a Michigan state prison. Will the 40-year-old Jay-Z put his “Run this Town ” mantra to the test and replace New York’s Michael Bloomberg when his elongated term finally runs out? After all Jay-Z did push last year for his “Empire State of Mind” to replace Sinatra’s “New York, New York” as the city’s new anthem. Would Ludacris , who at 33 is already branching out into more civic-minded activities , throw his hat into the ring for Georgia’s governorship when he turns 40?

It would be interesting to see what theme songs they’d chose for their campaigns given the level of misogyny in some of their lyrics. Eminem in particular might have a hard time getting the soccer mom vote after rapping for years about killing his now-ex-wife and raping and killing his mother.