Whatever you may think of Barack Obama as a potential president, it’s undeniable that his candidacy has spurred a reaction from the hip-hop community the likes that I haven’t seen in a generation. I don’t want to go off on the typical “rap these days is so apolitical, blah blah” routine but let’s be honest about this – for the last eight years, in one of the most divisive political climates we’ve seen since the Vietnam War era, the amount of political content in hip-hop has been stagnant at best, regressive at worst. You can blame that on apathy (or equally/more likely – media consolidation that’s cut off avenues of dissent in mainstream music) but whatever the case, it’s only in the last few months that I’ve really seen a major change and that’s largely because of Obama.

The symbolic import of potentially seeing a Black person become president cannot be understated. Pundits joke about Obama being treated as a Messiah and while there is certainly a significant amount of facile hype, for several generations of Americans, the prospect of seeing our national leader finally be someone other than another White guy justifiably fills folks with sense of giddy excitement. Heck, I’m not even sure I like a lot of Obama’s policies but even I can feel the power of the moment. Symbolism may not translate into material improvement but symbolism is important, especially in a society through which so many mythologies are woven.

This, I’m suggesting, explains why there’s been so many “Obama mixes” created over the last few weeks, now circulating through the interweb. And I, for one, am genuinely impressed by these acts of inspiration. Here’s a Side Dishes pick through some of the better ones:

  • King Most: The Obamix

    King Most is a Bay Area DJ who first released this about a month ago. Most’s mix is built around a series of songs that, thematically, match up with what he sees as the spirit of the candidate. The track selection begins excellently with with Smoked Sugar’s “I’m a Winner” and from there, Most crafts a party mix that jumps from contemporary soul remixes (Erykah Badu’s “Soldier”) to some classic, dusty crate funk (Skull Snaps’ “It’s a New Day”) to politicized hip-hop (Pitbull’s “American War”). The mixing is smooth and consistent with a little flavor thrown on top but not too much. At various points, Most mixes in speeches and other spoken word bits to remind you that’s there’s a message behind the music.

  • DJ Z-Trip: Party For Change

    Z-Trip’s known for his eclectic mixes and this one is no different. Like King Most, Z’s set is based off of thematic resonance with the election season – songs meant to inspire, uplift, outrage, etc. Keeping things on the hush, there’s no tracklisting but from my ears, I caught some Last Poets, Public Enemy’s “Black Steel In the Hour of Chaos,” a Bob Marley cover, Arrested Development’s “Everyday People,” and…NuShooz’s “I Can’t Wait.” Throughout, Z-Trip also sprinkles in bits from Obama’s speeches, using them to play against the songs (as he does with that NuShooz track). His penultimate song? Sam Cooke’s “A Change Gonna Come” – somewhat predictable but its impact is felt all the same.

  • DJ Premier: Time 4 Change

    Ok, technically, this isn’t really an Obama mix since the bulk of it is like any other DJ Premier mixtape you’d hear – joints he produced, lots of mixing and cutting, etc. The main difference is the intro where Premier goes mad DJ on folks (as only Primo can). Here’s the highlight: “if you want change, it’s up to you motherf*ckers! Everywhere I go, across the world, people fight for their rights! Here in America, motherf*ckers is p*ssy, acting like they can’t do sh*t, start doing some sh*t, otherwise you ain’t doing sh*t! Make sense? It does now, because I said so!”

    That alone is worth the time to download.

    By the way, there was one other prominent mix:

  • DJ Green Lantern: Yes We Can, which I left out of this since…well…I found it rather unlistenable despite all the high-powered cameos they have on there (Nas, Jay-Z, Russell Simmons, Oprah). Just goes to show that, in art, as with politics, good intentions doesn’t always make for great results.

    And oh yeah: go vote on November 4th. You can’t hope for change and not play your part by at least taking yourself to vote.

    (Cross-posted from Side Dishes).

    Bonus round:

    Dres remakes “The Choice Is Yours”