Local artist raps out the vote

By Steven Schnarr

Sitting in a car next to road barricades on Michigan Avenue on election night, a guy was listening to Young Jeezy with a crowd of people. A Chicago rapper, Big Hit Buda, said he walked up to him, handed him his CD with a song titled “Elect Obama,” and said, “Just give me 10 seconds. If it’s whack, you can throw it across the street.”

Within 10 seconds of listening to the song, Brad “Big Hit Buda” Turner said the guy was bobbing his head. Brad and his brother started performing his song for the crowd in Grant Park.

The song by Big Hit Buda is all about electing Obama. About two months earlier, Brad, Shawn “TiL Dawn” Turner and Columbia alumnus Kyle Farthing had been shooting a video on the streets of Chicago for the Turners’ song “Elect Obama” with a special appearance by the Bucket Boys of Chicago, a group who drums on the backs of five gallon buckets.

After they uploaded it to YouTube in late September, the video got more than 50,000 views before the election in the next month-and-a-half.

“I wanted to make something that would not preach-a lot of these songs are odes to Obama,” Turner said. “I wanted to write ours to reach to people who are undecided and give them concrete reasons why to elect Obama.”

The song’s lyrics reflect upon problems facing the country presently, saying, “Gas prices sky high/and the economy’s down/Foreclosures throughout big cities and small towns/We’re losing jobs and McBush just wants to drop bombs/Hell no/I won’t stay calm ’til the world sings this song.”

After Will.i.am released the “Yes We Can” video in January, the two realized they needed to make a video, as well.

After an Obama supporters’ meeting early in the primary season, Brad and Shawn began performing the song a capella and asked for help singing from the audience, Brad said. He said 20 to 30 people signed up to come into the studio later and record the chant “Elect Obama.” The duo got a larger variety of people than Shawn said he expected.

“That’s when I knew we were onto it,” he said. “Because Barack was preaching his message: Black, white, young, old, male, female. And that’s exactly [who] we had come [to record with us].”

They put the song together and then had bits of the song played on radio stations for the primary elections in Pennsylvania and South Carolina. Though they knew the effect they had wouldn’t be dramatic, Brad said there was a need for their song.

“Obviously it’s not going to change everybody, but the goal was to reach [the undecided voters]” he said. “And also to just fire up the base more and fire up the vote.”

That’s when they recruited Farthing and began shooting the video in August in the streets of Chicago. But the group ran into a little trouble at an Obama rally in Springfield, Ill., in August.

“They had rented a big cargo van [with] big speakers set up and everything,” Farthing said. “They tried to perform a little concert after Obama’s speech when everyone was coming out, and the cops shut them down. In the video you see a little part of the police walking up to them.”

They edited the video and posted it on YouTube in late September, spending about $4,000 recording the song, playing it on the radio, shooting the video and giving direct contributions to Obama, Shawn said.

For Farthing, who shot the video, it affected him in a way that he had not thought about before.

“I’m not really into politics that much,” he said. “It was more kind of a job at first, but then I saw their passion for it and [Brad] explained it to me. He had so much drive for it, he made me think about it more.”

The two said the comments on the YouTube page really speak to how popular the song is.

Comments included, “I hope you’re getting this out by hand to every radio station in every swing state that you can,” and “I’m not usually a fan of rap, but this is a fantastic and inspiring song/video.” Only a few comments out of more than 150 are negative, and just about Obama, not about the song itself.

As for the song actually making an effect on the election, Shawn thinks there are two sides to the story.

“They may not say, ‘I’m definitely going to vote for him now because I saw this video,'” he said. “But they may be like, ‘There are young people out here making music videos, really good ones-they’re motivated; they got a good message.'”

For the future, Shawn said they are still looking to expand and said he is interested in working with Columbia students.

“We’re looking to make some more videos,” he said. “But this is the first one that we would mail to anybody in the country and be like, ‘We made this.'”

Watch the video at ElectObamaToday.com.