Minnesota Congressman Keith Ellison hopes that Eminem’s fiery BET Cypher freestyle won’t just get people talking but also inspire them to take direct action by getting out to vote in upcoming elections. In an interview with TMZ, Rep. Ellison even compared Eminem to another entertainer-turned-activist who’s been making headlines lately: Colin Kaepernick, former NFL quarterback and current flashpoint for discussion about police brutality, inequality, and First Amendment rights.
“Eminem could be the Colin Kaepernick of the rap world if he just keeps it up, you know what I mean,” Ellison says. “We need him to do that.” While anti-Trump invective — which will apparently carry over to his next album — has been an important and necessary lightning rod for debate, calling out the President for his divisive behavior and statements, Em has stopped short of actually encouraging people to “rock the vote,” but Rep. Ellison sees that as the next step if real change is to take effect in US policy.
“Let me tell you, Eminem and many artists make an important cultural contribution, and we need to embed within our culture that voting is an obligation. It’s a responsibility, and that if you don’t vote, that’s not a protest. You can’t boycott the vote. If you boycott the vote, you just make sure somebody else is in there who doesn’t like you. And, so the truth is, is that in Michigan, we did see a drop in turnout. So, you know, Eminem, is a son of the state of Michigan and the city of Detroit, is doing the right thing. He’s doing what we expect artists to do.”
While voting is the most direct form of protest, Colin Kaepernick and other entertainers like Chance The Rapper and Jay-Z have also become more interested in grassroots organizing lately, building communities through charitable donations and positive engagement. Hopefully, the example they set through their philanthropy can be followed by others in action.