Barack Obama's Most Hip-Hop Moments

For the President's 50th Birthday, we rounded up all of his moments interacting with hip-hop.

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Image via Complex Original
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Obama Was Friends With James Bernard of The Source

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Obama Was Friends With James Bernard of The Source

When: Late ‘80s/Early ‘90s

Complex says: According to Dan Charnas’ The Big Payback: The History of The Business of Hip-Hop, while Obama was attending Harvard Law School and becoming the first black editor of the Harvard Law Review, he befriended a hip-hop loving university troublemaker named James Bernard. At the time, Bernard was the managing editor of The Source and wrote a politically charged column for the magazine, “Doing The Knowledge.” According to Charnas, Obama would attend Bernard’s speeches and protests during their time at Harvard together. What’s more hip-hop than that?

Obama Chats With Ludacris

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Obama Chats With Ludacris

When: November 2006

Complex says: Obama’s embrace of the hip-hop community preceded his decision to run for the presidency, evidenced in 2006 when he met with Ludacris in Chicago. The rapper—who was there for the launch of the YouthAIDS campaign—said his time with Obama was like meeting a relative. Luda also said they spoke about empowering the young people of America—something Luda was obviously great at demonstrated by the success of songs like “Moneymaker” and “Ho.”

Obama Covers Vibe Magazine

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Obama Covers VIBE

When: September 2007

Complex says: About seven months after Obama announced he would run for President of the United States, he graced the cover of VIBE magazine with the caption reading “It’s Obama Time.” His appearance marked the first time a politician had ever covered the hip-hop mag. Then Editor-In-Chief Danyel Smith said the selection was spawned out of constant requests from readers for coverage of the Illinois senator. To top it off, the interview was conducted by OG rap writer Jeff Chang—who happened to have gone to the rival high school of Obama’s in Hawaii.

Obama Dances To "Crazy In Love" on Ellen

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Obama Dances To “Crazy In Love” On The Ellen DeGeneres Show

When: October 2007

Complex says: When Obama chose to bust a few moves with Ellen Degeneres during his introduction on her show, it could have been bad. Real bad. All that charisma might have gone out the window had the presidential candidate been exposed for having two left feet. Instead, the man showed he’s got some rhythm. With the audience cheering him on, it was obvious that he had made Ellen swoon. Tell Bill Clinton to put that in his sax and blow it!

The Cool Kids Perform at Obama Fundraiser

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The Cool Kids Perform At Barack Obama’s Change Rocks Fundraiser

When: December 2007

Complex says: In 2007, when it came time to start fundraising for his presidential campaign, Obama invited The Cool Kids to come out and rock the stage at his Change Rocks event in Chicago. Back then, Chuck Inglish and Chicago-native Michael Rocks were still up-and-coming artists, but they were given the opportunity to play in front of a large crowd on the same bill as more established acts like Wilco and Third Eye Blind.

Obama Brushing His Shoulder Off

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Obama Brushes His Shoulder Off

When: April 2008

Complex says: In 2008—while engaged in a heated and sometimes testy battle with Hillary Clinton during the Democratic Primaries—Obama was in Raleigh, North Carolina speaking to an audience about Hillary’s use of “tactics of the GOP.” Rather than engage in a nasty back and forth, Obama said you have to expect things like that and then simply brushed his shoulders off just like Jay-Z said in “Dirt Off Your Shoulder.” Although many political analysts didn’t understand what his gesture meant (The Washington Post called it “contemptuous and aloof"), the younger generation ultimately understood his shoutout to his buddy Hov. The move ultimately made Obama look all the more hip and cool. All we could say was—you never thought that hip-hop would take it this far!

Obama Opens Up On Music Taste

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Obama Says He Bumps Jay-Z

When: June 2008

Complex says: As one would expect, Obama’s music tastes are as varied as his life experiences. The multi-ethnic commander-in-chief who has spent years of his life in both wealthy and harsh communities, said he listens to everything from Stevie Wonder to Bob Dylan to Sheryl Crow. However, he also said he bumps Jay-Z and claimed, "Every time I talk to Jay-Z, who is a brilliant talent and a good guy, I enjoy how he thinks." Aww. Later, when Jay was asked about his relationship with Obama, he claimed that the President was listening to The Blueprint in the gym when he called him. Here’s to hoping he adopts “I WILL NOT LOSE” as his 2012 campaign slogan.

Obama Is Embarrassed By Ludacris Song

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Obama Is Embarrassed By Ludacris’ Pro-Obama Song

When: July 2008

Complex says: During Obama’s presidential campaign, rap fans desperately hoped that rappers who supported Obama wouldn’t say anything crazy enough to jeopardize his campaign. However, all hope was lost when Luda went off in his song “Politics As Usual” and called Hillary Clinton a bitch and went on to take shots at John McCain, Jesse Jackson, and George Bush. An embarrassed Obama said Luda should be “ashamed” of the rap. This marked the first time his relationship with hip-hop had come back to bite him.

Obama Covers Vibe

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Obama Covers VIBE, Again

When: November 2008

Complex says: When Obama graced VIBE magazine’s cover for the second time he was in full-swing presidential campaign mode. What made this issue different from others was that it included a letter from Obama himself expressing his concern and directing his effort toward a community that felt it had always been ignored by politicians. That community was ours and Barack Obama put trust in us. It might have just been good politics, but it felt like an allegiance to hip-hop.

Jay-Z, Beyonce & Diddy at Obama's Inaugration

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Jay-Z, Beyonce, & Diddy Attend Obama’s Inauguration

When: January 2009

Complex says: The Inauguration of the President of The United States is one of the most prestigious events in the world. So we’re not surprised that Jay-Z, Beyonce, and Diddy all managed to be in attendance. Hova even called in to Hot 97 while he was on the scene, making Obama’s inauguration easily the most hip-hop inauguration ever. Except for maybe Teddy Roosevelt’s. That guy was a straight goon.

Obama Congratulates "Hallelujah Holla Back"

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Obama Utters The Immortal Phrase “Hallelujah Holla Back”

When: May 2009

Complex says: When watching John Brown on VH1’s The White Rapper Show, did anyone think that his phrase “Hallelujah Hollaback” would be spoken by a U.S. President just a few years later? We certainly didn’t. But when a team of Notre Dame athletes—who nicknamed themselves the “Hallelujah Holla Backs”—won a university tournament and got a shout-out from Obama during his commencement speech, they made it happen. So kudos to them. The funniest part, the team they beat were the called the “Barack O'Ballers.”

Obama Says All Our Kids Can't Be Lebron or Wayne

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Obama Namedrops Lil Wayne

When: July 2009

Complex says: In a speech during a 2009 NAACP convention, Obama gave stern words to black parents about what dreams their children should follow. In his speech, he mentioned Lil Wayne as someone not everyone should aspire to be—citing engineers, doctors, and Supreme Court Justices as goals he wants to see young people achieve. Weezy later commented on the speech on the track “Swag Surf” spitting, “Gotta take care of those kids man, I know you heard Obama.” We’re glad Wayne took his advice too because that dude has a lot of kids.

Obama Calls Kanye West a Jackass

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Obama Calls Kanye West A “Jackass”

When: September 2009

Complex says: Just days after Kanye West’s infamous outburst during MTV’s VMAs, CNBC was interviewing Obama when ABC News' Terry Moran overheard Obama make an off-the-record comment and call Kanye a “jackass.” Like a true jackass, Moran went and tweeted Obama’s comment only to delete the tweet later. But it was too late, the Internet had already caught wind of it. Next thing you know, TMZ had audio of the comment and footage eventually surfaced. Although it was a harsh comment, you gotta hand it to Kanye for being the only rapper to incur the wrath of two Presidents in a row.

Jay-Z & Beyonce Visit The White House

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Jay-Z, Beyonce, Trey Songz, & Kevin Liles Visit The White House

When: March 2010

Complex says: We can’t tell if it’s cooler that the President of the United States called Jay-Z and Bey up to come hang out or that Jay-Z and Bey get to go hang out with the President. Either way, there’s something about this group that makes them all look better when they’re together. It’s like Jay said on “On To The Next One,” “MJ at Summer Jam, Obama on the text/Ya’ll should be afraid of what I’m gone do next.”

Pharrell at the White House for Cinco de Mayo

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Pharrell Visits The White House

When: May 2010

Complex says: Not sure how or why it happened, but we were happy to see Pharrell chilling in the White House during Cinco De Mayo. Now, we understand that Cinco De Mayo is a holiday for tequila, but we can’t help giggling at the thought of Barack and Skateboard P throwing back a few shots of Qream before hitting the town. LOL!

Obama Is Allegedly in a Tag Team Music Video

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Obama Is Allegedly In A Rap Video

When: June 2010

Complex says: The latest in a long series of insane conspiracies surrounding Barack was on a much smaller scale than the birther conspiracy. This one claimed, instead, that Obama made a brief cameo in a hip-hop music video (seriously, that dude does look kinda like him). What makes it even better is the fact that the song was Tag Team’s 1993 classic, “Whoomp (There It Is).” If it does turn out that he was an extra, we can’t tell if we’re happy or sad he picked such a guilty pleasure song.

Obama Covers Rolling Stone, Talks Lil Wayne and Nas

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Obama Says He Listens To Lil Wayne & Nas

When: September 2010

Complex says: When Obama covered Rolling Stone, they asked him about everything from the War In Afghanistan to the GOP to the Tea Party. But they also found time to ask about what music he’s bumping. Although he listed old favorites like Stevie Wonder and John Coltrane, he admitted that his personal aide, Reggie Love, helped him expand his rap tastes beyond Jay-Z and got him to listen to “a little Nas and a little Lil Wayne.” We’re just wondering when The White House is going to make a statement on Lil B.

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