On the eve of Election Day, it seemed as if an endless list of Hip Hop artists added their name to the list of Barack Obama supporters. However, it was the much-maligned emcee/producer will.i.am who was one of the earliest and most influential backers of the Illinois senator who would eventually win the presidency. After generating millions of views in and outside of the Hip Hop community for his viral videos supporting Obama, will.i.am reflected on the process with Tavis Smiley of PBS.
“That ‘Yes We Can’ speech really made me look at my own life,” will.i.am recounted. “I was born and raised in East Los Angeles–the only black family in a neighborhood where everybody else was Mexican. I had a great, great childhood. My mom saw the importance of sending me to school in Palisades…at one point in time people fought for inner-city kids to go to school in the suburbs. When I saw that speech, I thought of all the blessings I had and how school was a differentiating factor for me and my neighbors.”
The Black Eyed Peas founder also shied away from credit for the momentum his initial “Yes We Can” concept created. Even though his group has been part of massive marketing campaigns by Interscope Records and other corporations, will gave credit to a somewhat unlikely source.
“I was able to engage Americans and people in other countries by making a piece of content that inspired people to pass it around like a baton,” will added. “You pay attention to the pulse of what’s happening in the world, make content that relates to what’s going on and you don’t have to pay for anything other than believing someone’s gonna pass that message on. Eight years ago, we didn’t have the tools that we have today. We didn’t have Google or YouTube in the way we have today. When people were protesting at [Bush‘s] inauguration, the news didn’t show us those moments. It’s a day that everyone is truly connected and intertwined with technology.”
video courtesy of 3030fm