The relationships between rappers and presidents have always been tenuous at best. Or at least so we thought. This week, there have been two incidents that have united the worlds of hip-hop and presidential politics in ways that nobody really saw coming. Earlier this week, George W. Bush declared that the moment that Kanye West announced “George Bush doesn’t care about black people” during a telethon was the lowest point of his presidency. West responded in typical fashion, saying that he related to Bush because they both have been under the same kind scrutiny.
Meanwhile, Bill Clinton tipped his hat to Lil Wayne earlier this week in anticipation of the MC’s release from Rikers Island. “This guy’s smart. And he’s got abilities,” Clinton said. “And he’s got a new chance now. And what I hope is that this is not just something to brand him as a cool guy, but that it’ll never happen again to him.”
Since Barack Obama has been so tightly associated with Jay-Z, that means that the past three presidents all have some sort of hip-hop association. But what about the other 41? Here are the rappers best associated with each of the previous Commanders-in-Chief.
George H.W. Bush
Lifelong insider. Sort of paranoid. From Texas. It has got to be Scarface.
Artist who switched up his career later in life. Loved candy. Past work became much greater through the prism of his later work. Meet Will Smith.
Bleeding heart whose work became far more significant after he left office. He’s the presidential Chuck D.
Unfortunate insider forced to fill in for a departed figurehead. Never really given the chance to succeed. Poor Black Rob, who was supposed to be Bad Boy’s next big thing after the death of Biggie Smalls and the incarceration of Shyne.
Accomplished great things before being derailed by legal trouble. Incredibly paranoid. Good with a catch phrase. If he isn’t Mystikal, then he’s nobody at all.
Power-monger. Secret Kennedy hater. Overweight. Hey look, it’s Suge Knight!
John F. Kennedy
Young phenom cut down in his prime. Was supposed to be the future. Had a lot of trouble with women. Could it be anybody but the Notorious B.I.G.?
Kindly war hero. Regularly considered great even though nobody can ever remember what he did in office. He’s KRS-One.
Lifelong underdog. Great touring presence. Famous for killer catch phrases. From Missouri. A bigger influence than you think he is. Hello Nelly!
Social revolutionary. Larger than life figure. Overcame physical limitations. Created entire industries. Divided people for decades. F.D.R. is such a huge figure that he is all three members of the Beastie Boys.
Despite initial enthusiasm, ended up mired in economic ruin. Doesn’t that sound like MC Hammer?
From a wintry state. Almost heroically boring. Definitely Atmosphere’s Slug.
Warren G. Harding
Got his money from publishing. Involved in multiple scandals. Generally forgotten by history. He’s Benzino, the former co-owner of The Source and dis track MC.
Embroiled in international issues. Had a Ph.D. Mysterious. Possibly crazy. He’s Kool Keith (also known as Dr. Octagon).
William Howard Taft
Fattest president in history. Rode a wave of success begun by a predecessor. Liked to make it rain. He’s Fat Joe.
Blustery personality. Impressive facial hair. It’s Rick Ross!
Got shot at (was a Civil War veteran). Assassinated by an anarchist. Had the potential to be the greatest of all time. Some suggest he lived beyond his death. McKinley is the presidential Tupac.
Served non-consecutive terms (meaning he peaked twice). Had a reputation for honesty (sometimes to a fault). From New Jersey. It’s Lauryn Hill.
Dealt in big money (he pushed the federal budget past a billion dollars for the first time). Part of a family legacy. Undersized, which prevented a career in the NBA. He’s Master P.
Chester A. Arthur
Wildly disliked at the beginning, respected and revered by the end. That kind of transition from confusion to reverence has only really been made by Mase.
James A. Garfield
Had a short run at the top (he died 200 days into his term). Possessed an epic beard. Wildly misunderstood. He’s Freeway.
Rutherford B. Hayes
Seemed like a good idea at the time, was the victim of diminishing returns. Carried the banner of the past. He’s the Game.
Ulysses S. Grant
Got famous because of a conflict. Wildly overrated. Meet Canibus.
From North Carolina. Should have been more influential than he was. Liked to take his shirt off, twist it ’round his head and spin it like a helicopter. He’s Petey Pablo.
Crossed cultural and racial lines to bring people together. Somehow always underrated despite his great success. Known for great debates (also known as “battles”). He’s Eminem.
From Pennsylvania. Kept the beat. Notoriously crazy hair. Say hi to Roots drummer Ahmir “?uestlove” Thompson.
Considered one of the worst of all time despite the fact that nobody can remember anything he did. Set progress back a few years. Hate to say it, but he’s Kevin Federline.
Millard Fillmore, Zachary Taylor, James K. Polk and John Tyler
Look, nothing happened with these guys. Everybody sort of tread water and were mostly no good at all. Still, they were winners, making them collectively the 1985 Chicago Bears.
William Henry Harrison
Disappeared before anybody ever got the chance to know him (he died 30 days into his term, having caught pneumonia during his inauguration). Any one-hit wonder is appropriate, but why not pile on to Yung Joc?
Martin Van Buren
Hardcore. Amazing hair. Charmingly odd. Nicki Minaj.
Got shot and lived. Threw wild parties at the White House. Has to be 50 Cent (Jackson rode a horse through the White House during an inaugural ball, and you can bet that 50 has attempted that at his Connecticut estate).
John Quincy Adams
At the forefront of modernization. Kept working well after his presidency. Snappy dresser. He’s Dr. Dre.
Beginning of his presidency was called — no kidding — the “Era of Good Feelings.” Later undone by a financial crisis. Is it you, Method Man?
Respected by insiders but generally underrated by the populace at large. Never had a great single moment, but did have an incredibly productive time in office. He’s Rakim.
The first guy who really made the office what it is. Knew how to pull off crossover success. He’s Run-DMC.
Could have easily been first, and generally did it better. He’s Grandmaster Flash.
The first. The legendary. The one, the only Afrika Bambaataa.