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Rappers have reappropriated the confederate flag as political art

Confederate flag at Stone Mountain
AP Photo/David Goldman
The icon has enjoyed some unexpected bedfellows.
By Gabriel Fisher
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

Besides being four of the biggest names in American music, what do Kanye West, OutKast’s Andre 3000, Lil Jon, and Ludacris have in common?

The answer is probably not what you think: All have publicly worn the Confederate flag.

As calls for the flag’s removal have spread nationwide in the wake of the Charleston, South Carolina shooting at Emanuel AME Church on June 17, Stereo Williams of the Daily Beast revisited the group’s unexpected connection to the Civil War relic widely associated with racism. Some of these artists, who are not the first to capitalize on controversial symbols in their art,  said they used the flag both to draw attention to its racist legacy, and to claim ownership over the symbol to shift power away from white flag supporters. Below are examples of the flag’s use by black artists.

In 2000, Andre 3000 donned the Confederate flag in the form of a belt buckle in OutKast’s music video for its hit song Ms. Jackson:

Youtube screenshot

The album cover for Lil Jon and the Eastside Boyz’s Put Yo Hood Up prominently featured Lil Jon wrapped in the flag as well as two others burning in symmetry on either side:

Youtube screenshot

In 2005, the rapper Ludacris sang his hit “Georgia” at the VIBE Awards while wearing a custom, head-to-toe Confederate flag outfit.

At the end of his song, Ludacris ripped his outfit to reveal a new custom outfit featuring the colors red, green, and black, which he later called the “colors of Africa” in a statement he released about the incident:

The discussions that have been sparked after my performance of ‘Georgia’ at the 2005 VIBE Awards is my exact reason for wearing a depiction of the Confederate Flag. This flag represents the oppression that we as African-Americans have endured for years; this is a symbol of segregation and the racism that reigned not only throughout the South but throughout the entire United States… At the end of the performance, I removed and stomped on the flag to reveal my version of the flag; a flag comprised of black, red, and green. Those are the colors of Africa. It is a representation and my interpretation of where we were and where we need to go.

Perhaps most famously, Kanye West was photographed in 2013 wearing a jacket with a patch of the Confederate flag on its sleeve. He later sold Confederate flag merchandise as part of his Yeezus tour:

West explained his reasoning for the Confederate flag jacket and merchandise in a radio interview on 97.1 AMP in Los Angeles:

“React how you want. Any energy is good energy. The Confederate flag represented slavery in a way. That’s my abstract take on what I know about it, right? So I wrote the song ‘New Slaves.’ So I took the Confederate flag and made it my flag. It’s my flag now. Now what are you going to do?”

Reportedly in response to the Charleston shooting, the rapper said the following at a freestyle night celebrating a radio station’s birthday in Atlanta, Georgia (h/t the Washington Post):

See that’s the magic of racism, it works on itself
We hate each other, screw each other, kill each other
When we can’t kill nobody else
See that’s the magic of lackin’ resources, it works on itself
500 n—— gettin’ pop-pop-pop-pop-pop-pop-popped
And North Carolina didn’t help
See that’s the magic of racism, it works on itself

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