Barack Obama is clearly taking that abysmal ABC News debate in stride. He told his supporters not to fret about all the "textbook Washington" drama on Thursday, recounting the superficial moderators and Hillary Clinton's attempts to "twist the knife" on trivial issues. Then Obama made pop cultural history, miming the rapper Jay-Z's iconic hand signal to "brush the dirt" off his shoulders.
That popular youth gesture grew out of "Dirt Off Your Shoulder," a hit song in 2003. As Wikipedia explains, it refers to "getting enemies off your chest by brushing your shoulders off." Blogger Spencer Ackerman, who regularly mixes political analysis with hip hop references, immediately heralded the move as "perhaps the coolest subliminal cultural reference in the history of American politics." A YouTube clip of the cultural moment, uploaded by the Obama Campaign, swiftly drew over 100,000 views on Thursday. And then the mashups started.
On Thursday night, YouTuber Bill3948 uploaded a one-minute mash-up of Jay-Z songs, Clinton attacks and Obama's inspired response. The sequence opens with clips of Clinton's cheap shots, accompanied by the Jay-Z ballad "Moment of Clarity," pivots to lowlights from the ABC debate, and then scores Obama's response with the original "Dirt Off Your Shoulder" track. While Obama brushes, graphics of Hillary, Bill and Charlie Gibson fly off his shoulders. Then he shakes off a kitchen sink -- a nod to Clinton's desperate strategy -- as Jay raps about hanging out "in the kitchen with soda." It's a fun, sharp extension of Obama's call to brush off some of the ridiculous attacks:
(More after the clip.)
Obama really is a Jay-Z fan, too. When asked which hip hop artists he likes in a recent interview, he said, "lately I've been listening to a lot of Jay-Z -- this new American Gangster album." But he also stressed his opposition to the degrading and materialistic themes that run through too many hip hop albums:
I love the art of hip hop. I don't always love the message of hip hop. There are times when even ... with the artists I named -- the artists I love, you know -- there's a message that is not only sometimes degrading to women; not only uses the n-word a little too frequently; but also something I'm really concerned about, it's always talking about material things. Always talking about how I can get something. How I've got more money...