In the course of his campaign, Bernie Sanders has unsurprisingly been receiving approval from a number of figures on the Left, including Noam Chomsky and newly minted British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn. Last Friday, however, he received the backing of someone which few, if any, saw coming: Outkast’s Big Boi.
Appearing on the Rap Radar Podcast last Friday, the Georgia-born rapper told hosts Elliott Wilson and Brian “B.Dot” Miller that he was behind the Independent from Vermont based on his stance against the unjust U.S. prison system.
“I’m for Bernie Sanders because he’s with prison reform and things like that,” he said. “I’m for anything that’s helping the good of people and helping people get out of poverty and getting people sentenced to these long unjust prison sentences out of jail and the legalization of marijuana, I’m for that.”
The surprise backing came after Big Boi was questioned about his earlier admission to the Huffington Post that he was a libertarian, and that he had voted for Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson in the 2012 presidential election. At the time, he had couched his stance in similar views, explaining that he was for “anything that benefits the public and not just big banking”; the rapper now eschews the libertarian label and says he’s a “humanitarian.”
Big Boi’s backing of Sanders follows the Senator’s adoption of a wide-ranging racial justice platform, prompted by widely publicized campaign disruptions by the Black Lives Matter movement in August. Among other things, the platform proposes the demilitarization of the police, mandatory body cameras for law enforcement officers, the dismantling of private prisons, and bringing an end to the “War on Drugs.”
Sanders has received endorsements from a number of musicians already, including Killer Mike, Lil B, Julian Casablancas and Diplo, as well as less surprising names like Jackson Browne, Roger Waters, Neil Young and Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth. He’s also picked up endorsements from celebrities like Will Ferrell, Patton Oswalt, Sarah Silverman and Daniel Craig, who donated $47,000 to a super-PAC which claims to support, but is not affiliated with, the Sanders campaign.
Donald Trump, the current GOP front-runner, has also received his share of celebrity endorsements, including such luminaries as Gary Busey, Charlie Sheen, Ted Nugent and Hulk Hogan, who recently had to apologize after an audio transcript surfaced of him launching into a racist tirade. Most recently, Trump poached an endorsement by Duck Dynasty’s Willie Robertson from fellow Republican candidate, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal.
As the 2016 race to the White House quickly becomes the battle of celebrity endorsements, it has to be asked: Where does Andre 3000 stand?
Update: This post originally characterized Big Boi’s statements as an “endorsement” of Bernie Sanders. While Big Boi did say he backed Sanders, he later in the podcast insisted that he was not “endorsing” anybody.
Branko Marcetic is a staff writer at Jacobin magazine and a 2019 – 2020 Leonard C. Goodman Institute for Investigative Reporting fellow. He is the author of Yesterday’s Man: The Case Against Joe Biden.