( ENSPIRE Entertainment ) Hip Hop Caucus and Eric Bellinger’s New Song “Speak Up” Encourages Young People to Actively Vote
ENSPIRE Contributor: Iris Michelsen
As a part of their mission to mobilize young voters, Hip Hop Caucus has partnered with 2022 Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter Eric Bellinger to release a brand-new song called ‘Speak Up.’ The song encourages listeners to make their voices heard at the polls and to advocate for the protection of voting rights. It is a part of the Hip Hop Caucus’s “Respect My Vote!” campaign for the 2022 midterm elections.
On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Hip Hop Caucus and Eric Bellinger released the song with the goal to remind listeners to use their voice year-round and to make themselves heard at the polls this November. Hip Hop Caucus are strong believers in the importance of voting rights, with some of their core goals being to combat voter suppression, advance voting rights, and mobilize young Black voters. This song lets young listeners know that their voice matters.
Eric Bellinger said, “The song, like the work of the Hip Hop Caucus, represents what we should be doing now to overcome the hardships and obstacles our community deals with every day. As an artist, using music to share a message is powerful, and I am so thankful to do my part to ensure folks in our community nationwide head to the polls to vote.”
Bellinger has found remarkable success as a singer, songwriter, and producer. His most recent album, New Light, has been nominated for the Grammy Award for Best Progressive R&B Album in 2022. Bellinger also has a history of using his platform for activism, which aligns perfectly with the mission of Hip Hop Caucus. Bellinger’s commitment to using his platform for good is a perfect example of the intersection between music and activism.
This song is important right now as across the states, efforts to restrict voter rights are intensifying. In 2021, 34 laws were enacted across 19 U.S. states that make it more difficult to vote. Restrictions like these disproportionately impact people of color, students, people with disabilities, and senior citizens. This song aims to mobilize voters between now and election day. It also seeks to raise awareness about the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. These two bills aim to expand voting rights and reduce discrimination at the polls, which are currently being considered in the Senate.
“Respect My Vote!” is the biggest and longest-running non-partisan Hip Hop voter mobilization campaign in history. Hip Hop Caucus launched their midterm campaign in November 2021 with their Respect My Vote! “All Politics is Local” Virtual Summit, which featured panel discussions, artistic performances, personal testimonials, current events, comedy, and calls to action. The summit had 75,000 live attendees, and was later streamed by 250,000 more viewers.
ENSPIRE spoke with Dejuan Cross, Music Supervisor, and Podcast Producer at Hip Hop Caucus, who is also a producer on ‘Speak Up,’ about working with Eric Bellinger, the songwriting process, and the message behind the music.
Why does your organization choose to inspire activism through music?
Music is a form of time travel. We aren’t the first to utilize music as a way to inspire activism. Songs like Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Goin On,” “Strange Fruit” by Billie Holiday, and “Alright” by Kendrick Lamar, though written years apart, are songs that inform, educate, and bring awareness to issues not only in the Black community but all over the world. Understanding our culture and what causes people to react is why we choose music. We created “Speak Up” with that thought in mind.
What action are you hoping to inspire in young people with the Respect My Vote! campaign?
We want to build upon efforts for civic engagement in Black and brown communities and make voting even more accessible. We want people regardless of age to be informed and feel empowered to make decisions that will affect their lives. Through songs and campaigns like Respect My Vote!, we want to meet people where they are and help with resources to get people the information they need to make choices.
Why is it so important for young people to make their voices heard?
Because it starts now and today’s youth are tomorrow’s leaders. We sometimes take time for granted believing that, “I’ll do it one day,” but while we wait things are being voted on now that will affect you and your children in 20 years.
What was it like working with Eric Bellinger?
Eric is a great person and really has become like a brother to me and my team over the past few years. We collaborated on his GRAMMY-nominated album “New Light,” and we have been writing songs for a few years now. When the idea hit me of creating a song for Respect My Vote!, Eric was the first person who came to mind. Working with Eric is amazing, and if you have produced music before, it’s just one of those sessions that brings joy to your life.
What future does Hip Hop Caucus hope to achieve?
I’ll answer for the music side because this question is very multidimensional. We would like to give space to artists that create songs that speak to what is going on in our world. Songs that inform people on issues affecting our folks. Messages that inspire action and change. We want to help these artists by utilizing our platforms from campaigns to podcasts to documentaries, and also connect with other spaces that need this music in the culture. It already exists, so we just want to do our part to create a lane so folks aren’t discouraged from creating music that they feel is important.
Hip Hop Caucus recognizes that now more than ever, it’s imperative to mobilize young voters, particularly those impacted by voting restrictions. Voting is an essential right, without which our democracy cannot function. But across the country, people of color, students, people with disabilities, and senior citizens are being prevented from participating in our democracy because of biased voting laws. With “Speak Up,” Hip Hop Caucus encourages listeners to use their voice to defend everyone’s right to vote.
Stream or download Speak Up on any platform here.
Follow Eric Bellinger on Instagram and Twitter!
To learn more about Hip Hop Caucus, visit their website.
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