By Mandy Freebairn, Highlighter staff columnist
Earlier this month, “Nightly Show” host Larry Wilmore introduced a new segment on the show called “2 Chainz Explains,” wherein rapper 2 Chainz explains political phenomenon. In the segment’s two installments thus far, 2 Chainz has discussed campaign suspension and brokered conventions—in his own words, of course. The segment, in addition to being hilarious, is surprisingly educational. The particularly contentious nature of this year’s election has caused many a celebrity to voice their opinion. Just two weeks ago, singer John Legend called out Donald Trump Jr. on twitter about his “racist father.” Naturally, these musicians’ political opinions have made headline news, which begs the question: what kind of role should musicians (and other celebrities) play in political discourse?
KISS member Paul Stanley has one answer. Back in 2012, Stanley expressed his distaste for musicians voicing their political opinions. Of band mate Gene Simmons’ highly publicized conservatism, he said:
“It’s absurd that a celebrity could speak out on the economy or politics with no more justification than a hit album or a movie. Not to deride Gene, but I just think he’s part of a symptom of absurdity where you’ll see somebody on television whose only criteria for being there is success in a field far away from what they’re being asked about. I really don’t know who is more ridiculous, the celebrity answering these political questions or the person asking them.”
Stanley raises an interesting point. It’s true that we place an unfairly heavy weight on what celebrities do/say/think. Case in point, when Kendall Jenner announced her support for Hillary Clinton on Instagram it made national news, but when your freshman year roommate did it, she barely got 30 likes. But it’s unfair to discount what celebrities have to say about politics completely.
The 2016 race has been unprecedented for a number of reasons. Candidates who were written off from the start have skyrocketed in the primaries, and candidates who seemed like foregone conclusions have suspended their campaigns. Polls have been proven wrong, and pundits have failed us. Why, then, is it so far fetched to turn to other sources for information? Supposed experts seem to know just as little as the rest of us about how things are going to turn out this year.
“2 Chainz Explains” is clearly funny, but it is also very informative. 2 Chainz lays out information in a concise, understandable way because, frankly, he’s not an idiot. According to Wikipedia, he graduated second in his class. Likewise, John Legend graduated high school at the age of 16 and went to UPenn. While it’s undoubtedly a mistake to value a celebrity’s opinion solely based on their fame, it is also a mistake to overlook them completely based on that same factor. What matter in the end, after all, are the opinions of the voters. And in that respect, celebs are—you guessed it—just like us.