Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Ivy League hoopsters rap conservative message
HANOVER, N.H. -- The conservative right has two big new additions. They wear Dartmouth green.
Josh Riddle and David Rufful are basketball players at Dartmouth College who have a rap act on the side, calling themselves The Young Cons and aiming to spread the words of Jesus Christ, Ronald Reagan and "Atlas Shrugged" through music.
With G-rated YouTube videos and a burgeoning network of online followers, the conservative jocks have turned a prep school lark into an unlikely platform for their political views.
Their beats may not win any awards, but that's OK to them.
"It's just two young college kids who are attempting to fight some of the stereotypes we think young people have about conservatism," said Riddle, a 6-foot-9 inch center who goes by "Stiltz" when he's rapping. "We want to show them that they're not just these old white guys trying to protect their bank account. They have solutions to poverty and they don't just care about themselves."
Devoid of bling, scantily dressed women and other hallmarks of hip-hop videos, their "Young Con Anthem" and "Power of the Individual" videos -- which together have earned nearly 500,000 views on YouTube -- rip on "Obama-trons" and abortion rights supporters while championing deregulation, individual responsibility and the anti-government tenets of the late Ayn Rand and her novel "Atlas Shrugged."
"I hate when government dictatin' / makin' statements for how to be a merchant / how to run a restaurant / how to lay the pavement / bail out a business but can't protect an infant," goes one line in the "Anthem."
Another rhyme goes: "I'm just living life a conservative philosophy, sorry Hillary, not a right-wing conspiracy / we need more women with intellectual integrity, I'm talking Megyn Kelly, not Nancy Pelosi."
The 21-year-old Riddle, of Denver, and 20-year-old Rufful, of Warwick, R.I., met while attending Northfield Mt. Hermon prep school in Massachusetts, finding each other to be kindred political spirits. After founding a group called the Young Conservatives, they developed a rap as a promotional tool for the group and then turned it into the "Anthem" video once they got to Dartmouth.
After posting it on YouTube last spring, they began to draw attention. It's been viewed more than 476,000 times on YouTube. They've amassed about 7,500 people on their Facebook group and about 700 followers on Twitter.
They've appeared on cable talk shows "Huckabee," "Fox and Friends" and a handful of others, and occasionally perform at GOP candidate rallies and meetings.
Mostly, their audiences are party faithful: They performed at a "Tea Party" in Staten Island, N.Y., last summer, a Grafton County (N.H.) GOP Committee meeting in the fall and have been invited to rap at upcoming campaign events for New Hampshire U.S. Senate candidate Kelly Ayotte and Florida U.S. Senate candidate Marco Rubio.
They pose and gesture like rappers, but their clean-cut appearance and conservative views won't be confused with, say, early Snoop Dogg. That's earned them their share of static already. One YouTube viewer called conservatism the opposite of hip-hop, for example.
Music industry executives aren't impressed, either.
After watching the Young Cons' videos at The Associated Press' request, Bakari Kitwana -- a co-founder of the National Hip Hop Political Convention -- had nothing good to say.
"It may be great for conservatives, but the music is so bad. If you find some conservative who knows what hip-hop is, they'll be laughing," Kitwana said.
"There's no rhythm in there," New York rap music executive Al Branch said. "It's like a speech. "I can't see them being anything more than being a political voice, but there's nothing wrong with that."
Riddle, an aspiring economic or government major, and Rufful, who plans to major in government and minor in Middle Eastern languages, have halted the performing for now. They're busy trying to help Dartmouth's ever-challenged basketball program -- which hasn't won an Ivy League title in 50 years -- right itself.
Rufful, a muscular 6-foot-4-inch swingman who's the Big Green's second-leading scorer, calls Young Cons a voice for young Americans and a way to plant the conservative seed in colleges and communities.
Riddle, a spindly pivot man, has no illusions about a future in music. And that's fine by coach Terry Dunn. He'd rather they worked on the shooting, passing and dribbling.
"I have seen their videos. Only thing I can say is it's a country with freedom of speech and I'll leave it at that," Dunn said.
On the Net:
Young Cons web site: http://www.theyoungcons.com/Young(underscore)Conservatives/Welcome.html