Newark voters elect platinum rapper Dupré ‘DoItAll’ Kelly to city council

Published: Jun. 15, 2022

Newark-born rapper Dupré Kelly won a runoff election for a city council seat on Tuesday, according to preliminary results, a win that, by his own reckoning and nationwide media accounts, would make him the country’s first major hip-hop artist elected to public office.

With 100% of districts reporting, Kelly, 51, a member of the hip-hop trio Lords of the Underground, won the West Ward council seat by a margin of 1,858 to 1,312 — 58.6% to 41.4% — over Chigozie Onyema, 35, a lawyer and former state official, according to results posted by the Essex County Clerk’s Office.

If his victory is certified by the Newark City clerk, Kelly will be sworn in to a four-year term on July 1.

“I am the first platinum-selling hip hop artist in the nation of the United States of America to ever win an election to an official seat,” Kelly said late Tuesday at the Robert Treat Hotel, where supporters gathered after polls closed. “And just like [the late Newark Mayor] Kenneth Gibson said, ‘As Newark goes, so goes the nation.’”

Kelly’s assertion that he is America’s first elected rapper is difficult to verify. But it’s consistent with the absence of reporting on any other well-known rapper’s election and with widely publicized losses by several of Kelly’s contemporaries: Luther Campbell, a.k.a. Luke Skywalker of 2 Live Crew in Miami in 2011; “Killer Mike” Render of Outkast in Georgia in 2015; and Bradley Jordan, aka Scarface, of the Geto Boys, in Houston in 2019.

Kelly was pitted against Onyema in Tuesday’s runoff after they were the top two vote-getters for the West Ward seat in Newark’s non-partisan municipal elections on May 10. Four candidates vied for the seat last month, though none won the majority of total votes cast necessary to be elected.

Kelly was backed in last month’s race and again in the runoff by Newark Mayor Ras Baraka, who won a third four-year term with 82.5% of the vote leading a slate that included candidates for all nine council seats.

Apart from Kelly, Baraka also backed the winners of Newark’s two other council runoff elections: Patrick Council in the South Ward; and Michael Silva in the East Ward. On Tuesday, the mayor was at the Robert Treat Hotel to congratulate the winners and thank supporters.

“God bless you all,” Baraka, a spoken word artist in his own right, told the boisterous crowd.

Kelly, known to Newark Tech High School classmates and fans worldwide as “DoItAll,” said his election to the ruling body of New Jersey’s largest city represented a coming of age for hip hop, which began decades ago as a movement built around a musical genre that has grown into a cultural and political force.

While Kelly said he owes his electoral success to Baraka, he traces his political inspiration to the late Tupac Shakur, the influential rapper and contemporary of Kelly’s who was fatally shot in 1996 at age 25.

Kelly said Shakur told him it was up to hip-hop artists to translate their fame into political power and their ideals into policies and legislation.

“Hip hop has always been a genre of music that was really political, and it talked about being oppressed and how to get out of it, so this is a big win for hip hop,” Kelly said. “Me and Tupac had a conversation over 25 years ago or so, and in that conversation, Pac would tell me, you got a million fans or two million fans, but you want to make more fans so you can turn those fans into voters and then become elected officials.”

BET named the Lords of the Underground the best rap group of 1993, and their signature hit released that year, “Chief Rocka,” has been downloaded nearly 41 million times on Spotify. Kelly continues to perform sporadically with the Lords, and he delighted fans and supporters on Tuesday night with an impromptu performance of the song.

In the East Ward, Silva, a retired Newark police detective, ran against a retired chief, Anthony Campos. Baraka threw his support behind Silva after the Team Baraka candidate, Louis Weber, finished last among four candidates in the May 10 election. Silva won by a margin of 1,509 to 1,131, or 57.2% of the vote.

Council, the Baraka-backed candidate in the South Ward runoff, won by the biggest margin among Tuesday’s three races, beating Terrance Bankston 1,847 to 739, or 71.4% of the vote. Council had outpolled Bankston by a similarly lopsided margin last month, though he failed to attract a majority of the total votes cast amid the field of six candidates.

On Tuesday afternoon, West Ward voter Carmen Carrasco said she cast her runoff ballot for Kelly after she had voted for him on May 10, thanks to the mayor.

“Me gusta (“I like him”),” said Carrasco, 56, outside her polling place, the First Hopewell Baptist Church on Orange Street.

Asked why she liked Kelly, Carrasco responded, “Baraka.”

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published this page in News and Politics 2022-06-15 07:10:06 -0700