When Richard Nixon Wanted to be a Rapper
Before Bill Clinton jammed on a saxophone with Arsenio Hall’s band and before Barack Obama sang a few verses of “Let’s Stay Together,” another president voiced his strange and highly unlikely recording ambitions: Richard Nixon once admitted he wanted to become a rapper.
The undated confession was rediscovered during a 1997 tour through the Nixon Presidential Library in Yorba Linda, California by a Washington Post reporter, who was listening to one of the many recordings the president—who resigned in 1974 amid the Watergate scandal—made both in and out of office. In it, the former president said:
“I have often thought that if there had been a good rap group around in those days, I might have chosen a career in music instead of politics.”
Years prior, the idea of the staid, stolid Nixon freestyling verse led to various media outlets coining his possible stage names: Trik-E-Dik was one standout. But it wasn’t quite as unlikely a concept as it may have seemed. As a child, Nixon’s mother, Hannah, bought him several instruments, including a piano, clarinet, saxophone, accordion, and violin; young Nixon practiced the piano every day after school. He even appeared on The Jack Paar Program in 1963 to perform a piano concerto that he wrote himself:
Nixon died in 1994, just a few years after the quote surfaced, but never addressed it directly.
In 1990, Spy magazine asked Kid of the popular duo Kid ‘n Play what a Nixon rap performance would look like. “I see him as a solo rapper and he’d probably have, like, two dancers,” he said. “They’d probably be dressed in some intelligence uniforms, some Watergate break-in uniforms … he’s good at cutting, particularly tape.”