Hip-Hop and Hyper-commercialism Simple beat, simple rhyme scheme, strong message. “Vans don’t cost G’s, real inning wear these CLC Vans,” says a member of The Pack in the music video aptly titled “Vans. ” You may be asking yourself, “So, what’s the big deal? ” The big, highly lucrative deal is the marriage between big name corporations and their partnership with hip-hop. It’s nothing new: Run-DAM had “My ideas”, EL Cool J wore Kananga hats, and even Jay-Z incorporated drinking Cristal into his lyrics for a long period of time.
With that being said, the new hip-hop generation of today faces many adversities from years and ears of subliminal marketing within their own sub-culture. The effects of hyper- commercialism are evident in American culture In general, but especially noticeable within popular rap music and urban associated culture. As an avid listener and creator of hip hop music, I have noticed a growing trend in the bay area: rap about what brands you wear. Whether it be Nikkei, Vans, Babe, or Decries, the message seems clear: you are what you wear.
Even the term “blind, blind” is so deeply associated with hip-hop that you can’t say it without an image off big, gaudy necklace popping into your head. And Immediately after that, you think, “that’s something a rapper would wear. ” It’s no secret why. The hip-hop culture has been portraying a certain image since it’s birth in the late sass’s and has been exploited by big name companies since then. The music industry Invests In what sells; companies and corporations sponsor artists who sell and are marketable to a wide, general audience.
In the PBS documentary, Merchants of Cool, Naomi Klein states, “Quite simply, every company with a powerful brand is attempting to develop a relationship with consumers that resonates so completely with their sense of self hat they will aspire, or at least consent, to be serfs under these feudal borderlands. ” With this being said, the question of why the hip-hop image is so much different than that of rock music has always bothered me. Take the band Coldly for example.
The first adjectives that come to mind when thinking of the band are soft, emotional, and uplifting. And even though the band does not have that rebel edge, they managed to win Grammy’s and sell millions of records without having brand names within their lyrics. Now examine a hip-hop artist equivalent with huge success In America, 50 Cent. His breakthrough album is entitled Get Rich or Die Trying’, appropriate for the philosophy behind the Image of mainstream hip-hop.
After listening to the first minute of the first single “In Ad Club”, it’s a given that Backward and Mercedes Benz Increased their sales for that year _ He follows that formula of selling your own culture plus helping a company sell a product equals big checks and big success. Not only did he sell over ten million records with his Get Rich or Die Trying’ album, but he let the big name companies know 0 he means business. And this Is precisely the problem. Not only do I see advertisements everywhere else In American culture, but now have to sit and listen to catch phrase commercials within the music I know and love.
This affect has made me question everything about myself. Eve been obsessed with the genre music since Talc’s release of crazy sexy Cool, and since then I’ve become what many call a “Hip-Hop Head. ” At the time, I was was one of those groups that wasn’t caught up in the over excessive marketing campaign that targeted young music listeners like myself. So my foundation for quality, meaningful hip-hop music was always there. But as I grew into my teenage years, I found myself often imitating to the rappers I listened to on a subconscious level.
I started wearing brand name clothing that was “acceptable” and even though I was too young to know anything about alcohol, I thought Hennessey and Backward were the two alcohols that I have to try first. “The financial markets have certainly spoken. They have richly rewarded some media-company mergers and made stockholders-including Journalists-happy folks,” says Tom Goldstein in his article Big Media: Who Owns the News?. This same idea can be applied to the rap artists who et paid by the sponsors that endorse them.
These artists are making millions off these companies who are mainly there to use the artist’s image as a way to connect their product with his or her fan base. The sad thing is, when an artist talks about Clocks or Smith and Wesson like he is endorsing the product, confused kids buy into it. When I got a little bit older, a littler bit smarter, and a little bit wiser, I started to question myself and my identity, as well as Hip-Hop and the identity portrayed within the mainstream media. It seemed as though everything had to have a hardcore exterior.
To be understanding, sensitive, or romantic seemed to be weak, while credibility was earned by talking about guns, drugs, pimping women, and dirty money. In an article regarding two underground DVD’s called Straight Auto Hunters Point and Hood 2 Hood, Darrel Keats put this idea best, “The storytellers are driven by the same motivation 0 proving that their block is the hardest, and that they are the hardest on the block. ” This is precisely what is portrayed in most mainstream rap a market flood of bragging and boasting about doing illegal or despicable activities.
Yet, I see today’s youth confused. You are not respected if you are not outfitted in the latest gear, or up to date with the latest brand. And because of this, up in coming rappers and music makers tailor their own music to fit this philosophy without even being paid by the brands that they promote. Case in point, an underground, unsigned rapper named Young Byrd Man can be found holding a Nikkei shoe on a picture of his Namespace, not knowing that kid’s who follow him will go and buy those shoes because of the image he portrays. And Nikkei does not sponsor him, or pay him.
Sounds like a great business deal, doesn’t it? Now you may think that all this commercialism is wrong, but it’s not. In fact, it’s only logical 0 sell what you have to get what you want. Everybody does it, especially within the capitalistic society we live in. The problem is artists losing their substance too marketing scheme. New groups like The Pack are prime examples of this flash in the pan trend, and this is why they don’t stick around or have a strong following. Based on their first single, their audience knows them as the four Vans spokesman.
Are they musical artists, or shoe lessen? They have no perceived foundation for anything more, and that’s why I flip to the next channel of the metaphorical Hip-Hop television. So what has made artists like Jay-Z so successful? Being able to find a balance between providing those catch phrase commercials and also giving the listener something real to hold on to. It’s simple 0 when the commercials come on during a football game, my dad changes the channel to golf until the football game comes back on. He’s not interested in watching football for what it is, not what it’s sponsored by.
By switching the channel ruing advertisements, he’s saying, “I’m tired of trying to be sold, get back to the point. ” Hip-Hop has become the same way to me. This is why I choose to stray away from the hyper-commercialism lyrics that I hear too often. Artists like Jay-Z provide enough substance in comparison to advertisements to keep the listeners there. In an article entitled The New Hustle, the author sums it up very well, “It’s hard to hate on the get-rich part of this game. That rappers are becoming more astute businessmen, branching out into multiple industries, is a good thing.
And this is true, it’s hard to denounce smart business practices or the determination it takes to be an entrepreneur. After all, who could not respect someone who has gone from rags to riches or “grew from a crack in the concrete,” as Tuba put it. But at the same time, rappers who have become wealthy and have escaped their troubled backgrounds seem to show no second thoughts about what they put into their rap lyrics, endorsement deals or not. And it seems as thought businesses and marketers hold these artists with little to no accountability about how they act or what they say.
From a transcript from Bill Reality’s show on the Fox News Network when he had a segment on Ludicrous’ endorsement by Pepsi, he states, “I’m calling for all responsible Americans to fight back and punish Pepsi for using a man who degrades women, who encourages substance abuse, and does all the things that hurt particularly the poor in our society. ” Now I don’t necessarily agree with all that the man says and does, but he does have a point 0 people listen to these irresponsible artists and business endorsements give them power. Rapper Gift of Gab of the duo known as Fallacious put it best his song Shallow
Days, “Music does reflect life, and kids look up to what you’re portraying and mimic what you act like. ” Sometimes my stomach gets this odd feeling when I see rappers inferring that their violent and degrading lyrics are Just creative expressions and have no real repercussions. Sometimes I argue with my current girlfriend about this. In the Bay area, we have something made popular by recent rapper Mac Deer. It’s called Thigh, a slang term for ecstasy. Too many times, I come across people who argue that Mac Dress influence over the recent popularity of ecstasy in Hip-Hop ultra is not wrong.
Yet, “thigh” has been a big problem all over northern California, and has never been popular with “Hip-Hop heads” since Mac Dress on set. Still, hardly anyone wants to point the finger, and I hate doing it myself, but at the same time, artists do have control over what they say and put into the mix of things. Responsibility is a value that seems to be lacking not only in Hollywood, but also Hip- Hop. All in all, the music has major influence on its listeners and the companies know this. Will the current generation realize that they are being sold products and ideas y people within their own culture, or will the trend continue?