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21 March 2005

Cashing In



I don’t know how well you know your rap beefs. But the past few weeks have been quite a ride, with 50 Cent’s The Massacre throwing barbs at Fat Joe, Nas, Jadakiss, Ja Rule, Shyne and Kelis. Nothing really new there, of course. But then 50 Cent kicked The Game out of G-Unit, shots were fired and things got hot (thanks, in part, to Hot 97 FM). The two have since kissed and made up.

So fortunately we didn’t see Biggie and Pac round two, although I’m sure it will happen again, probably sooner than later.

Nonetheless, this seems to be par for the course in our culture. Not just the violence, mind you. But the fact that African Americans are being exploited for profit.

Adisa Banjoko picked up on this recently in an essay:
Since America was first created, much of its wealth has been rooted in black death. The Trans-Atlantic slave trade made this nation stronger than it could have ever imagined and was the base of all economic success that this country has achieved since slavery was abolished in 1865. For several hundred years black men and women were raped, hung and tortured at the whim of their owners, later to be discarded at the bottom of creeks and rivers throughout the south. Their free labor set up the economic foundation for the earth we walk on today in North America. When black blood soaks into American soil, money sprouts up.
And, as Banjoko goes on to point out, this is happening again today, in rap and Hip-hop.
We can only speculate how much Interscope Records has made from the death of Tupac Shakur. Surely the amounts they made were more than when Pac was alive. At the same time, we can only wonder how much Arista made after the death of Notorious B.I.G. Virtually every rap magazine rakes in the profits with annual Pac and B.I.G. issues. Never mind the fact that most of these mags are a core reason these men died - it was in many respects the irresponsible hip-hop press that threw gasoline on the deadly rap flame by focusing on perceived coastal wars and emcee feuds. Now there are all kinds of merchandise - including t-shirts, hats, cell phone cases, posters, and ring tones, among other things - that generate untold millions.
Hip-hop is absolutely huge. In part that’s because Hip-hop is about a lot more than music. Hip-hop is a culture, recognized all over the globe. Hip-hop dominates the landscape musically, from Tokyo to the Middle East and from the UK to Rio. Hip-hop also functions as a mindset, an attitude. It’s the voice of the youth culture, whether you see it in political activism, fashion or slang.

Consequently, Hip-hop is big business. Corporations and advertisers know that the youth love Hip-hop. And as any novelist knows, nothing is more compelling than conflict. And nothing moves units faster than controversy. So it’s not surprising to see big business capitalizing on it, and even fanning the flames if necessary. And if a few black men die or go to prison in the process? Oh well.

(And in the interest of full disclosure, yes, I've contributed my fair share to the coffers of Shady/Aftermath, which makes me part of the problem and a big fat hypocrite. But I buy far more rap that doesn’t contribute to this sort of thing, which hopefully is a step in the right direction.)

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Comments on "Cashing In"

 

Blogger jvpastor said ... (3/22/2005 08:08:00 AM) : 

Sounds like an interesting paper. I don't know that I'm going to lose any sleep tonight about the exploitation of 50 Cent though. I think he contributes to the problem enough that he can't place the blame anywhere else.

 

Blogger Wasp Jerky said ... (3/22/2005 11:29:00 PM) : 

True enough, jvpastor. (Kind of like me not feeling sorry for record labels crying about file sharing, when they're consistently ripping off the artists).

 

Blogger jvpastor said ... (3/23/2005 09:26:00 AM) : 

reading that comment made me laugh out loud!

 

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