Hip-Hop’s The New Pop? Sike!

27 Apr

*Also available on http://blogs.hiphopdx.com/ketchums*

Remember a few years ago (or was it that long?), when the latest media frenzy was, “Hip-hop is the new pop?” People were raving about how companies were targeting the “urban” audience with “hip-hop-friendly” campaigns, and about how rappers were getting enlisted to market mainstream products. How rap is a multimillion dollar industry, and about how so many MCs are showing entrepreneurial spirit with their successful business ventures. How hip-hop is expanding to an international market, and about how hip-hop is universal now.

Scratch that.

All of what has been going on lately tells me that this “Hip-hop is the new pop” bullshit was just another ploy to make us think that they[1] really cared about what we had to say. Bigotry and money run America, and the only time that hip-hop runs things is when the powers that be can conveniently tie it into one of the two.

Not to beat a dead horse, but glaring examples of this are the controversies surrounding Michael “Kramer” Richards and Don Imus. Each of them said offensive comments in a public forum, and were rightfully chastised/penalized. Still, in both situations, the real issue – the fact that these people can say such blatantly racist, sexist comments in public, and actually expect to get away with it – is diluted by a random association with hip-hop. When Michael Richards drops the N-bomb, reporters begin to ask rappers what they think about the use of the word. When Imus fronts like he learned “nappy-headed hoes” from rappers, media outlets actually take his word for it; the next thing that we know, there’s a nationwide assault on hip-hop, from both the oppressive system and from minorities, questioning the offensive material in lyrics and videos. And Russell Simmons is calling for a ban of rappers’ use of the words “nigger,” “bitch” and “ho” on the public airwaves, like record labels weren’t already issuing radio stations edited CDs that strike “nigger,” “bitch” and “ho” from the songs for public radio.

Another example is this media’s spotlight on the “Stop Snitching” creedo. CBS’ “60 Minutes” was the one to set this whole thing off recently, when questioning Cam’ron, Harlem Children’s Zone President/CEO Geoffrey Canada, and police officers about the issue. Let’s set aside the fact that the entire 60 Minutes segment was bullshit, with the focus so much on people who were against the “Stop Snitching” code that they didn’t even mention why the code is held so closely in the first place until the last four minutes of the segment.[2] Nevermind the fact that Cooper didn’t mention any specific victims like Sean Bell, Armadou Diallo, or other recent name-specific instances where police have given black people reason to look at them skeptically. Hell, I’ll even disregard the fact that they pinpointed Cam’ron, an artist known for blatantly silly, ignorant comments and lyrics, to represent the hip-hop community as a whole.[3]

Where were these assaults on the character and direction of hip-hop when media outlets were nut-snuggling (word to Phonte) Jay-Z during his comeback campaign? It was only a few months ago, and it could be argued that Jay represents the same aforementioned negative aspects in hip-hop, be it through his own music or through his cosign of artists as Def Jam president. Oh, my bad, Jay sells records – and advertising dollars. Where were these accusations when hip-hop was becoming the new pop? Have rap lyrics and videos really changed that much since those reports were coming out?

It hasn’t been a secret that rap sales have plummeted drastically within the past couple of years. So, now that it’s not making them as much money anymore, major corporations are tapping into another way: if people are so tired of the direction that rap is going – the same rap that we were milking off of years ago – let’s further capitalize off of it by criticizing it ourselves. It’s actually an ingenious strategy, and the hustle they’ve enacted is incredible. But just know that these media outlets aren’t leaders, but followers.[4]

Am I saying that hip-hop is perfect? Hell no! Hip-hop’s got issues, just like the African American race does. But don’t let these mainstream outlets dictate how you view hip-hop. We all wanted hip-hop to get the respect and validation that it deserves, but maybe it’s time we took this back for ourselves.

[1] Who’s they? Why The Man, of course!
[2] Sorry, Anderson Cooper. A follow-up interview with Geoffrey Canada where you actually ask him other questions doesn’t count; you’re a veteran, knock things out the first time.
[3] I mean, I know Busta’s not gonna come talk about the shooting of Israel Ramirez, but still.
[4] I’m a journalist – a member of the media – myself, so this is also self-critique, to a degree.
[5]* I really wanted to title this, “Hip-Hop’s The New Pop…Not!” after the movie “Borat,” but I wasn’t sure who’d get it.

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2 Responses to “Hip-Hop’s The New Pop? Sike!”

  1. Adam April 27, 2007 at 3:07 pm #

    That was a lot to tackle in one post. The only idea I’d like to throw out there is that Hip-Hop is the new pop because we get asked questions every time something goes down in the world. Everyone wants to know how we feel because we’re the new pulse of the nation.

    Just a thought. I could be right, I could be wrong. Like I said, just a thought.

  2. Tip May 5, 2007 at 8:19 pm #

    I wouldn’t say Hip Hop is the new pop, but it is the most popular genre in the world right now. It’s being used to sell a lot of things. In terms of record sales currently, people just aren’t buying albums anymore. So a change in direction is definately coming.

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