Nothing in this life has always given me more joy and support than hip-hop, so it was a proud moment when I read that Forbes recently confirmed that hip-hop / R & B is now the dominant musical genre in the United States
Having been a fan of (and now a contributor to) hip-hop culture for most of my life, seeing rap reign supreme, at least nationally, is cause for celebration.
However, this celebration was not without concern.
We have always been told that history repeats itself, which is actually just a simple way to explain the cyclical social circumstances brought about by human nature if it remains unchanged. If we look at the history of modern music, there is a glaring reflection on the future of hip-hop that cannot be overlooked. What I mean by that is that over the last 50 years at least, many musical movements have taken hold of the country, only to be exploited and diluted to oblivion once their popularity has reached. critical mass.
For example, take the global genre of rock, which hip-hop has just replaced as the most important genre in the country. A complex family of musical influences that have evolved elaborately from its roots in blues and country music, rock in its many forms has been the most important musical genre for decades. It’s also faltering, the result of decades of exploitation having left it claiming new ground in an environment of copycat artists and pop offerings crafted by labels that co-opt the genre’s lineage.
Hip-hop has also suffered its fair share of exploitation at the hands of corporate interests and big profit-obsessed labels. As the genre has tightened its grip on the country, it has become increasingly profitable, especially among a new generation of consumers who are growing up with on-demand streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music.
Since the early 1980s, we’ve seen brands co-opt its cultural offerings in an attempt to broaden their demographics and attract younger consumers, but the appeal of hip-hop has only become more subversive and accepted than over the years that followed. .
More mutually beneficial corporate relationships like the one hip-hop shared with Sprite to the outright co-optation of cultural characteristics by grain companies, auto ads, movies, and even government officials, a largely bustling culture. by black youth has received very little recognition for its contribution to the success of the business. Songs, slang, memes, dances, fashion, jokes – young black social media users have provided businesses around the world with a gold mine of content with which to sell their wares with little or no consideration or compensation given to their people. creators. This is nothing new – it has been going on for decades – but with every increase in popularity it will continue to happen more often.
Hip-hop’s influence on the world is welcome, but when its cultural contributions are used for the benefit of those who have no intrinsic connection to the culture and without sharing the wealth generated or even giving credit, who really eats ubiquitous hip-hop?
Of course, there is nothing wrong with using the dominance of hip-hop for business. At the same time, it is extremely important for the longevity of the genre, and the culture in general, that the biggest names in the art form strive to keep this process, above all, beneficial for the genre and its contributors.
Companies co-opting the latest hip-hop youth sounds, trends and fashions can be a lucrative business for all parties, but what does it mean if the majority of that money doesn’t go back to culture? Why are creative and caring artists always tasked with rebuilding the infrastructure of hip-hop from a financial standpoint? Where are the investments of non-creators who reap the benefits and pay only a fraction of their profits to artists willing to play the game?
As hip-hop continues to develop and redefine itself, it will become more and more important that we ask these questions, keeping in mind that the answers can change frequently.
While hip-hop is not a board to be ruled by a body of careful protectors, it would be irresponsible to simply view the genre as an art form subject to the whims of any outside force that wishes to engage with it. . Hip-hop has saved countless lives and provided a model for financial independence for many people. Artists have used the platform that hip-hop has provided them to accomplish great things and bring about real change, made possible by the undeniable popularity of the genre.
If Chance The Rapper couldn’t get a crowd of thousands of people together with the ease of a tweet, it’s highly unlikely he could donate a million dollars to Chicago public schools and create open mics. around his hometown. Countless numbers of artists would not be able to break the cycle of poverty in their families and reinvest in their communities without sold-out tours and records. It is the sheer power of its allure that has made and will continue to allow hip-hop to affect the world which also threatens to undermine its influence, and this is where discernment and intention are paramount to its existence. flourishing.
The more popular something becomes, the more its cultural offer is co-opted by business interests, the less “cool” it becomes. As the control of hip-hop culture moves further and further away from those who really care, those who remain indifferent and only seek to gain the upper hand in marketing will turn hip-hop into this. that they want it to be and will leave a hollow, less influential shell of culture in their wake.
To be clear, it’s not me screaming that the sky is falling on us – I know hip-hop is in good hands – I just humbly remind that hip-hop is worth more than we are. deal often. There is a great opportunity to use America’s love for hip-hop over any other genre as a stepping stone to greatness, rather than an invitation to exploitation.