The abundance of Hip Hop-based commercials we saw last year is proof that the culture is officially a part of the American quilt. While some of those commercials caused artists & fans alike to cry “Foul!” (including Black Sheep for not authorizing Kia Motors to use their song), the phenomenon of acceptance is actually quite a bit bigger than the music itself. 2012’s open-arm policy toward rap music is what cats were looking toward back in the early 90’s, when The Source magazine had to host it’s own awards show because
White America some people weren’t ready to recognize rap music as art & it’s rappers as musicians. (Think about that for a moment.)
There was a time – before every rapper had to be sellable brand – when it was imperative that a rap act not get involved with the marketing & promotions of consumer products, because Hip Hop wasn’t
yet a capitalist state. MC’s literally made songs dedicated to the notion of never becoming cogs to any institutionalizing machine. Rap music rebelled against a lot of things during those years, but not for nothing, let the record show that never was Hip Hop’s voice & sentiment more independent than before Puff Daddy held the back gate open, allowing the mainstream market sharks to industrialize our culture. Once they cleared the proverbial fields & landscapes, & replaced them with revenue-generating money machines, the natural, organic system of things slowly began to die off. The internets provided the final mule kick, allowing everything to be used as a vehicle to further pimp one’s self out into the galaxy.
These days, what we have is an anarchist rap music industry (complete with murderers & drug kingpins) & rap songs being made into commercials strictly in the name of fiscal profiteering. Shout out to Chrysler, McDonald’s, Sprite, Kia, Geico, Apple, & a host of others who’ve “borrowed” or “interpolated” Hip Hop’s likeness without paying it backward. & thanks to that “sincere form of flattery,” rappers don’t have to sell out any more. Companies can buy, rent, lease, or even manufacture rap songs if need be, which is a fine line to cross. For example, I love the rapping Aflac commercials, because I don’t take offense to their parody of rap music. But if the ducks were genuinely imitating rappers in a way that blurred the line between character & caricature, I’m sure I’d feel differently.
I haven’t heard the term sell-out in the rap community since every MC began to came into the game as a set: complete with a clothing line, designer liquor labels, & an independent recording house. Word to the Steve Jobs doll, before long, rappers will have G.I. Joe-esque action figures on Walmart store shelves, especially with the action hero lives most rap dudes seem to personify nowadays.
Don’t quote me, but I see Master P on the Home Shopping Network – selling whatever he can etch ” NO LIMIT” on – before he’s totally done with Hip Hop. No shots, just observations.