If you notice, a lot of the best hip-hop lately has been brought to us by the marketing departments of major corporations. For example, there was the Kanye West song “Better Than I Ever Was,” which I believe had something to do with a new model of Air Force Ones or some such bullshit (I know next to nothing about shoes), and was sponsored by Nike anyway. And I read the other day that there was a Ghostface and Rakim concert at this year’s South by Southwest sponsored by Toyota’s Scion division.
Obviously the idea is that hip-hop youth will see how much money these companies are willing to spend to spend to commision such works and hence will come to associate these brands with the genre. Which would seem to make sense, at least businesswise – it’s been proven time and time again that dumbass kids will run out and buy, say, Courvoisier by the case if it’s mentioned in a Busta Rhymes record. Also, there doesn’t seem to be nearly as much objection to commercialism in hip-hop as in other genres.
Where as in other genres it’s often popular – though to a lesser extent than it was before – to object to any and all obvious commercialism beyond the usual being signed to a major label, in hip-hop, the idea of turning down what essentially amounts to money for nothing is verboten – the idea being that, I was raised in the ghetto, god damnit, and anything I have to do to get out that doesn’t involve reading and writing is fair game. Never mind the fact that the vast majority of artists approached with such opportunities can hardly claim to need the money.
Notorious hater that I am, I object to anyone getting money because I’m jealous and also because I hurt my neck jerking off. But I wonder if there’s a case to be made for so much unchecked commercialism in hip-hop. I don’t think corporate sponsored hip-hop is bad as a rule. In other words, I can appreciate an instance in which both the genre and the corporation stand to benefit, but what about the cases in which the corporation is obviously just taking from hip-hop without giving much, if anything back?
I know you d-bags don’t like when I mention Jay-Z in post, but take Jay-Z for example. If you notice, his last several prominent business ventures – the fake executive position at Def Jam, the basketball team, the clothing line and so on and so forth, for which he’s been venerated as some sort of visionary hip-hop businessman, have all essentially involved him being the token black front for tall Israeli interests. “Big deal,” you say. But think about it: why would so many of these companies need a black front in the first place?
At the very least, this could be viewed as a matter of them using a highly regarded figure in the black community to sell poor black people a buncha shit that they don’t need (champagne, expensive clothes, etc.), but in some cases the extent of the fuckery goes much deeper. Take for example the way Jay-Z is being used as a front by the New Jersey Nets to justify moving a lot of poor black people out of a rapidly gentrifying area of Brooklyn. Call me a hater if you want, but it’s hard for me to view that as anything other than the TIs exploiting hip-hop for their own benefit and Jay-Z playing right into it.