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Whores at the capitalist gangbang

Reading this news item just now, about Jermaine Dupri’s latest business venture, I couldn’t help but thinking: What kind of rapper in his right mind would sign to TAG Records?

After all, it’s a record label named after a brand of deodorant. And who knows what being signed to TAG Records might actually entail. I’m assuming their not just gonna give you a shiteload of money to release your music without helping boost their brand. They’re probably gonna insist that you dance around with a can of body spray in your video and all sorts of shit.

But then it occurred to me that this deal isn’t altogether different from the deal Jay-Z just signed with Live Nation. They both basically involve artists getting paid to appear in advertisement rather than to create songs that people actually like.

When Jay-Z signed deal, of course many in the hip-hop community were filled with the sense of vicarious achievement that they always feel whenever it’s announced that Jay-Z has made some more money (if it sounds silly, that’s because it is), but many in the business community weren’t nearly as impressed. They wondered how Live Nation could possibly hope to make money, paying Jay a $10 million advance for each of three forthcoming albums when his last album only sold a million copies.

But as some of the more astute members of the business community pointed out, Live Nation could probably give a rat’s ass whether or not they make any money from the distribution of his recordings. They don’t expect to. The idea is just to produce the albums as an advertisement for the subsequent tour, and then rape him for a larger percentage of the tour proceeds than they’d receive otherwise.

So essentially, they signed Jay-Z to an endorsement deal, of which the recording aspect is relatively ancillary. Any albums he’ll record under this deal will just be advertisements for the subsequent tour, where they’ll make the real money. If there’s a difference, it’s that at least the deal Jay has involves performing live. Though it may have never been particularly worth a shit, the live performance is the essence of hip-hop. Body spray? Not so much.

If anything, this just goes to show the growing difference between the haves and the havenots in the hip-hop community. Take for example Jay’s own label. Right around the time it was announced Jay was back in bed with the TIs, it was announced that Beanie Sigel, who’s headed back to prison because he can’t kick the sizzurp (hope he’s got a good ticker!), only makes something ridonkulous like 14 cents an album. Which is why you always hear about someone having to put up money so he can get his car back.

And I believe similar financial issues were behind Young Buck finally splitting with G-Unit. As my boo Miss Info explains it, Buck owed some ridonkulous amount of money to the IRS, so Fiddy bailed him out. But as a result, all of the money Buck would have received as royalties from his recording with G-Unit was seized by Fiddy Cent. Buck figured he might have finally been out of the woods financially with this last album, so to speak, but I guess Fiddy begged to differ.

Guys like Beanie Sigel and Young Buck I’m sure would scoff at the idea of having to shill for body spray just in order to maintain their careers as recording artists, but I wonder what other choices they’d have at this point. Both of them could obviously use the money, and it’s not like the old model is coming back any time soon. Even if they could talk the TIs into increasing the amount they make per record sold, it’s not like the TIs are making very much money themselves these days. That’s why a touring company like Live Nation was able to come in and take Jay-Z from them.

That said, I’m not sure how better Jay-Z is really gonna be. I mean, I’m sure he’s not gonna run out of money any time soon, but I’m sure they’re gonna make him work for it. He’s gonna be like one of these washed up acts who has to play Las Vegas every night of the week, though perhaps less work intensive. And since his deal with Live Nation also involves other forms of endorsement, he’ll probably also have to do his share of shilling. If you thought that shit with Kingdom Come and Budweiser Select shit was lame, I’m sure it’s only gonna get worse.

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