Hip Hop Hatin’ Part, 2: Mainstream Rap Going the Way of Disco?

by Winston "Stone" Ford

Though some dude at Bol’s XXL joint tried to hurt my feelings by calling me a…um, “another nigga who doesn???t even know what the fuck he???s talking about,” (or maybe I'm the “nigga who made a post looking at one week,” who knows?), I've decided to continue my Hip-Hop Hatin' series, this time focusing on marketing in hip-hop.

Hip-Hop is Dead.

Those aren’tmy words, so blame Nas for that. Its the title of the Queensbridge rapper’s latest album, but that might be the notion coming from Madison Avenue . Why is that? Because no one knows how to watch trends like the those dudes on Madison. And said dudes aren’triding the “gravy train” any more.

This week, Sprite abandoned its hip-hop ad campaign in favor of…well, damn, I don’teven know what they're doing now. AdAge says: Five cinema spots (four 30-second and one 60-second) feature creative that rapidly cuts from one bizarre scene to the next with special codes and visual rewards in between scenes. “Welcome to 'SubLYMONal' advertising,” declares a voice over for each spot. “For best results, do not blink.” WTF?

Add to that the fact that Reebok is abandoning their hip-hop themed “RBK” ad campaign, which featured such acts as 50 Cent and Pharrell. Although the campaign produced major profits for the company and led the shoe manufacturer to a dramatic turnaround, the powers that be decided to cut the rappers from their roster as well as get out of their NBA contract after they got bought out by Addias.

So instead of hearing 50 Cent pimping your favorite product, you might want to get used to seeing James Blunt on your TV screen.

I reminded you guys of this last week. And this week’s new Soundscan numbers are more of the same. I'm pretty sure that ya'll are looking at the Soundscan numbers and you're noticing that, even though you can’tfind a rock video on MTV2 these days, there is no rap CD in the top 10. In fact, the closest “hip-hop” CD that’s in the top 20 is Gnarls Barkley, and I'm only givin' them the benefit of the doubt since Cee Lo was in Goodie Mob.

I'm glad, because that ish was gettin' out of hand. You had JC Penny rippin' off “The Choice is Yours” featuring kids who weren’teven born when Black Sheep Dropped the track. Remember the Avis commercials that had the old people getting out of a Hummer with thumping DMX? Yes, hip-hop is a universal gold mine which can be used to market to people of all races, classes, religions and colors. But damn, these dudes didn’tjust jump the shark, they harpooned it.

As other bloggers are noting…this is not a one week blip but the beginnings of a downward trend in hip-hop marketing.

But before diss me again, please remember that this can only be good for hip-hop. With hip-hop broken up into so many sub-genres, niche marketing will come strong later this year. Without the mighty dollar in the way, people will stop chasing trends and begin to make real music again.

Or at least we hope.

  • Michael in Los Angeles

    There must be somthing in the water because I was just having this conversation this past weekend.

    Is hip-hop dead? No, but it's pretty passe. A genre of music that rose up out of the Black/Brown streets of NYC and was the voice of a rebellious youth has been co-opted and mainstreamed into corporate blandness.

    There's a parallel – jazz (as we know it) rose out of the whorehouses and dice dens of Storyville in New Orleans. The Godfather of Jazz Louis Armstrong was born in an orphanage and the trumpet saved him from being another dope peddler or pimp – he did smoke weed on the regular his entire life, rappers ain't doing anything new praisng the cheeba. But by the '70 the Godson of jazz Miles Davis had gone electric and told the world that the slick suits and traditional quartet was dead. It took the (then) young lions like Wynton and Bradford to rescue jazz from obscurity – but you will never see a ballroom of young brothas and sistas jitterbugging to Cab Calloway or Duke Ellington.

    Which brings me back to hip-hop. How can we take hip-hop seriously anymore when it is used to sell Fords, breakfast cereal, and any other myriad of consumer products directed at folks under 35 years of age?

    So the question is what is coming next? I've got no crystal ball but I'd put money on the next wave of new “ish” will be popping out of the barrios of inner city USA somewhere. We've seen the numbers of Latinos taking to the streets to demand their rights, and Latino youth have a lot to say. Unlike generations past who in trying to assimilate into the cultura – chose up “sides,” either soul/r&b or rock. The new generation of Latin youth is not ashamed to bump their “narco corridios” or “techno banda” tunes in the trunk. The “reggaeton” hybrid is only a taste of what is to come.

    I'm 39, and I remember being in 8th grade (circa 1979/1980) hanging out at school having some heated discussions about which was better; The Time with their tune “777-9311″ or the Sugarhill Gang's “Rappers Delight.” I soon could care less once I hit 9th grade and heard The Clash and Bad Brains – but that is a whole 'nother letter.

  • cb

    i have cristal balls!

    lupe fiasco's 'no place to go' is a little strange : it's ambivalent / contradictory on hip hop marketing when seen in the context of his reebok deal.

    one must remember that the brand 'dis' is as old as the brand mention in hip hop. hip hop has probably had as many brand disses as (un)paid brand mentions over the years (from my u.k perspective).

    one only has to look to the american rock and roll tradition to see a long list of songs about cars…

  • Stone

    I think that hip-hop has always straddled the line of being “true” and “selling out.” I don't think that there is any true definition to say which is which.