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Is the "commercialization" of hip hop a positive or negative

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Rosalia Malvasi

on 15 December 2013

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Transcript of Is the "commercialization" of hip hop a positive or negative

Despite artists of other cultures today creating and performing it, Hip Hop is essentially Black American Music. Is the commercialization of Hip Hop a positive or negative phenomenon? Or is Hip Hop still an art form outside of the Hip Hop Industry?

Before we can even begin to view both sides of this argument, one must know what Hip Hop is and about it’s origins and roots. Hip Hop started out in the 1970’s in The Bronx, New York as an urban culture of youth that was rebellious. It contained four elements:

With the construction of the Cross-Bronx expressway, many Black and Hispanic economically unstable families had to leave the area and relocate. The South Bronx became an area with few resources, lack of solid leadership, and little political power. This resulted in disenfranchised youth looking for creative outlets to release their aggression. And thus, Hip Hop was born. It served as a support outlet for black youth going through identity crisis with elements of djing, rapping break dancing, and graffiti.

Since it’s start, Hip Hop has expanded globally and is now an internationally recognized form of music. Commercializing Hip Hop has in a sense, changed the dynamic of it’s origins. We see a lot of artists today becoming part of the Hip Hop industry solely for it’s perks and money gain (Brodie).
When independent record labels started to be bought out by major labels there was a drastic noticeable change in the lyrical content of Hip Hop music. (Flores 2013) “Whereas, previously the lyrics focused on social, political, and cultural issues, the lyrics now were becoming more hyper-violent and hyper-masculine, eventually coming together as a new genre known as “Gangsta Rap” which rose in popularity and sales while being heavily promoted by the major labels.” (Hurt 2006)

With this shift in lyrical content also came a shift in visual content in music videos and over all image. It was more common for Hip Hop videos to be seen with things such as lavish houses, with women dressed in sexually explicit styles clothing, money being thrown around. The meaning and importance behind the lyrics are now put on the back burner and the central themes revolve around violence becomes and hyper-masculinity. 2

What is being presented to the world is not what the true meaning of Hip Hop lying beneath all of this commercialization is. This results in misinterpretation and ignorance of the history and culture behind the music. Every art form has it’s low ballers, but every art form also has it’s true poets. 1

Is the "commercialization" of hip hop a positive or negative phenomenon? Or Is hip hop, as an art form, still separate from the industry of hip hop?
With the commercialization of Hip Hop, we can look at it from many different viewpoints
On one hand you see that the actual true art, the elements that make it an art form, are often depleted and get replaced in importance by gaining money. This results in a fewer amount of artists who are actually expressing what the true meaning of the music is and an increase in artists who are ignorant to the art form that Hip Hop can be with the right mindset. It is as if we are watering down all the emotion and truth that could be put into the industry to increase capital gain. 1
“When Hip Hop expanded it became a business focused entirely on capital Therefore, it was imperative to connect with all markets—from children to adults. And with that, came the task of making more products and making them more appealing to a larger audience. This began the emergence of packaged rappers, such as Soulja Boy, who became geared more toward teenagers with catchy choruses and simple lyrics. Those who have grown up on hip-hop are very critical of the commercialization of the genre, because they miss the golden era of hip-hop, which lasted between the 80s to early 90s.” 1
In the ‘Golden Era’ of Hip Hop, the most important parts of the music were the lyrics, social messages, and talent of the artist. In today’s modern day Hip Hop, the visual appeal of the artist, and catchy-ness of a song seem to dominate over the actual essence of the music. 1
“Artists are now being promoted strictly to sell records, whether they believe in the music or not. The genre has transitioned from pure expression of one’s self to a money-hungry capitalist system. Any time you water down a product to connect with a wider audience you will have an overabundance of people trying to get involved. This is the reason that so many kids are growing up wanting to become rappers as opposed to doctors.” 1
What we are losing is the integrity and humbleness of the original Hip Hop records. Hip Hop
have the potential to exist as an art form separate from the Hip Hop
but it is increasingly difficult with the image that the public has now accepted as what Hip Hop is today. The voice of the black community is failing to be represented in the way that it used to be. Hip Hop has even come as far as representing products or companies which clearly does not stay true to the roots of hip hop.
“While the music bursts with social-political themes, it is quite dangerous for the critic or listener to interpret it purely as a reflection of social and political conditions, without the thought to presence of artistic choice in every narrative and composition.” 3
“Whereas, previously the lyrics focused on social, political, and cultural issues, the lyrics now were becoming more hyper-violent and hyper-masculine, eventually coming together as a new genre known as “Gangsta Rap” which rose in popularity and sales while being heavily promoted by the major labels.” (Hurt 2006)
Essentially, Hip Hop has veered away from it’s original meanings due to excessive amounts of commercialization in order to gain a larger fan base. However, despite this major change in aesthetics, Hip Hop has evolved and become a voice for many communities aside from the black community. It is seen everywhere from TV, to video games, to public service announcements, and political campaigns. With this commercialization, Hip Hop music has lost the social-politcal meaning it once possessed but there will always be artists that still believe that it is still considered an art form and outlet for social changes. 2
1 Brodie, Sekinah. "Nvate Commentary: The Commercialization of Hip-Hop." Nvate. http://nvate.com/7585/hiphop-commercialization/ (accessed December 6, 2013).

2 Flores, Lucien J. . "Hip-Hop is for Everybody: Examining the Roots and Growth of Hip-Hop." RSS. http://www.studentpulse.com/articles/639/hip-hop-is-for-everybody-examining-the-roots-and-growth-of-hip-hop (accessed December 5, 2013).

3 Perry, Imani. Prophets of the hood: politics and poetics in hip hop. Durham: Duke University Press, 2004.

4 Rose, Tricia. Black Noise: Rap Music and Black Culture in Contemporary America. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1994.
Rosalia Malvasi
African American Popular Music
FA/MUSI 3510
Professor: Ron Westray
December 9, 2013
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