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The Day Hip Hop Died

Posted by Molli Fire on Thursday, 1March07

It’s true. Hip hop has become so mainstream and commercialized that what most people call hip hop is so far from the true spirit and culture of hip hop. Nas said it last summer, and has reemphasized his point with his album that came out at the beginning of 2007. Hip hop has become more geared towards a white audience that never had any connection to hip hop culture, and less geared towards the communities that created it. The only exceptions that stand out in my memory is Kanye West’s “Bush don’t like black people” and anything by the Coup. How many young people listening to hip hop today take an interest or get involved in graffiti art? How many are living in abject poverty forced upon them by the imbalance of power and social structures of this society? How many are in college? The worst effect of the commercialization of hip hop, in my opinion, has been the ill protrayal of women. Mainstream hip hop treats women HORRIBLY. Calling them bitches and hoes (and not affectionately like “my nigger”), talking about their roles as sexual satisfaction for the rappers, and never giving them the respect and glory that they deserve for supporting the family, the community, the culture, let alone giving them props for all the roles that they fill simultaneously as mother, wife, working woman, and artist.

This article from the Mercury News further elaborates what Nas was referring to when he said Hip Hop is Dead :

DaveyD: Why commerce is killing the true spirit of hip-hop

Hip-hop icon Nas made the provocative statement, “Hip-hop is dead,” in September and set off a firestorm of controversy. It was intensified by the January release of his album bearing the same title.

Many questioned why Nas would say hip-hop — a worldwide phenomenon that has generated billions of dollars — could be “dead.” After all, more hip-hop albums are being released then ever before, and the music’s influence extends to movies, corporate marketing and theater. That it’s dead seems absurd — until you realize Nas was looking beneath the surface.

He was speaking of the corporate side of the music and the mentality of executives more interested in turning a quick buck than nurturing rap culture. Nas realized sex, violence and bling, as themes for the music, had pretty much run their course. Album sales had plummeted, and ratings at hip-hop radio stations in New York, Los Angeles and elsewhere had hit all-time lows.

A number of people, including this writer, also had spoken out about mediocre product coming from some of the genre’s biggest stars. Yet such talk was rebuffed by so-called industry experts, who blamed digital downloading and satellite radio.

We critics, however, were vindicated by a study published earlier this year by the University of Chicago. Data from the “Black Youth Project” indicated that while 58 percent of blacks between ages 15 and 25 listen to hip-hop daily, most are dissatisfied with it. They find the subject matter is too violent, and women too often portrayed in offensive ways.

Such feelings hint at a dirty little secret of the music business: Blacks are used largely to validate musical themes being marketed to the white mainstream. In other words, while 90 percent of commercial rap artists on TV and radio are black, the target audience lies outside the black community.

Paul Porter, a longtime industry veteran and former music programmer at BET and Radio One, is now with the watchdog organization He says the University of Chicago findings offer proof positive that commercial hip-hop has become the ultimate minstrel show, and rap artists are pushed by the industry to remain perpetual adolescents.

As a result, we watch Diddy, Cam’ron, DMX and others brag about wealth and throw bills at a camera while bikini-clad women gyrate in the background. Should these artists attempt to break out of the mold, they’d risk having their work questioned by record and radio executives.

In our conversation, Porter also pointed to something more sinister: payola. He claimed hip-hop is dead only because payola is rampant at labels intent on investing in songs with sexual and violent themes.

During a separate conversation, Questlove of the Roots supported Porter’s allegation with his own story about the process behind the group’s Grammy-winning hit with Erykah Badu, “You Got Me.” He said the Roots had to pony up close to “a million dollars” to a middle man who “worked his magic” at radio stations.

Initially, the overtly positive song had been rejected, he explained, so palms were greased with the promise that key stations countrywide would get hot “summer jam” concert acts in exchange for airplay. According to Questlove, more than $1 million in cash and resources were eventually laid out for the success of that single song.

In the documentary “Hip Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes,” shown recently on the PBS series “Independent Lens,” filmmaker Byron Hurt confronts Stephen Hill, BET’s senior vice president for programming, to ask why the cable network plays so many videos with misogynist and otherwise degrading themes. The fortysomething Hill walks away without answering. This is the same executive who refused to broadcast videos by the group Little Brother, because he considered their material “too intelligent” for the BET audience.

With thinking like that, no wonder commercial hip-hop appears dead. It’s the ideas of the gatekeepers that are dead.
Davey D’s hip-hop column is published biweekly in Eye. Contact him by e-mailing

you can find this article here.


According to Wikipedia :

In a late September interview with United Kingdom’s “Westwood” radio show, Nas said, “Hip-hop is dead because we as artists no longer have the power.” He went on to say, “Could you imagine what 50 Cent could be doing, Nas, Jay, Eminem, if we were the Jimmy Iovines. Could you imagine the power we’d have? I think that’s where we’re headed.” He has described the album as a mixture of “street” records, “political” records and collaborations.[4] In another interview Nas said,
“ …basically America is dead. There is no political voice. Music is dead. Our way of thinking is dead, our commerce is dead. Everything in this society has been done. That’s where we are as a country.[5] ”

Hopefully, the real hip hop that never died, that has continued strong in the underground, in the streets, despite constant oppression, will continue, the way it always has. In direct rebellion against the mainstream, the dominant culture. It comes straight from the songs of slavery, the songs of oppression, a voice to keep the people strong in the face of a terrible reality. It will continue to be self produced, shared on mixtapes, an oral tradition. Some bands who stay true to real hip hop will reach fame and big record sales, like the Coup from Oakland, Mr. Lif, PARIS, Cannibal Ox, Sole, Aesop Rock, etc. But, I hope that mainstream hip hop really is on its deathbed. Although, the reality is, that as long as an unsuspecting white kid has $10 burning a hole in his puffy jacket pocket, it will continue to survive on hype.
website for Cannibal Ox and other Def Jux artists like Mr. Lif and RJD2
website for PARIS, Public Enemy, and more



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