Hip hop is far from the first culture to be infiltrated and subsequently mined for profit by corporations, but the trends, rhythms, fashions, and lifestyle of hip hop has global effect, from suburbanites in the Valley to hustlers in Brooklyn to cab drivers in Africa.
With a global audience, it was only a matter of time before corporations reached out to hip hop to validate their image. To this end, corporate America has met with unparalleled success, securing rap godfather KRS-ONE and all-around mogul Jay-Z as two of their biggest spokesmen:
As more hip-hop celebrities become spokespeople for brands, we see a dovetail with earlier trends (reference “Remix!”) and the artists’ answer to recording studios’ new 360 degree contracts. As individual album sales may drop due to open source technologies, artists both become and represent brands.
Artists can certainly profit in this manner, but is this trend (a) good for the culture the artists propagate and/or (b) a risky attempt to trade on “street cred” for major companies?
Perhaps some other dons of hip hop, the Wu-Tang Clan, have the answer embedded in the lyrics to their banger “Protect Ya Neck”:
First of all, who’s your A&R
A mountain climber who plays an electric guitar?
But he don’t know the meaning of dope
When he’s lookin for a suit and tie rap
that’s cleaner than a bar of soap
And I’m the dirtiest thing in sight…
1. When worlds collide (e.g. hip hop culture and corporate America) in pursuit of a common goal (profit), at what point is the relationship between credibility and profit no longer linear and exponential?
2. How can businesses draw on the talents and experiences of artists to profit in a respectful and reciprocal manner?
Keep it Real.