No one can deny the overwhelming amount of media that surrounds us. It’s everywhere; from ads for soft drinks to ads for sneakers. And there is always some type of sexual content involved in most. A large part of media these days is dominated by Hip Hop and rappers. It has been over two decades and some still believe that Hip Hop is a fad, something that is lacking in creativity and should disappear soon because of its negative effects on young people.
In the early days of Hip Hop, it was all about the music; how to outsmart someone in a rhyme battle, how to say something so clever that the crowd would go crazy for you. People back then believed in the art of Hip Hop. Artists like Big Daddy Kane, Rakim, MC Lyte and even Queen Latifah came out with music that usually had a positive message. They had no choice. People didn’t believe in this art form anyway so they had to prove themselves by saying; “We are here to stay and we have positive things to say!” Songs like “UNITY”, “Lets Talk About Sex”, and Public Enemy’s “Fight The Power” were ground breaking in Hip Hop for their lyrical skills.
If you take a look at three Hip Hop videos from top selling artists in 1996 and then watch three videos from top selling artists in 2006, the difference is astounding. The 1996 videos, such as Jay-Z’s “Can’t Knock the Hustle” or Outkast’s “Me n’ U” contained a storyline that had something to do with the lyrics of the song. Videos at first were meant to promote the artist and sway fans to buy their album. Nowadays videos have a number of purposes, none of which have anything to do with the lyrics of the song. For the most part, they want to promote the artist, the video girls, products, clothing lines, shoes, even their dentists. Nelly’s 2006 video ‘Grillz’ is a prime example of this. Nelly is an artist who came from the hood, the ‘derrtty’ as he calls it. His very first video, Country Grammar that came out in 2000 was simple; he wore a pair of jeans, no logo displayed, no shirt and a hat reppin’ the ‘derrtty’, St. Louis. Grillz shows a very different Nelly, a far from simple, richer Nelly. With him owning a female and male clothing line, Apple Bottoms and Vokal, his own group and starting his own record label he has a lot of promoting to do. The point is, the entire Hip Hop lifestyle has become out of hand for young people, these artists and record companies have succeeded with not only getting teens to buy the albums but everything else that the artist owns, wears, has or likes.
An immense amount of money goes into advertising a new artist. An average new artist has an image consultant and a stylist. For at least their first few minutes of fame, these individuals dictate their entire image. What brand of clothes and shoes they wear, how they wear them, where they wear them, and even how they answer questions on shows like 106 & Park and TRL. Essentially a new artist is 75% fabrication. Teenagers who watch music shows religiously and swear by their favourite artists are being cheated. They believe that if the artist (Lil’ Kim for example) can do it, why can’t they? In reality, becoming a rapper would be an attainable goal, the problem is young black men specifically believe this is the only way they can get to the top. Very seldom in this day and age do you hear aspirations of being lawyers or writers or doctors. It’s always the same: “I wanna be the next 50 cent or the next Jay- Z.” This is becoming evident right here in our own community.
“Hommie shot me two weeks later he got shot down” that’s a 50 Cent lyric talking about retaliation. Speaking to two local young men Christopher and Justin Frances that claim to live the gangsta lifestyle portrayed in the videos, gave me a better understanding of how a specific group of young people think. “Retaliation existed way before 50 was a big name, we don’t follow we been on this from time, before he came around, we don’t follow him,” they both said.
It’s alarming that people can’t grasp the simple art of advertising. What these two young men and many others fail to realize is that this is how advertising works. Advertisers want you to believe that the way you live your life, the things you buy and your ambitions have no relationship with the images you see on TV. It’s a form of subtle brain washing that unfortunately too many are falling victim to. Self image is so important and young women are overwhelmed with images of this unrealistic picture of perfection. Video girls have become huge over the last couple of years, charging prices in the thousands to grace the screen of any rappers videos. Being exploited or giving women a bad name is not the way they look at it. The glamour, money, and attention are what attract them to this ‘job’. As video girls get bigger so will anorexia and other related eating disorders because the projected images are impractical.
Hip Hop plays a part in every aspect of the media. Rappers own clothing lines, shoes, perfumes, endorse drinks, fast food and are even involved in part owning basketball teams. It’s hard to fathom people already involved in multi-million dollar record deals feeling the need to find alternate ways of income. Some artists have done many positive things with their money such as donating or starting their own charities. Becoming not only an artist but a business man or women is something that you hear most artists aspiring to be these days. The issue with this is that it’s not said enough. Very few rappers talk about the business side of things or how being educated can greatly enhance your success in any field that a fan may want to pursue. How often do you hear P. Diddy talk about how he graduated from Howard University? Where are we as a society going to be in fifteen years with young people growing up to think that if all fails, they can be rappers or video girls?