Thursday, October 06, 2005

How TAN-Man Saved Hip Hop By Killing Himself ... Someday

So I posted earlier about killing yourself to get a little extra notoriety.

Now I admit, killing yourself might be a little sensational, and beside the point, maybe, but the real thrust of the idea was about hip hop marketing.

I asked CopyRanter what was going on hip-hop-styley during Ad Week, and he responded, "what is this hippity hoppity you speak of. I don't want my hips to start hopping anytime soon thank you. Please leave me be Negro."

Which got me thinking. That's not a good response for any self-respecting hip hop lover to hear. And then I thought some more. Maybe hip hop was absent because right now it is at a crossroad. Most people (in fact most anything that evolves) face a crossroad, or turning point, somewhere in that twenty to thirty age range.

This is the stage hip hop is at now, and it’s trying to find a new voice, a new brand identity.

When hip hop started, the message was very clear: this is the street, this is raw, this is the underbelly of the beast. If you brought hip hop into your house, there were actual pieces of street left in the living room. Along with the guns, forties, and blunts.

And hip hop was viral because the message and product were all intertwined in one neat anti-neat package.


*this space is allotted for post interaction - i.e. screaming*

*go ahead, don’t be shy … scream*

So this was very effective when the startup Hip Hop Inc was putting itself on the map. It found its niche and spread.

Seth doesn’t mention it in the books of his that I’ve read, but hip hop is a prime example of the effectiveness of an idea virus.

In the mid-late 90s, Puffy added glam and polish to the basic message. He made it fun and glossy and constantly “remixed,” but he re-mixed things we knew. Like any savvy marketing mind he realized there’s nothing new under the sun, so it’s about mixing familiar themes/basslines/samples into new translations. He made hip hop more Purple. And it wasn’t just the music/product. He also tweaked the message. With Puff we really begin to see the evolution from criminality that is politicized and/or angry (like an NWA or Public Enemy), to a crime that is now about empowerment. It’s about capital and capitalism. Get Rich Or Die Tryin'. It used to be more about the fight and independence, because that’s all you had. You, your heart, and your pride. But with Notorious BIG as the ultimate pitchman, the message became one of Thinking Man’s crime. “How we gonna make this money so we can live how we want to live?” This familiar, but slightly remixed, hip hop package exploded with Puff at the helm.

This, as opposed to say Sean John, is Puff and Biggie’s real legacy. They were market leaders when hip hop graduated from Underground University and began having to pay some bills. Throw in the West Coast franchising and this is how hip hop began to rise up the ranks in the Capitalist Hive.

But now hip hop is at a new stage. It needs something new to sneeze about.

A lot of people look at Eminem’s emergence in 99-00 as a big race issue, an example of the great white rapper being chosen by his people.

And I’m certainly not going to argue race as a big intriguing factor. But I think it’s important to acknowledge Eminem’s stylized emotional accessibility as another message-shift in the hip hop marketing plan. Artists who didn’t follow the criminality-as-capitalism formula setup by Biggie and Pac and Nas and Jay-Z didn’t usually do anything “unique and different” so much as they did anti-crime music. No new currency, just two sides of the same coin.

But Em brought new money with him. And it’s probably worth mentioning at this point that when I say "Em did this" and "Biggie did that," it doesn’t mean absolutely no other artist did any of these things, I believe in the idea pool, it just means they were the big-popular-known name. I think Eminem's influence can be summed up via one line that he used in radio freestyles, “I don’t sell crack, I smoke it.”

The sensibility of that line is what turned hip hop on its head a little. You could argue that such a line could never be uttered by a black artist. This is where race enters the equation in a big way. Once Em got over the initial hurdle of his race, the once insurmountable obstacle became the ultimate safety net. Em had freedom to express whatever his crazy/demented/artistic mind could come up with. And because Em remained so loyal to the hip hop motif, his message changed the product, hip hop opened its eyes and realized it too could express whatever its crazy/demented/artistic mind could come up with.

So when I go from NWA to Eminem to Kanye West I don't see a racial through-line. What I do see is an attempt to find a newer, better, and more accessible brand identity.

But it is again time for change.

The marketing of empowerment through hip hop will always be viable. But it's no longer where the blood is drawn from, it's no longer "the edge." That era peaked with College Dropouts Getting Rich or Dying To Try.

Dying to try ... that brings it back to killing yourself for notoriety.

My hope and dream is that i will be able to make a contribution to the next message shift for hip hop. That is, at least partially, the purpose of The Assimilated Negro.

There is something in this rapping, and blogging, and hip hop, and marketing that signals a shift.

And I'm going to be part of it, even if I have to Kill Myself to make it known.

ok. now back to jokes and jokes and jokes ...


  1. ya know what i think of rappers such as 50 cent. they're descendents of the gene of blackies called Sambo. Though the word originated in Brazil slang for mulatto, white people's love of Sambo is what has killed hip hop. Sambo'an logic can be found from Nate Dogg's "Regulators," Snoop Dogg's, "You Ain't No G" song featuring Justin Timberlake. There is no denying they are merely doing things for the money, but then again, wasn't Sambo bein Sambo for the greedy betterness of himself? exactly i say, and bullhonky to all those that disagree to my views of the Toussiant-Nat Turner beliefs kill all the white men in the world so black people don't have to sell a lil bit of their soul when they sell their titties, their soul when they sell themselves as people who kill & look at titties all day, and most importantly, don't ever get to be who they want to be in order to survive.

    though this is not just for the biggity black population of our country, blackies get it worse. With constant portrayals of old black men being portrayed by soulful ghosts in disguise as janitors, and all the constant alienation from the rest of society. Remember, a cracka in a bm-dub will buy jadakiss's crappy album, but he would never want his black ass in his car.

    have i made a coherent point? no, but the ability that you can read without gettin yo fingaz chopped off like in slavery days should make you a blessed mothafuckin blackie. off i go to a game of craps.

  2. Awesome post. Do you think hip-hop is about to enter a "New Wave" phase equivalent to what happened to rock in the early 80s (maybe that already happened)? Maybe there will be a resurgence of a hard gangsta rap to compete with it ("punk" equivalent?), as the fallout from the Bush economic downturn hits? Purely specualitive.

  3. Fucking awesome post. I gotta internalize what you're saying and then I can write more. Nice job; I love this site!

  4. Good post, great site, found you from reading Maine.

    I can't help but think that all music takes themselves a little too seriously though. I mean, it's an art form, definately... but no spoke of the wheel makes it turn alone.

  5. I am not the hugest follower of hip hop but from the "cracka" perspective (hey neema - I prefer "cookie...") ;) I think the point you make about Eminem is interesting. I think "Eminem's stylized emotional accessibility" is a HUGE factor in his success - especially in regards to the white market. He sells the message of hick rock and roll (bordering on country) except with a fantastic beat and amazing rhymes. His music is sweeping and cheesy but gritty enough to have some street cred - even with guys like Fitty - so people all across the boards can relate. Because what gave hip hop its start - just like punk and every other underground movement - is socio-economic oppression. Em is the white-trash rapper. But whereas Diddy can be loaded and flash it and still be successful, a white guy could never do that. (Poor Vanilla Ice...)

    Thanks for reading my blog! I enjoyed yours, too - I'll be back!

  6. you know, you saaaaaaay you're assimilated, but I still think you might cyber-stab me.

  7. Anonymous7/25/2006

    very nice, a new prespective off hip hop to me, more of a socio-economic than others i saw till now, kind of like what marx would write about the development of hip hop, excpet that he would conclude it with saying that rappers should now exclusively distribute their music p2p

  8. Anonymous7/30/2006

    A new look at rap\hip hop for me, considering I found this blog when googling for 'kill all rappers/ ;p.

  9. now i don't know much about the business side of things, so you could be right about some of that, but i don't think you've paid much attention to hip hop music. the music has been going for around 40 years. when it started it wasn't for the underbelly of the best. it was party music for poor black kids. hell japanese business men got in therer pretty quick. and so they talk about girls girls girls and moved into stuff about life where they were. maybe you got confused and thought hip hop began with the words of the lips of grandmaster flash and followed a nice path to you for years on to mtv. oh puff daddy was anything but a remixer.


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