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.
“somebody … anybody … everybody … SCREAM!!!”
*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 ...