Coming from the 80s and partying hard in the 90’s I can easily say I’ve seen it all.
Rap went from a local New York phenomenon to the most dominant youth culture phenomenon on the planet. I am still a fan to this day, but being a fan also makes me a critic I won’t follow blindly without looking here at blunt truth. I am not writing about Hip-Hop culture at all. In my opinion Rap and Hip-Hop went separate ways a long time ago. What we are seeing in the media is rap music only. The other elements DJing, Graffity and Breakdance are almost living their own lives as their own entities.
So the most important thing first. How come Rap music just went past Rock-N-Roll. A music genre which seemed to be almost unbeatable for many decades. I think the picture of this article answers all the questions. Curt Cobain or almost any other rock musician would not wear a Nike hat and talk about their favorite drink, car, sports shoes in their music videos. Show off the latest acquisitions of luxury. Praise everything from sports shoes to TV sets, purses for men or whatever rhymes with any brand name. There is simply no genre of music that creates space for product placement as rap music does. A song like “Pass the Courvoisier” catapulted an almost unpronounceable drink to the top in demand status for clubs all around the world. Just a while, after expensive champagne brands became boring. Rap enables entire generations of young people change their habits and consumer behavior. Their entire values. It makes them ready to kill for the latest consumer gadget. Giving the consumer a get rich or die trying attitude. “No matter what crime I need to do, I must have that BMW”.
Mean while most rock music has been targeted towards young rebels with a strong anti capitalist view on the world, rap started as the voice of the poor that demanded for the masses to take notice of them. It took 1 decade to reach mainstream America. The first success came with crossover appeal when Blondie had a rap part in their song and product placement when the likes of Run DMC took the stage. Otherwise, it would have stayed a short term phenomenon after “Rapper’s Delight” and “The Message” got a lot of attention. The long-term success came with Def Jam. Here you would find corporate sponsoring entering the sport of rhyming. If they did it any different they would have never been able to make it to that top that quickly. For any successful label after Def Jam, they just copied the formula. The great advantage was, even the local kids saying rhymes would talk about their favorite brands and whatever other products of their dreams would come to mind. What is more important, the more money they made the more visible they would show these things. A rock star would also own a Porsche, but they would never brag about it. It would drive away their fans. For a rapper the situation is different. You have a person who under any other circumstances would never be able to earn this money in a lifetime. In this case, the fans would feel happy for the person to leave the rough upbringing behind in pursuit of something better. The fans need a reason to feel that whatever the artist does is morally right. Even if the rapper later looses it all because he is too stupid handling his money, the crowd will still have mercy with the person. But a rocker who comes from a highly educated background, mostly even from an upper class upbringing, the sakes are a bit higher. They would feel betrayed if the intellectual rocker would trade his music for material things or accumulate wealth in an obsessive manner. A rock star dressing in Gucci from head to toe would loose all credibility. If a rapper does the same, the fans will feel as if they helped this poor guy to turn his life around. On the other hand the Hip-Hop fan still wants the rapper to entertain him for his value, and quickly looses interest when the musician becomes too normal. In addition, support is fading, when the musician later appears too intelligent and does not stick to the role the fans expect him to play. The fans are always looking for that certain “Raphael De la Ghetto”. The uneducated rapper would of course, as expected spend all his newly achieved wealth on drugs and luxury goods, because he is supposed to be uneducated. Intelligent business people saw this early and paced their products within these people. This is why they did not see any more interest in rock music. There the music would be the only product. Their lifestyle would be hard to sell to a mainstream market, Since the mid 80s rappers have advertised almost everything. From fast food chains, to sports utilities, fragrances, local car dealerships to the neighborhood drug supplier. There is no product on the planet, which does not rhyme with anything a rapper says. There isn't a neighborhood, where you can't ask the local junkie to kick some rhymes in a format that advertises products as long as he feels the opportunity to get some money for himself. This is why the money keeps staying in rap until there is a more easy to advertise music culture appearing out of nothing.