In a very insightful article written by Eric K. Arnold over at Eastbay Express, the aspects & implications of materialism in hiphop were explored:
Let’s face it: many rap songs celebrate, if not downright glorify, materialism. To signify baller status, you’re encouraged to have a “Rollie” on your arm like Snoop Dogg, “cashmere thoughts” like Jay-Z, and “mustard & mayonnaise” like E-40. Otherwise, as Too $hort might say, you’s a “broke biatch.” This trend isn’t even a new one; back in the old-school days, Grandmaster Melle Mel exclaimed, it’s all about the money/ain’t a damn thing funny, Jimmy Spicer shouted out, “dollar bill, y’all,” and Trouble Funk succinctly stated, “I need some money.”
Cash rules everything around me, the Wu-Tang Clan famously noted. Yet it was not so long ago that Public Enemy told listeners to turn off “Channel Zero” and Boogie Down Productions cautioned to watch out for material love, lest it jump up and snuff you right out from behind.
The article then explores the history of marketing and advertising in hiphop:
It shouldn’t, says Clyde Smith, webmaster of ProHipHop.com, who’s been documenting advertising and marketing trends in urban street culture since 2004. According to Smith, “Marketing’s always been a part of hip-hop … as soon as they started doing shows in the clubs, marketing became a normal part of business, as it does in all fields.”
Okay, but it’s a big jump from hand-drawn Phase 2 fliers promoting Kool Herc’s block parties to 50 Cent’s rumored $300 million deal with MySpace. As Smith notes, hip-hop’s economic development has been a gradual process. Flashpoints along the way include Run-DMC’s endorsement deal with Adidas, Ice Cube’s St. Ides commercials, KRS-One’s Sprite and Nike ads, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas’ gangsta rap soundtrack, Fitty’s link-up with Vitamin Water, and Jay-Z’s role as pitchman for Hewlett-Packard.
Also, as part of the article, Eric conducted an interview with the anti-materialism rapper “Lateef the Truthspeaker”, in which he explained:
All segments of American society are affected by consumerism, but “hip-hop in general … has gotten exploited the hardest,” Lateef maintains. This has created a situation where “people are really living outside and way beyond their means. It’s something that’s not really necessary.”
Which leads us to another great find. Lance Winslow at EZine, breaks down the exact psychology and the various mind states that have been used to alter brain functionality for years:
It is not that the music is so bad; actually it is good, because its rhythm and cadence puts people in a convergence state of mind. In other words it puts them into theta state of mind and that is where it is easier to suggest a new thought or to brainwash in sleep state. The initiation of such brainwaves is powerful indeed. These tactics are also used in certain churches and Sales and motivational seminars. Also during commercials and government uses them to some degree for important endeavors, for instance cadence in military marching. The gangster rap is not good in that it suggests killing, drugs, other gang activities while putting its listener into the convergence state of mind. This is a negative thing, and may cause these individuals to dwell on certain thoughts and give them ideas that they may with proper gang mentality attempt one or more of the activities talked about in the songs. It would be much better to have songs with that type of cadence, which promoted good deeds and love. Perhaps there are many of these types of songs yet they do not sell very well and I do not hea positive rap songs as much as I should. Mostly Gangster Rap.
He also goes onto discuss the unintended consequences of freedom of speech:
But what are we allowing to be put into these minds of altered state? Songs of this nature are better than drugs, yet drugs would affect the singular and not the victims of the deed that are done once the behavior of an individual is altered through this convergence. There is freedom of expression in this country yet the listeners are not realizing the effect of the changes as they occur. They are being brain washed while listening to their favorite music. Which become more favored because it puts them in a trace state allowing them to escape from problems of life. Hey no one said life was easy, right? I believe Rappers should be thrown in the trash cans, not littering the minds of our youth. It costs businesses money for graffiti cleaning and tax payers money in police. The cost to society is too great to calculate as a whole, but it is real.
So what do you think? Can hiphop/rap be the sole culprit here? Well, just as Dead Prez explains that its bigger than hiphop..hiphop.. and I too believe that “in the real world its bigger than all these fake ass records”. The problem is just that though. Its bigger than hip hop….not uninclusive to hiphop. Yes, at the end of the day art imitates life…but this doesn’t mean that in a concentrated space where something is blasted at you 4500 times a day, that life doesn’t also begin to imitate art. Just ask any white kid from the suburbs how they got the idea to start talking gangster after growing up in an otherwise sheltered middle class american family. It’s because of the art THEY imitated ..an art that was not shown and ideas that were not taught anywhere near their family dinner tables each night. But I guess that’s not also the real world is it?
Now while I wouldn’t go as far as insisting rappers be thrown in trash cans, I do believe some ultra materialistic rappers such as Soulja Boy (rich nigga shit part ..well allofum), Fabolous (mr just throw it in the bag regardless if rent is due), Jermaine Dupri (mr. money aint a thing ..until the IRS is looking for it), the old David Banner before he came back to reality (mr. stuntin was a habit), Loyd Banks (mr. beamer benz or bently) and your favorite broke rapper’s favorite rappers 50 Cent & Jay-Z should take a cold hard look at the impact their music is having on the youth which supports them.
And I’m sure in response to this, most of these rappers would use the argument: “its up to the parents to teach the kids and its up to each individual to act as they see fit” or that “God gave us all conscious to make our own decisions”. But regardless of what we have been given and whoever we may be: sheep/wolves/whoever, if we, the shepherds (those that have the ability to control the sheep) don’t do anything to change whats going on, we are also a major part of the problem.
God gave Maia Campbell good judgement or conscious as well but an addictive drug (like cocaine) or addictive products with repetitive materialistic hooks (like Beamer Benz or Bently) are designed to thwart just that. As described in detail above, these addictive items were designed to infiltrate our subconscious and get us to zone out while absorbing their messages. This isn’t a secret – its why they’re called “hooks”, people. Yes, a majority of us (blacks) were broke before hip hop/rap but this is about perpetuating a cycle. Think about it, black incomes have risen substantially each decade for the past 40 years. Many more of us are graduating from college than ever before. So why then are we even more in debt and even less educated with our finances than any of our previous generations? Yeah lets not go there.
At the end of the day, its up to us as writers, rappers, DJs, speakers, entertainers and role models to re-arrange the status quo. We can’t just sit here and say “well they were given a conscious so they should know better than to spend their rent money on Prada shoes”. Thats a cop out. If that was the case, the majority of us would still be in fields pickin cotton without someone stepping up to the plate and abolishing slavery. Oh that’s right…a majority of us technically still are. You gotta love the repercussions and life long servitude that comes about from living in too much debt…
And if you’re still having trouble understanding the significant impacts of materialism and rappers financially frontin in hip hop, then check out this recent episode of the Boon Docks that illustrates the point:
You can also check out the poll we’re conducting:
Lastly, go here to listen to real hip hop with substance: