Hip Hop: playing the game


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Old lecture (2004) drawing on the work of Keith Negus

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Hip Hop: playing the game

  1. 1. Hip Hop 2: The Rap Game <ul><li>“ The sticker on the record is what makes 'em sell gold… </li></ul><ul><li>Yo, you gotta be high to believe that </li></ul><ul><li>You're gonna change the world by a sticker on a record sleeve ” </li></ul><ul><li>Ice T “ Freedom Of Speech” (1989) </li></ul>
  2. 2. <ul><li>1: The rap game: business as usual? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>- The corporate meets the cultural </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>- Industry history </li></ul></ul><ul><li>2: Street life: keeping it real? </li></ul><ul><li>3: Major label headaches: expect the unexpected </li></ul><ul><li>4: State of independents </li></ul><ul><ul><li>- Get it on the street: put it out there </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>- The sound of the underground: bringing it up </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>- Product endorsement </li></ul></ul><ul><li>5: Conclusion </li></ul>
  3. 3. <ul><li>‘ There is no way to truly comprehend the incredible success of Death Row Records – its estimated worth now tops $100 million – without first understanding the conditions that created the rap game in the first place: few legal economic paths in America’s inner cities, stunted educational opportunities, a pervasive sense of alienation among young black males, black folk’s age-old need to create music, and a typically American hunger for money and power. The Hip Hop Nation is no different than any other segment of this society in its desire to live the American Dream’ </li></ul><ul><ul><li>(Powell, 1996: 46) </li></ul></ul>
  4. 4. <ul><li>struggle against racism and economic and cultural marginalisation </li></ul><ul><li>rap as a self-conscious business activity capable of embodying elements of the American Dream </li></ul><ul><li>‘ the American Dream was subservient to codes of survival’ with ‘poverty and hardship’ being major motivators for the origins of rap </li></ul><ul><ul><li>( Oog and Upshal, 1999, 23) </li></ul></ul>
  5. 5. <ul><li>Consumer magazines: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>The Source </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Vibe </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Hip Hop Connection ( HHC ) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>E mphasised career planning and business management </li></ul><ul><li>rap artists producing 5 year business plans and prospective budgets </li></ul><ul><li>Throws ‘quite a different light on to the idea of rap spontaneously emerging from “the streets”’ (Negus, 1999: 84). </li></ul>
  6. 6. <ul><li>US music business organised in terms of producing and managing musical genres </li></ul><ul><li>portfolio management </li></ul><ul><li>strategic business units – accountability </li></ul><ul><li>still uncomfortable with rap music? </li></ul>
  7. 7. <ul><li>portfolio management = black music in separate divisions </li></ul><ul><li>changes to management of ‘rhythm and blues’ divisions during late 1960s and early 1970s </li></ul><ul><li>Pressure from civil rights movements and the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People </li></ul><ul><li>(see Wade and Picardie, 1990) </li></ul>
  8. 8. <ul><li>Great Depression (1930s) </li></ul><ul><li>‘ race music’ labels (Black Patti and Black Swan) bought by majors and kept separate from main music catalogue due to financial vulnerability </li></ul><ul><li>Harvard Business School report commissioned by CBS (1971) recommended formation of black music divisions … </li></ul><ul><li>… they could be easily dropped when the economic climate was less favourable </li></ul>
  9. 9. <ul><li>Advantage: music divisions being populated by black staff in an industry which may not otherwise have employed them </li></ul><ul><li>Disadvantage: department can easily be cut back, closed down or restructured </li></ul><ul><ul><li>E.g., Capitol Records closed urban division in 1996, cancelling contracts and sacking staff, to concentrate on their stars, after pressure by owners, EMI. </li></ul></ul>
  10. 10. <ul><li>Instability >> barrier to success </li></ul><ul><li>Garofalo has noted that: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>‘ black personnel have been systematically excluded from positions of power within the industry’ (1994, 275) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Majors: lack of skills and understanding re: ‘black experience’ </li></ul><ul><li>small companies have often been described as being in touch with ‘the streets’ . </li></ul>
  11. 11. <ul><li>‘ It became apparent that the independent labels had a much greater understanding of the cultural logic of hip hop and rap music, a logic that permeated decisions ranging from signing acts to promotional methods. Instead of competing with smaller, more street-savvy labels for new rap acts, the major labels developed a new strategy: buy the independent labels, allow them to function relatively autonomously, and provide them with the production resources and access to major retail distribution.’ </li></ul><ul><ul><li>(Tricia Rose, 1994: 7) </li></ul></ul>
  12. 13. <ul><li>Evidence: </li></ul><ul><li>Tom Silverman at Tommy Boy </li></ul><ul><li>Russell Simmons and David Harleston at Def Jam. </li></ul><ul><li>The backgrounds and actions of Chuck D from Public Enemy, Run-DMC and De La Soul would corroborate this too. </li></ul>
  13. 14. <ul><li>75% of rap music purchased by white consumers </li></ul><ul><li>Records/CDs may be bought as status symbols </li></ul><ul><li>Black consumers may swap, lend or trade recordings in different ways, or even listen and relate to them differently. </li></ul>
  14. 15. <ul><li>Lack of sustained industrial organisation and partial investment. </li></ul><ul><li>It has been expressed through a discourse of the ‘street’ to deny its complexity. </li></ul>
  15. 16. <ul><li>series of cliques, collectives and group identities </li></ul><ul><li>The Wu-Tang Clan (pictured) </li></ul><ul><li>Snoop Dogg’s Dogg Pound </li></ul><ul><li>Puff Daddy and The Family. </li></ul>
  16. 17. <ul><li>affiliations allow for more fluid working relationship which can cross mediums: </li></ul><ul><li>- Eminem in 8 Mile </li></ul><ul><li>- Ice Cube in Three Kings </li></ul><ul><li>Harks back to the gang culture and neighbourhood allegiances </li></ul>
  17. 18. <ul><li>industry uncomfortable with representation of ‘keeping it real’ or not being a ‘sell out’ </li></ul><ul><ul><li>- Easy-E of NWA was a drug dealer </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>- Ice-T used to sell illegal guns </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>- 50 Cent has been shot 9 times after dealing crack </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Criticism from moral campaigners </li></ul>
  18. 19. <ul><li>limited shelf-life of tracks </li></ul><ul><li>very difficult to re-release, especially as a cover version </li></ul><ul><li>shorter catalogue shelf life due to inability to bring in long-term copyright revenue </li></ul><ul><li>samples = royalties and less profit than conventional music </li></ul>
  19. 20. Andy Bennett (2000): rap music in Newcastle - associations of similar experience connected to unemployment, rather than race. <ul><li>assumed that rap doesn’t travel well </li></ul><ul><li>too black (!) </li></ul><ul><li>growing proliferation of ‘white’ rap: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>- Eminem </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>- The Streets </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>- Goldie Looking Chain </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>- The Beastie Boys </li></ul></ul>
  20. 21. The music industry ‘seeks to contain rap within a narrow structure of expectations’ (Negus: 1999, 94-5): <ul><li>Confines it within a black division </li></ul><ul><li>Often keeps artists on arms-length deals to avoid dealing with alliances and affiliates </li></ul><ul><li>Judgements about long-term potential </li></ul><ul><li>A lack of investment </li></ul><ul><li>Adoption of practises which seek to keep investment down (production units rather than invest in staff and office space within company) </li></ul><ul><li>Divide between people and practises that constitute Afro-American artists </li></ul>
  21. 22. <ul><li>‘ Despite the influence of rap and hip hop on the aesthetics of music, video, television, film, sport, fashion, dancing and advertising, the potential of this broader cultural formation to make a contribution to music industry business practices is not encouraged.’ </li></ul><ul><li>(Keith Negus, 1999: 96) </li></ul><ul><li>W ha t about Jay-Z and Rock-A-Wear? </li></ul>
  22. 23. <ul><li>major companies allow rap music to be produced at independent companies = less costly </li></ul><ul><li>be wary of romanticising rap musicians as rebels ‘outside’ the corporate system and the ‘mainstream’ </li></ul><ul><li>small scale producers work in: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>‘ fairly standard commercial relationships characteristic of those between major and minor companies, a division of labour based on the production/distribution split’ (Negus, 1999: 96) </li></ul></ul>
  23. 24. <ul><li>metaphors of war </li></ul><ul><li>DJs who are ‘in the trenches’ on ‘reconnaissance missions’ </li></ul><ul><li>Influential word of mouth advertising </li></ul><ul><li>Loud Records did this with the promotion of the Wu-Tang Clan, on the instruction of their owners, BMG. </li></ul>
  24. 25. <ul><li>‘ Street teams’ expected to gather information and feedback to the record companies </li></ul><ul><li>highly organised affair </li></ul><ul><li>know their markets and know their customers </li></ul>
  25. 26. <ul><li>Ice-T and Run DMC - Adidas </li></ul><ul><li>Coolio and Method Man - Tommy Hilfiger in 1996 </li></ul><ul><li>Wu-Tang Clan own range of clothing (Wu-Wear). </li></ul><ul><li>In 1997 Wu-Wear made $10 million and signed a deal with the owners of Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s (Negus, 1999: 100). </li></ul>
  26. 27. <ul><li>rappers refining portfolio by pursuing corporate endorsements </li></ul><ul><li>Does this have an impact upon their rebellious street / authentic image? </li></ul><ul><li>Are they selling out? </li></ul><ul><li>Have they already unwittingly sold out due to their weakened position in the ‘rap game’? </li></ul>
  27. 28. <ul><li>rap is managed and maintained by the music industry (it’s a business) </li></ul><ul><li>corporate strategies impact upon industry insiders, staff, artists, DJ’s, fans, etc to produce image of rap as being authentic </li></ul><ul><li>discourses about ‘the street’ intersect with industry discourses to produce a musical terrain which is nebulous and contested </li></ul><ul><li>turn our attention to issues concerning production and consumption of the rap industry </li></ul>
  28. 29. Sources: <ul><li>Andy Bennett (2000) Popular Music and Youth Culture: Music, Identity and Place , London: MacMillan </li></ul><ul><li>Reebee Garofalo (1994) ‘Culture Versus Commerce: The Marketing of Black Popular Music’, Public Culture , Vol. 7, No.1, pp 275-88 </li></ul><ul><li>Paul Gilroy (1993), The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness , London: Verso. </li></ul><ul><li>Keith Negus (1999), Music Genres and Corporate Cultures , London: Routledge. </li></ul><ul><li>Tricia Rose (1994), Black Noise , Hanover and London: Wesleyan University Press </li></ul><ul><li>David Samuels (1995), ‘The rap on rap: the “Black music” that isn’t either’ in A. Sexton (ed.), Rap on Rap: Straight-Up Talk on Hip-hop Culture , New York: Delta, pp. 241-52. </li></ul><ul><li>D. Wade and J. Picardie (1990) Music Man, Ahmet Ertegun, Atlantic Records and the triumph of Rock ‘n’ Roll , New York: W. W. Norton. </li></ul>