observations, reviews and ramblings about Hip-Hop culture, sports, politics and the industry and life in general.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

I'm Mad

This week I have had several conversations about old school Hip-Hop artists. Legends dismissed by hipster writers whose Hip-Hop credentials are questionable at best. Old school artists performing in front of blank faces. The rare legend who gets the respect he actually deserves. And super bitter old schooler who won’t do an interview without some paper.

As annoying and honestly pathetic as the bitter old schooler can be I can understand his/her feelings. Every time they turn on BET or MTV they must be pissed off to the nth degree. Every episode of Cribs or The Fabulous Life… must be a 180 degree turn of the knife. I can only imagine they screaming at the TV “HOW THE F*** DID THESE GUYS BECOME MILLIONAIRES”

The Hip-Hop millionaire mogul/artist/actor/model is ubiquitous these days, but back in the 80’s, the era of Cold Crush, Fantastic 4, and the Treacherous 3, a Hip-Hop millionaire was as far fetched as the cow jumping over the moon. Cats like Kool Moe Dee could barely leave their day job let alone start their own corporation. Except for a few trailblazers, Hip-Hop was not a full time job. For many today that is still the case but the difference there was no role model. Back then - no Jay-Z, no Block, no Puff, no Bobbito, no Steve Stoute, no El-P. Many of these guys were happy to do a show on the weekend and maybe get a royalty check once record labels entered the picture.

So the question I have is when did the paradigm shift?
What was the tipping point that opened the door for Hip-Hop millionaires?

As I said on the Swift Chancellor Report this is a book idea. I am gonna plant the seeds here and sign a 20 figure book deal to flush out the idea.

Here are some ideas as to what was the straw that broke the camel’s collective back:

Kurtis Blow signing to Mercury. First Hip-Hop artist signed to a major

The Beastie Boys – the board room realizes there is a white Hip-Hop audience. A critically respected and good white group puts the machine at ease and opens up new marketing tools and means of distribution. In turn opens up the money.

True Hip-Hop Pop records. ‘Rapper’s Delight’ was the 1st Hip-Pop record but it wasn’t until Vanilla Ice, Young MC, Tone Loc and your man Hammer that Hip-Hop really crossed over and began indoctrinating the casual music consumer.

Post Civil Rights children unafraid to become entrepreneurs. Puff, Jay, Dame and Russell grew up in a post- Civil Rights, integrated world where they were constantly taught to never settle for inequality. When they became professionals they were not satisfied with just a good job. There were the new entrepreneur who wanted more than a local mom and pop, they wanted to run a multinational just like the kid in private school they played dodge ball with. Then they broke through the glass ceiling.

The internet boom. The boom of the 90’s simply put so much disposable money in people’s pockets that the emergence of the Hip-Hop millionaire was a function of economics

MTV. MTV’s embrace of Hip-Hop in the 80’s and specifically YO! MTV Raps opened up the world to Hip-Hop and artists simply collected the money from all the new customers.

It was a function of time. Grandmaster Caz, Bam, Herc, and Charlie Chase were so far ahead of the curve it took time for the rest of the world and the money to catch up. The innovators rarely reap the financial benefits. Who has more money on the digital distribution of music, Shawn Fanning or Steve Jobs?

Till next time…


Blogger Passion of the Weiss said...

All excellent ideas. I'd put my money on the Hammer and Ice models as being perhaps the most crucial. I think a lot of what paved the way for the garbage hip hop pop of today was those two men. Before them, some skills were required. Now all you need is a hard core bio and we all remember one of the first to fabricate was Mr. Van Winkle himself, he who purported to get stabbed multiple times way before 50 could get shot. But all are great ideas and a book I'd love to read.

July 19, 2006 6:35 PM

Anonymous spaulding h. forsythe said...

Well explained! All have a hand in changing the MC, the Master of Ceremonies (or Move the Crowd) into the larger-then-life Money Collector. I’ll be waiting patiently for the book release…

My 2 cents:
What about major companies realizing that hip-hop can be used as an alternate source of advertising? "You (the emcee/group) mention our product in a song, we’ll (big business) pay you..." That had to contribute to the hip-hop millionaire steez.

RUN DMC inking a deal with adidas started it, in my mind, but in that case adidas had no choice but to approach them about a partnership. RUN DMC single handedly increased the sales of shell toes a thousand fold in NY alone ("My Adidas"). Now, years later, you have Micky D's recruiting "Hip-Hop/Rap artists" to rhyme about a Big Mac or a McGriddle for a few thousand duckets.

The new saying in hip-hop: "If money hasn't changed you, you're not making enough."

July 20, 2006 10:38 AM

Anonymous Stephanie Elder said...

Some great starting points. I'm particularly interested in that post civil rights era mentality, as well as the function of time and a changing marketplace scenario. Also, you can't leave out the Reagan era's "get rich at any and all costs" philosophy of excess.

July 20, 2006 11:05 AM

Blogger Swifty said...

nice point. The RUN DMC/Adidas relationship could have been it.

It's definitely a combo of many things. But would be interesting to look at sales histories and see when did shit really explode

July 20, 2006 11:10 AM

Blogger Swifty said...

another great point. Was it Reganomics and the crack epedemic? Crack made a lot fiends but also woke up a lot of entrepeneurs

July 20, 2006 11:12 AM

Blogger Mr. Clark said...

I agree and second the Reaganomics and Run-DMC points. Run and 'em were able to show the marketing and crossover appeal of the genre. Whereas, with crack running rampant on the streets, it did make those who experienced those apply the methods to their own dreams.

July 22, 2006 6:58 PM


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