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

Monday, September 08, 2008

The Swagger Era and the Brett Michaels-ification of Hip-Hop

Back when the SCR was active (no worries it will be a part of the new Brooklyn Bodega) I wrote a post about how Hip-Hop was in its Hair Metal stage. Well now I have a better term for it. We are in our Swagger stage.

Feel free to jack this for wikipedia, just give me credit:

Swagger Hop – an era in Hip-Hop in the early 2000’s that heavily emphasized style over substance. Swagger artists tend to be extremely fashion conscious. More so than previous eras (see Conscious, Gangsta, Crunk, etc). Swagger Rappers are known to employ stylists as key members of their staff. In an interview Kanye West famously stated that he would rather shop for clothes than shop for records. Almost if not more important than the music is the choice of sneakers, jewelry, accessories, etc. While Swagger rappers do place an inordinate value on cars and other big ticket items their opulence is focused more on their physical person.

Swagger rappers are not to be confused with Shiny Suit rappers popularized by Sean Combs and others in the mid to late 90’s. The term is taken from the suit worn by Ma$e (originally known as ultra hardcore rapper Murda Mase of Children Of The Corn) in his video for “Feels So Good” (album: Harlem World, Bad Bay).

The Shiny Suit era focused on over the top extravagance that included cars, houses, boats as well as jewelry. There was not the same focus on fashion in a traditional sense.
Swagger rappers are more keenly aware of the business side of the music than previous generations. The best of their lot are skilled marketers and entrepreneurs. They also are significantly more tech savvy and rely heavily on Myspace and other social networks to communicate with their fanbase.

Because of their focus on branding and marketing and their business sense Swagger rappers cross media with significant ease. Movies, publishing, and fashion are integrated seamlessly within their brand.

Examples of Swagger Hop artists – Lil Wayne, Kanye West, The Cool Kids, T.I., Souljah Boy, Jay-Z

See other Hip-Hop eras: Shiny Suit, Disco Rappers, Dirty South, Conscious, Glitch, Backpack, Golden Era, Indie Renaissance, Political, Proto


I write this entry tongue in cheek with no intent to slight any of these artists. It is my belief that with each iteration of our culture we grow in power, influence and earning potential. Rather than condemn it we must study it and learn. Whatever your personal feelings about these artists or their content their marketing and entrepreneurial spirit is unprecedented. Their ability to bypass the traditional system (major distribution, MTV, Broadcast radio, print media) gives them enormous power.

In my study I have equated this era with hair metal. Further analysis shows that the response to Hair Metal was Grunge. Remember people the pendulum swings to and fro.
And when Nirvana and the grunge movement broke through they destroyed hair metal and raise the earnings bar even higher.

The ‘Swagger Like Mine’ (TI, Kanye West, Lil Wayne, and Jay-Z) song where we see Kanye moving fully into the Swagger era and leaving behind his conscious, post Native Tongue, bourgeois roots is proof that the swagger era is approaching its tipping point. The addition of Jay Z (and his particular verse) only cements my feelings.

The Grunge type push back is coming. Hip-Hop’s Kurt Cobain is among us. He/she is about to sign to our version of Sub Pop (Stones Throw, Def Jux). He will be picked up by a major in 2-3 years. Their signing will officially put an end to this era and launch a new one.

You heard it here first.

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