The Politics of Hip Hop

There’s a great article on Media Diversity exploring the implications of “Hip Hop’s successful crossover from an underground culture to a commercially viable pop-commodity” for its politics. It argues that cultural shifts in Hip Hop cannot be understood in isolation from the radically transformed structure of ownership that has ensued from its corporate mainstreaming:

Why have images of hypermasculine black males and objectified black females become the norm on our televisions and radios? Many point to the fact that only a handful of conglomerates control the vast majority of mainstream music, and that the core audience for stereotypical rappers is undoubtedly young white males. Furthermore, the predominantly white executives of these media giants are believed to assume that their primarily ‘white male’ audience would all rather listen to 50 Cent than Arrested Development. Former Def Jam President Carmen Ashhurst is unequivocal about her experience of this shift, she says:

The time when we switched to gangsta music is the same time that the majors bought up all the labels. I don’t think that’s a coincidence…. We went to Columbia, then the next thing I know… we’re pushing a group called Bitches with Problems.”

Needless to add, allegations like these are not isolated. Recently, Hip Hop legend and former Def Jam South President Scarface argued that white executives controlled the negative depiction of black people:

…these old-ass punks that’s running these record labels that’s in the powerful positions to dictate what the black community hears and listens to… There’s no fucking way that you can tell me that it’s not a conspiracy against the blacks in hip hop… [white executives who have] never tried to embrace this culture try to dictate whats hot and what’s not… In 25 years… Elvis will be the face of Hip Hop…”

Although blunt, an objective glance at the facts reveals that Scarface has raised an important point. In 2010, U.S. Senator Robert Menendez – the only Hispanic in the Senate – compiled a report into corporate diversity among the Fortune 500, including the six media conglomerates that control 90% of everything consumed in America. Menendez found that 70% of all board members and CEOs of these companies were white men, while black Americans were under-represented by over 50%.

The full article is essential reading for anyone interested in Hip Hop. It connects nicely to some of the themes discussed by Akala and Lowkey in this video we posted last year:

Categories: Rethinking The World


2 replies »

  1. Hi, this is my article (Twitter: @IAmAkwesi)

    Glad you enjoyed it!

    This is the debate we need to be having in Hip Hop. UK artists like Akala, Lowkey (& many more) need greater exposure as an alternative to the inconsequential, exploitative mainstream.

  2. Couldn’t agree more! Thanks again for a great post

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