Aug 21 - Hip-Hop Sales Collapsing: "They can no longer fool the white kids."

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 10 years ago '06        #1
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cvcxl 
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Aug 21 - Hip-Hop Sales Collapsing: "They can no longer fool the white kids."
 

 

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 http://www.time.com/time/ .. 653639,00.html


Hip-hop's Down Beat
By Ta-Nehisi Coates
Friday, Aug. 17, 2007

When the political activist Al Sharpton pivoted from his war against bigmouth radio man Don Imus to a war on bad-mouth gangsta rap, the instinct among older music fans was to roll their eyes and yawn. Ten years ago, another activist, C. Delores Tucker, launched a very similar campaign to clean up rap music. She focused on Time Warner (parent of TIME), whose subsidiary Interscope was home to hard-core rappers Snoop Dogg and Tupac Shakur. In 1995 Tucker succeeded in forcing Time Warner to dump Interscope.

Her victory was Pyrrhic. Interscope flourished, launching artists like 50 Cent and Eminem and distributing the posthumous recordings of Shakur. And the genre exploded across the planet, with rappers emerging everywhere from Capetown to the banlieues of Paris. In the U.S. alone, sales reached $1.8 billion.

The lesson was Capitalism 101: rap music's market strength gave its artists permission to say what they pleased. And the rappers themselves exhibited an entrepreneurial bent unlike that of musicians before them. They understood the need to market and the benefits of line extensions. Theirs was capitalism with a beat.

Today that same market is telling rappers to please shut up. While music-industry sales have plummeted, no genre has fallen harder than rap. According to the music trade publication Billboard, rap sales have dropped 44% since 2000 and declined from 13% of all music sales to 10%. Artists who were once the tent poles at rap labels are posting disappointing numbers. Jay-Z's return album, Kingdom Come, for instance, sold a gaudy 680,000 units in its first week, according to Billboard. But by the second week, its sales had declined some 80%. This year rap sales are down 33% so far.

Longtime rap fans are doing the math and coming to the same conclusions as the music's voluminous critics. In February, the filmmaker Byron Hurt released Beyond Beats and Rhymes, a documentary notable not just for its hard critique but for the fact that most of the people doing the criticizing were not dowdy church ladies but members of the hip-hop generation who deplore rap's recent fixation on the sensational.

Both rappers and music execs are clamoring for solutions. Russell Simmons recently made a tepid call for rappers to self-censor the words ****** and ***** from their albums. But most insiders believe that a debate about profanity and misogyny obscures a much deeper problem: an artistic vacuum at major labels. "The music community has to get more creative," says Steve Rifkin, CEO of SRC Records. "We have to start betting on the new and the up-and-coming for us to grow as an industry. Right now, I don't think anyone is taking chances. It's a big-business culture."

It's the ultimate irony. Since the 1980s, when Run-DMC attracted sponsorship from Adidas, the rap community has aspired to be big business. By the '90s, those aspirations had become a reality. In a 1999 cover story, TIME reported that with 81 million CDs sold, rap was officially America's top-selling music genre. The boom produced enterprises like Roc-A-Fella, which straddled fashion, music and film and in 2001 was worth $300 million. It produced moguls like No Limit's Master P and Bad Boy's Puff Daddy, each of whom in 2001 made an appearance on FORTUNE's list of the richest 40 under 40. Along the way, the music influenced everything from advertising to fashion to sports.

The growth spurt was fueled by sensationalism. Tupac Shakur shot at police, was convicted of s3xual abuse and ultimately was murdered in Las Vegas. But Shakur both alive and dead has also sold more than 20 million records. death Row Records, which released much of Shakur's material, was run by ex-con Suge Knight and dogged by rumors of money laundering. But between 1992 and 1998, the label churned out 11 multiplatinum albums. Gangsta rappers reveled in their outlaw mystique, crafting ultra-violent tales of drive-bys and stick-ups designed to shock and enthrall their primary audience--white suburban teenagers. "Hip-hop seemed dangerous; it seemed angry," says Richard Nickels, who manages the hip-hop band the Roots. "Kurt Cobain k!lled himself, and rock seemed weak. But then you had these black guys who came out and had guns. It was exciting to white kids."

Hip-hop now faces a generation that takes gangsta rap as just another mundane marker in the cultural scenery. "It's collapsing because they can no longer fool the white kids," says Nickels. "There's only so much redundancy anyone can take."

Artists who never jumped on the gangsta bandwagon point the finger at the boardroom. They accuse major labels of strip-mining the music, playing up its sensationalist aspects for easy sales. "In rock you have metal, alternative, emo, soft rock, pop-rock, you have all these different strains," says Q-Tip, front man for the defunct A Tribe Called Quest. "And there are different strains of hip-hop, but record companies aren't set up to sell these different strains. They aren't set up to do anything more of a mature sort of hip-hop."

Of course, gangsta rap isn't a record-company invention. Indeed, hip-hop's two most celebrated icons, Shakur and Notorious B.I.G., embraced the sort of lyrical content that today has opened hip-hop to criticism. And the music companies, under a.ssault from file-sharing and other alternative distribution channels, are hardly in a position to do R&D. "When I first signed to Tommy Boy, [the A&R person] would take us to different shows and to art museums," says Q-Tip. "There was real mentorship. Today that's largely absent, and we see the results in the music and in the aesthetic." That result is a stale product, defined by cable channels like BET, now owned by Viacom, which seems to consist primarily of gun worship and underdressed women.

During the past decade, record labels have outsourced the business of kingmaking to other artists. Established stars Dr. Dre and Eminem brought 50 Cent to Interscope. Jay-Z founded his own label, cut a distribution deal and began developing his own roster. But most established artists do little development. That leaves the possibility that hip-hop is following the same path that soul and R&B traveled when they descended into disco, which died quickly.

No longer able to peddle sensation, rap's moguls are switching tactics. Simmons, while still something of a hip-hop ambassador, is hawking a new self-help book. Master P, whose estimated worth was once $661 million, watched his label, No Limit, sink into bankruptcy. He recently announced the formation of Take a Stand Records, a label catering to "clean" hip-hop music. "Personally, I have profited millions of dollars through explicit rap lyrics," Master P stated on his website. "I can honestly say that I was once part of the problem, and now it's time to be part of the solution."

Chris Lighty, CEO of Violator Entertainment, whose clients include 50 Cent and Busta Rhymes, is looking at ways that record companies can work with artists in one area where rappers have been innovative: endorsement and branding. Whether it's 50 Cent owning a stake in Vitamin Water or Jay-Z doing a commercial for HP, most of these deals have been brokered by the artists' own camp. But Lighty sees in hip-hop a chance for record labels to generate more sponsorship and endorsements. "Record companies are going to have to make even better records and participate in brand extension. It's the only way they can survive," says Lighty. "We need to change the format, and this is the only way. 50 Cent is a brand. Jay-Z is a brand."

But the current hubbub over indecency poses a direct challenge to that brand strength, as the artist Akon recently discovered. While performing in Trinidad, Akon was videotaped dancing suggestively with a fan who was later revealed to be only 14. The video attracted the ire of conservatives like Bill O'Reilly. In the wake of the controversy, Akon's tour sponsor, Verizon, removed all ringtones featuring his work and retracted its sponsorship. The message was clear: Hip-hop needs a new and improved product.

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109 comments for "Aug 21 - Hip-Hop Sales Collapsing: "They can no longer fool the white kids.""

 10 years ago '04        #2
MochaWhitey 10 heat pts10
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Hip-hop needs a new and improved product.

Don't worry Graduation comes out on sept. 11
 10 years ago '04        #3
hugeneious 
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it aint even about hip hop no more, todays music is basically "ringtones music". aka jingles 2000.
 10 years ago '07        #4
KeithHernandez 7 heat pts
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about fu*kin time!

corporate sponsors are funny tho. they throw money at artists they don't listen to, simply because of chart position and sales numbers.. and then they get mad and cut off ties with said artists when they get in the papers for doing sh*t they said they did in their music to begin with!
 08-21-2007, 12:04 PM         #5
dipsetgrl022 
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I stopped wastin' money on CD's a long time ago becuz artist r hella inconsistent nowadayz..they'll drop 2 good singles..then the rest of the CD will b garbage..so I get it bootleg or download it..and if I'ma big fan I'll cop it..but dats rare...
 10 years ago '06        #6
SuppaSlick 3 heat pts
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*Yawn*

I don't care if the sales drop to not one plat album in a year, because hip-hop will not die, maybe commercially, but I hardly mess with that anyways...
 10 years ago '05        #7
MeziaaL 4 heat pts
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lets hope all the conscience rappers save hiphop...

theres no more battling or anything anymore, hiphop used to be excitement with local shows, spoken words, battles, freestyling, concerts, sh*ts just garbage now...
 08-21-2007, 12:26 PM         #8
allabout$ 
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its gotten so bad, that me, an avid hardcore fan of hiphop since the age of 10, who love(d) it to death, just does not care anymore.

i listen to the few underground rappers that are actually rapping about stuff, but other than that, if i listen to hiphop its gonna be the stuff i listened to as i grew up. (im 21 btw)


rap today is just retarted. An era where lil wayne is considered the greatest rapper ever is just a joke. people have caught on to the scam being done by these record labels, and now, unless all these record labels and MTV and BET start playing some REAL hiphop, its gonna die

I wonder what the next big thing is gonna be. maybe.... techno?

fu*k it, I've been listening to a lot of rock music recently, and its starting to grow on me to the point of not listening to rap anymore. period
 08-21-2007, 12:36 PM         #9
Domic462 
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Why should I care about record sales again? Answer that question, n*ggas who make music are going to do it regaurdless and I will listen white people or not.
 10 years ago '06        #10
Storchaveli 94 heat pts94
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Fu*k this. Hip hop will NEVER die. Even if they don't play this sh*t in future radio anymore... as an adult, I'll still be blasting "Still D.R.E." in my car.
 10 years ago '06        #11
servesurite 42 heat pts42
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wow this coming from time magazine???

good to see even they realize all the bullsh*t music out there
 10 years ago '06        #12
beeitchpleaz 
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that racist fu*k
 08-21-2007, 12:48 PM         #13
ElMarroAfamado 
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 hugeneious said:
it aint even about hip hop no more, todays music is basically "ringtones music". aka jingles 2000.
:sleepy:
 10 years ago '06        #14
homme 59 heat pts59
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 dipsetgrl022 said:
I stopped wastin' money on CD's a long time ago becuz artist r hella inconsistent nowadayz..they'll drop 2 good singles..then the rest of the CD will b garbage..so I get it bootleg or download it..and if I'ma big fan I'll cop it..but dats rare...

downloading is bootlegging.........
 08-21-2007, 01:01 PM         #15
Danja2Society 
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 MeziaaL said:
lets hope all the conscience rappers save hiphop...

theres no more battling or anything anymore, hiphop used to be excitement with local shows, spoken words, battles, freestyling, concerts, sh*ts just garbage now...
The truest statement in this thread.
 10 years ago '04        #16
mr_underground|m 1965 heat pts1965
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obviously people aren't gonna buy and support a sh*tty product....you might get tricked one or twice but nobody is gonna support or by any of the bullsh*t out today, same with underground rappers they are automatically fu*ked because they share the same name as the bullsh*t. so nobody is gonna give it the time. the only way for concious rap to go anywhere is to have a new name and a.ssociation. also its not about record sales....that the labels problem not the artist, if i really love music i would make it while homeless or while working some job...nothing would damper my passion, but in the rap world is all about money, people only rap as a means to a end, not because they like it.


Last edited by mr_underground; 08-21-2007 at 01:06 PM..
 08-21-2007, 01:08 PM         #17
KingOfNY369 
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Sad part is that the only hip-hop keepin those numbers from completely depleting is the commercial TRASH that hits the air!

You would think that the GREAT artists would be shining at a time like this but that is hardly the case...

Not only is the quality of music gone but so is the creativity and longevity...
 10 years ago '04        #18
Chokeabiish 
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It no longer fools white kids?
I beg to differ.
 10 years ago '04        #19
rasheedwallace 55 heat pts55
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Artists who never jumped on the gangsta bandwagon point the finger at the boardroom. They accuse major labels of strip-mining the music, playing up its sensationalist aspects for easy sales. "In rock you have metal, alternative, emo, soft rock, pop-rock, you have all these different strains," says Q-Tip, front man for the defunct A Tribe Called Quest. "And there are different strains of hip-hop, but record companies aren't set up to sell these different strains. They aren't set up to do anything more of a mature sort of hip-hop."
so true.
 10 years ago '04        #20
mrwickedmon 
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if i remember correctly the last cd i bought was BLANK
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