Friday, December 21, 2007

In 2007: Kanye Outsells 50. And it's Not Even Close.

Marking the latest cycle in American cultural preference away from the commercial bonanza of violent, misogynistic depictions of banging and the drug “game,” Kanye and 50 squared off in a media stunt for the ages… and Curtis Jackson got it handed to him. Bad. Bad to the tune of well over a quarter of a million units, as SoundScan reported in the week following the debuts of both artists’ new records. In 2007, a champion among reigning pop icons was officially declared.

Byron Hurt travels the nation and the world with his labor of love, the Sundance/PBS-approved documentary "Hip-Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes." A gender violence awareness activist and independent filmmaker, Hurt’s work poses several interesting points regarding the societal roles of rap and hip-hop, including the interesting question of truly why gangsta rap has enjoyed such an extreme longevity in sales popularity. Several dynamics are covered by Hurt, but one especially bears repeating: no matter the era, audiences have displayed a seemingly endless fascination with young black men fulfilling every negative stereotype ever attached to them by willfully behaving like complete and utter savages.

Discussions of rap music’s largely middle-class-and-white patronage often overlook the implications of exactly what kind of hip-hop that public seems most often to choose. 2007 offered a curious new case for reflection, as the year’s biggest hood-certified blockbuster was crushed, the dominant marketing force subverted in favor of a new paradigm. Actually, the post-"Graduation" status quo had already been predicted by a host of modern cliches. “Politically conscious” MCs are co-opted by mall clothes megalo-marts. Emo-rap heartthrobs have rocked the teen-bop Lollapalooza. And representatives of the hardest of heavyweight crews could be seen at a college campus near you courtesy of the Cartoon Network.

As the new century unfolds, we are witnesses to the declining business done by the music Majors, but if there is anything we can learn from 2007 it’s that the major business of music will never go away- now it’s just Get Rich… and wear Lacoste. And so it seems that, following 2007, the planet’s best party tracks will still tire at around the millionth play, but now also sample Daft Punk! And while nobody could possibly see this as gangsta’s last gasp, 2007 might more than anything to assure us that white kids are still a target market to buy anything.

The king is dead. Long live the king.

1 comment:

Darryl said...

Perhaps the apotheosis of Kanye* is a testament to the true mainstreaming of hip-hop. Now the purchases are no longer made by those who would pay to see the fears of suburban middle class america realized as a form of rebellion or angst or whatever drives white kids in orange county to wear FUBU gear, but just made by people who listen to music. When Kanye talks about pop music, he isn't just talking about using it, he's talking about taking over it, and I think he has.

* - how about I use it in every comment in 2008?