I Give Hip-Hop an Earful (Part III)
After 10 years of gangster rap spawned from post-crack generation storytelling, a group of artists emerged to teach about love and 'knowledge of self.' These groups opposed the commericialism of product placement in mainstream rhymes - exemplified by the Roots 'What They Do' video which mocked the hood rich materialism of people like Biggie (and catalyzed a heated battle between B.I.G. and Black Thought). A video like that makes a point - and the Roots stand for something...or at least they used to.
Six years later I am standing front row at a Roots show in New Orleans. Front man Black Thought stops the show to tell fans to put out their cigarettes because he hates them and they kill people. Funny - I could have sworn that the newest Roots tour is sponsored by Kool cigarettes - a true G's smoke of choice. Its just this type of hypocrisy that breaks my heart. How hard is it to be commercially viable and not sell-out to companies who have no interest in your fanbase's well-being? Do the Roots have to dance on stage for Coca-Cola and Dr. Pepper like the 'Alabama Porch Monkeys' they played in Lee's Bamaboozled ? Is it too much to ask for so-called 'conscious' artists to take responsibility for the effects of pushing harmful products? Should a supposed recovering alcoholic like Common really be sponsoring a liquor company? Put it that way (with successions of rhetorical questions) and socially-conscious hip-hop seems absent from the mainstream.
Oh I'm just getting started comrades. Nike you're about to get yours too...