THE CRYSTALLIZATION OF HIP HOP CULTURE IN CORPORATE AND MAINSTREAM AMERICA, 1995-1998 by ROBERT ACKER B.A., Western State University of Colorado, 2008 A thesis submitted to the Faculty of the Graduate School of the University of Colorado in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Masters of Arts History Program 2012
ii This thesis for the Masters of Arts degree by Robert Acker has been approved for the Department of History, Master of Arts Program by Dr. Chris Agee, Chair Dr. Alison Shah Dr. Pamela Laird November 07, 2012
iii Acker, Robert (M.A., Department of History, Master of Arts Program) The Crystallization of Hip Hop Culture in Corporate and Mainstream America, 19951998 Thesis directed by Assistant Professor Dr. Chris Ag ee. ABSTRACT From 1995-1998 hip hop music and culture rose from the periphery of society to mainstream and worldwide commercialization as it ro de the wave of increasing globalization, incredible American economic growth, and the explosion of internet and computer technologies, to national and internationa l prominence in mainstream society. During this time, hip hop also developed distinctiv e regional sounds, styles, and identities, namely in the West Coast and the South, which challenged New YorkÂ’s hegemony, trend setting, and dominance over the cul ture and its music. Furthermore, hip hop experienced rampant mainstream commoditization, and widespread cooptation by corporate interests. Thus, during 1995-1998, because of the crystallizat ion of hip hop culture in corporate and mainstream American society, the hip hop nation struggled to maintain its realness and trueness to its traditional identities and foundational values in the face of cooptation and assimilation from mainstream and cor porate America. By the end of the decade, hip hop manifested itself as both a multibi llion dollar industry, and as the nationÂ’s number one selling musical genre, highligh ting an important shift toward a new era in hip hopÂ’s ongoing development. The form and content of this abstract are approved. I recommend its publication. Approved: Professor Christopher Agee
iv DEDICATION I dedicate this work to my father and mother, Robe rt MacDonald Acker and Patricia Thacker Lynn. It is also dedicated to all my family members, friends, supporters, teachers, fellow musicians and hip hop heads, and t o my greatest mentor Dr. Daisaku Ikeda.
v ACKNOWLEDGMENTS I would like to give thanks to all my professors in the Department of History at Western State University of Colorado, as well as at the University of Colorado at Denver, to whom I am deeply indebted. I owe a tremendous de bt of gratitude to these professors as they have exerted an undeniable influence on my development as both a disciple of history and as a human being. I would especially li ke to extend my thanks to the members of my thesis committee who helped to overse e this project, including Professors Christopher Agee, Alison Shah, and Pamela Laird. Li kewise, I owe as much gratitude to hip hop music and culture, as well as the numerous artists, who influenced me to not only write this work, but also participate in the contin uing creation of this art and its aesthetic lifestyle. My appreciation and warmest regards are also extended to all my colleagues, peers, and fellow students who IÂ’ve had the distinc t pleasure of sharing my time and experiences with at these institutions of higher le arning.
vi TABLE OF CONTENTS CHAPTER I.INTRODUCTION: THE CRYSTALLIZATION OF HIP HOP CULTUR E IN CORPORATE AND MAINSTREAM AMERICA .................. .......................................... 1II.THE RISE OF HIP HOP AND ITS GROWING INTERNATIONAL P RESENCE .. 3III.DEVELOPMENT OF SPECIFIC REGIONAL STYLES AND SOUNDS WITHIN HIP HOP MUSIC AND CULTURE ......................... ................................................... .... 19IV.COMMERCIALIZATION AND GOING MAINSTREAM ............ ......................... 31V.STRUGGLING TO PRESERVE HIP HOPÂ’S IDENTITY AND Â‘REAL NESSÂ’ AS IT SHIFTS FROM MARGINALIZED TO COMMODITIZED ....... ............................... 41VI.CONCLUSION......................................... ................................................... .............. 61BIBLIOGRAPHY AND WORKS CONSULTED .................. ......................................... 66
vii LIST OF FIGURES Figure 1. Tupac Shakur in 1994Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…..Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â… 1 2. Bill Clinton appears on the Arsenio Hall Show Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â… Â…Â…Â…...Â…Â…9 3. Political Cartoon of Bill Clinton in The Source Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â… Â…Â…Â….....10
1 CHAPTER I INTRODUCTION Â“The backward-cap-wearing B-boys and B-girls, howev er subconsciously, changed radio, music, and, many would argue, American culture.Â” Â– VIBE 19961 Figure 1: Tupac Shakur in 1994.2 At the university hospital in Las Vegas, on Friday the thirteenth of September 1996, Tupac Shakur succumbed to his gunshot wounds. Six m onths later, after a party co-sponsored by VIBE magazine in Los Angeles, Christopher Wallace (AKA the Notorious B.I.G. and Biggie 1 Ed. Alan Light, VIBE (New York: Time Publishing Ventures, Inc.), Octobe r 1996, vol. 4, no. 8, 92. 2 Ed. Alan Light, The VIBE History of Hip Hop (New York: Three Rivers Press/VIBE Ventures, 1999) 300.
2 Smalls) died in a flurry of gun shots. Their deaths brought to an end the bi-coastal Â“rap warÂ” between New YorkÂ’s Bad Boy and Los AngelesÂ’s Death Row Records. VIBE magazine wrote: Â“In just a few short months, two extraordinarily ta lented young men who were at the center of the stupid and overhyped rivalry between Death Row and Bad Boy, played out so extensively in our pages over the past year, were dead.Â”3 Shakur and Wallace personified their respective Coasts (East and West), and both were regarded as t he most talented and greatest rap stars of their time, perhaps ever. Both men had yet to reach the age of 26. Both deaths sparked national commentary and debate from all over America, over t he meaning of their lives and deaths for not only hip hop, but also for American society. After 2pacÂ’s death, The Source wrote, Â“Effects of his death crossed racial and economic lines, with c onfused white parents in suburbia reporting sobbing teenagers, and even single mothers in the Â‘ hood recounting how they were inspired by his heartfelt lyrics.Â”4 Their deaths cemented hip hop culture into the nat ional consciousness of America. Hip hop moved beyond humble origins as mer ely a niche or subculture, which rose from the South Bronx in New York City, into the for efront of the mainstream.5 The period of 1995-1998 stands as the most pivotal and critical time in hip hopÂ’s ongoing development.6 While Tupac and BiggieÂ’s deaths sparked national a ttention and debate, they proved only one crucial aspect of how rap music pro pelled itself to the forefront of mainstream society during 1995-1998. This period not only set the groundwork for its future development and dominance in American culture, but also foresha dowed many of the problems and paradoxes rap music and hip hop cultureÂ’s adherents struggled against both then and now. 3 Ed. Alan Light, VIBE (New York: Time Publishing Ventures, Inc.), May 19 97, vol. 5, no. 4, 45. 4 Ibid., November 1996, vol. 4, no. 9, 80-81, T1-T8. Also, Ed. Adario Strange, The Source (New York: Source Publications, Inc.), November 1996, no. 86, 101-116 5 Ed. Adam Bradley, and Andrew DuBois, The Anthology of Rap (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2010), 325, 329. 6 Ibid., 325, 332.
3 CHAPTER II THE RISE OF HIP HOP AND ITS GROWING INTERNATIONAL P RESENCE By the beginning of the 2000s, hip hop appeared de eply rooted or connected on virtually every level of American society, including educatio n, popular culture, politics, music, art, fashion, technology, economics, media, and even ide ologies. To understand this development and the focus on 1995-98, one must first appreciate the historical context, foundation, and development of hip hop through the mid-Â’90s. The 1990s was a period of American affluence and gl obal cultural influence. Many developments for the time pointed to the global pro wess and influence of the United States, such as the Â“endÂ” of the Cold War and the acceleration o f Â‘globalization.Â’ Globalization found the widespread conflation and dissemination of computer s, telecommunications, the internet, entertainment, global trade and finance, internatio nal markets and commerce, industries, technologies, and cultures increasingly apparent an d prominent throughout both America and the world. As a result the 1990s-2000s periods are oft en referred to as the Information Age or the Digital Revolution, recognizing the major roles pla yed by computers, telecommunications, and other digital technologies to the process of global ization. For America, this Digital Revolution meant an upsurge in economic growth and stability. This upsurge in economic growth and stability took shape in numerous forms during the 1 990s through the beginnings of the 2000s decade: Americans enjoyed the longest sustained per iod of economic growth since the end of WWII; GDP grew at 4% annually; unemployment reached a quarter-century low of 4.7%; inflation fell to less than 2%; the Digital Revolut ion accounted for 45% of industrial growth; the resulting tax revenue allowed the federal and many state governments to balance their budgets after years of operating in the red; the federal go vernment reported a surplus for the first time in
4 three decades with an excess of $70 billion for the 1998 fiscal year; the Dow Jones Industrial Average increased fourfold between 1992 and 1998; a nd AmericaÂ’s software industry accounted for three-fourths of the world market, with nine of the worldÂ’s ten biggest software companies located in the U.S.7 The increasing role of globalization in economic g rowth and commerce in tandem with the boom in computer and digital techno logies and industries provided incredible economic growth and stability for the United States The Digital Revolution ushering in such profound changes to society and the world via the i nternet, personal computers, and cellular phones, made substantial contributions to hip hop b ecoming not only a national but global phenomenon. While hip hop culture (in its formative conception) traces its origins to the late 1970s (sometimes as early as 1973), throughout the 1980s, hip hop culture still remained a marginalized subculture despite appearing occasiona lly in mainstream mediums. As its epicenter, New York City defined hip hopÂ’s characteristics and cultural identity, and hip hop remained Â“primarily a New York phenomenon in its early years .Â”8 Initially degraded variously as a fad destined to die off or as an art form undeserving o f the title Â“music,Â” hip hop slowly and methodically made substantial gains. It rapidly mov ed from its first commercialized song in 1979 (Â“RapperÂ’s DelightÂ” by Sugar Hill Gang)9 to emphatically demonstrating its ability to stay enmeshed in AmericaÂ’s culture during its Golden Age (~1985~1990). The Golden Age garners praise even today for its cr eativity, ingenuity, and prowess.10 As scholar Adam Bradley explains of the Golden Age: Â“I f hip-hop music can be said, like jazz, to 7 Steven M. Gillon and Cathy D. Mason, The American Experiment: A History of the United St ates (New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2002), 1282-1287. 8 Ed. Adam Bradley, and Andrew DuBois, The Anthology of Rap (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2010), 119. 9 Ed. Alan Light, The VIBE History of Hip Hop (New York: Three Rivers Press/VIBE Ventures, 1999) 26. 10 Ed. Adam Bradley, and Andrew DuBois, The Anthology of Rap (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2010), 119121.
5 have songs considered Â‘standards,Â’ then a dispropor tionate number of them can be credited to artists who emerged in this period. The [artists] o f this era hover over hip-hop to this day.Â”11 The advancement and expansion of the beats and rhymes o f this period should not be underestimated. Many popular subgenres and styles, such as Â‘conscio us rapÂ’ (the Native Tongues movement) and Â‘gangsta rap,Â’ draw its origins from this period, a nd many highly important and successful artists draw their own roots and inspirations from artists and music created during this time. For example, RZA, mastermind of the immensely successfu l Wu-Tang Clan, said in 1993: Â“Now Â’87, now thatÂ’s my favorite shit god...Everything w as lovely man.Â”12 Years later, Nas referenced the power and mystique of the era, and rapped: Â“lik e we bringing Â’88 back.Â”13 In his commentary on the music video for the song, Nas explained the mystique of Â’88 in the following way: Â“The music Salaam Remi put together was like, nostalgic to the Â’88 days, which was like the end. Where rap music had ended for a while, then was reb orn again in Â’94Â…A lot of the artistsÂ…just stopped doing it, the way they were in the early 80 s. Toward the end of the 80s was like the biggest pointÂ…So it was like Â‘letÂ’s bring Â’88 backÂ’ with that one.Â”14 RZA and NasÂ’s statements indicate how much esteem and nostalgia later artist s held for the Golden Age. Not only the artists blazed new trails and set foun dations for the coming eras, but also the labels, entrepreneurs, and businessmen who shaped a new industry, and started a new model and precedence of success for later ones to follow. Tho ugh active in its formative years, Russell Simmons and his Def Jam label did not exercise thei r full fame and influence until they rose to prominence during the Golden Age of rap music.15 Russell SimmonsÂ’s accomplishments deserve 11 Ed. Adam Bradley, and Andrew DuBois, The Anthology of Rap (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2010), 120. 12 Wu-Tang Clan, Â“Can It Be All So Simple,Â” Enter the 36 Chambers (New York: Loud Records, LLC, 1993). 13 Nas, Â“I Made You Look,Â” GodÂ’s Son (New York: Sony Music Entertainment Inc./Columbia Records, 2002). 14 Nas, Video Anthology Vol. 1 (New York: Sony Music Entertainment Inc./C olumbia Music Video, 2004), Commentary on Â“Made You Look.Â” 15 Ed. Alan Light, The VIBE History of Hip Hop (New York: Three Rivers Press/VIBE Ventures, 1999) 31, 45, 46, 63-65, 96, 102, 116, 137, 153, 155-159, 166, 245.
6 recognition for a variety of reasons. He attained n otoriety for his business acumen and successes. He demonstrated the ability to create and set trend s, not only commercially, but also artistically and culturally as a result of the commercial breakt hroughs from his labelÂ’s sales and its artists. He gained respect as an intelligent, motivated, and highly successful black business owner who elevated the status of not only hip hop culture, bu t also black men in the music industry. Lastly, his artists attained a degree of success and notori ety unrivaled in previous times, and many went on to be emblematic hip hop artists themselves (suc h as Run-DMC, LL Cool J, Public Enemy, Beastie Boys, and others). In short, much as Barry Gordy did with his Motown label in Detroit in the 1960s, Russell Simmons replicated the success a nd genre changing influence of Gordy with his Def Jam label in New York City in the 1980s and 1990s. The distinguishing element between Gordy and Simmon s, was that while Gordy believed musicÂ’s purpose was to sell, not necessarily to exp ress feelings or potentially divisive sentiments, Simmons allowed his artists the freedom to express feelings or potentially divisive sentiments, and yet still managed to sell a lot. Telling Rolling Stone in 1990, Â“What we try and do is get whatÂ’s real from [rappers] and sell that,Â” Simmons believed in an intrinsic and aesthetic value to music beyond just mere commercial viability,16 and this led to more lenience in terms of the freedom he gave his artists to express themselves, while lending credence to the quality and authenticity of his artistsÂ’ pursuits. Other artists and labels from New York also attaine d status during the Golden Age. Among the most notable artists, because of their in fluence and ability to set trends, included Run-DMC, LL Cool J, Eric B. & Rakim, Public Enemy, Beastie Boys, the Juice Crew AllStars,17 KRS-One, Slick Rick, MC Lyte, EPMD, and many other s. All are noteworthy because of 16 Ed. Alan Light, The VIBE History of Hip Hop (New York: Three Rivers Press/VIBE Ventures, 1999) 155. 17 This group included super-producer Marley Marl, an d legendary MCs like Big Daddy Kane and Kool G Rap.
7 their influence on later artists and contributions to hip hopÂ’s advancement as a cultural movement. Run-DMC is credited as the first rappers featured on MTV and the first to go platinum.18 LL Cool J, as the prototypical B-boy, or break-bea t boy, one who danced to and lived hip hop music as a lifestyle, influenced an entire generation of MCs.19 Eric B. & Rakim for a time personified and represented the highest level of mastery for their respective crafts in deejaying and emceeing, while setting the bar highe r for all acts to follow.20 Public Enemy not only achieved status as a radical and politically o utspoken rap group, but also took credit for influencing and spawning at least two other super g roupsÂ–NWA in Los Angeles and the Geto Boys in Houston. The Beastie Boys proved that white s could play a part in hip hop culture and gain acceptance from the hip hop nation as active p articipants.21 The rich diversity of artists emerging from the Gol den Age set the foundation for hip hopÂ’s expansion into the mainstream and national co nsciousness of America. During the Golden Age, to quote Adam Bradley, Â“rap began to expand it s regional parametersÂ…The hip-hop industry also expanded, as major labels began to se e opportunities for profit in the music. And rap finally broke through to the pop charts and MTV .Â”22 Adam Bradley added, Â“It was a rich time for rapÂ…proving that an art form that had only a few years before been dismissed by some skeptics as a fad was in fact real and self-sustain able.Â”23 Artists who emerged from New York City during the G olden Age set the trends and styles for hip hop culture. The Juice CrewÂ’s collec tive of members influenced later artists and 18 Run-DMC, Greatest Hits (New York: BMG Heritage/Arista, 2002). The back of the CD also proclaims: Â“RunDMC defined the sound and vision of old-school hip hopÂ…Music in America would not be what it is today without Run-DMC.Â” They also gained recognition as the first rappers featured on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine. 19 Ed. Alan Light, VIBE (New York: Time Publishing Ventures, Inc.), March 1997, vol. 5, no. 2, 79-81. 20 Tom Terrell, Â“Liner NotesÂ” in Eric B. & Rakim Â– Follow the Leader (Santa Monica, CA: Geffen Records, 2005), reissue compact disc, 3-4, 6. 21 Ed. Adam Bradley, and Andrew DuBois, The Anthology of Rap (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2010), 123. 22 Ibid., 119. 23 Ibid., 129.
8 producers, ranging from Wu-Tang to Jay-Z, who sough t to uphold and replicate this legacy.24 KRS-One likewise initiated Â“socially consciousÂ” mes sages hitherto untouched by previous artists. He also gained distinction as the first ra p artist to pose on his album cover with a gun in hand. Additionally he took credit (alongside Scholl y DÂ’s 1987 album Saturday Night ) for giving birth to Â‘gangsta rapÂ’ with his debut album Criminal Minded (1987).25 Slick RickÂ’s contributions to rap music storytelling led to later artists cove ring his songs even years later, such as Snoop DoggÂ’s cover of Â“La Di Da DiÂ” and Notorious B.I.G.Â’ s rendition of his lines for the chorus of Â“Hypnotize.Â”26 MC Lyte helped pave the way for the acceptance of women in hip hop.27 Lastly, EPMD popularized the use of funk samples for rap mu sic, along with their protg, Redman, which Dr. Dre would later draw from to develop and create what would become the distinctive West Coast sound.28 Abundant examples of such a phenomenon as hip hop s preading with national and global implications appear throughout the 1990s, and espec ially toward 1995-98. Controversies surrounding the role of rap music within society al lowed hip hopÂ’s presence to involve itself in the political arena, especially during the presiden tial elections in 1992 and 1996. President Clinton attempted to appeal to young and minority v oters by appearing on the Arsenio Hall show, a show much lauded by hip hop audiences.29 Meanwhile his opponents tried using his 24 One obvious connection is the organized crime angl e and motif established by Juice Crew member Kool G RapÂ’s 1992 album Live and Let Die This was later replicated with great success by W u-Tang member RaekwonÂ’s 1995 album Only Built 4 Cuban LinxÂ… and on Jay-ZÂ’s 1996 album Reasonable Doubt It is important to also note the now multiplatinum and classic status of both albums, as well as the fact that both albums were the debut a lbums for both artists. Also, both artists make no secret of Kool GÂ’s influence on themselves as artists. 25 Brian Coleman, Check the Technique: Liner Notes for Hip Hop Junkie s (Villard Books, 2007), 88-89. 26 See Snoop Doggy Dogg, Â“Lodi Dodi,Â” Doggystyle (Beverly Hills, CA: Death Row Records, 1993, 2001) and Notorious B.I.G., Â“Hypnotize,Â” Life After Death [Disc 1] (New York: Bad Boy Records/Universal Reco rds, 1997). 27 Ed. Adario Strange, The Source (New York: Source Publications, Inc.), October 1996 no. 85, 79-82; and December 1996, no. 87, 18-24. 28 See the albums EPMD, Strictly Business (New York: Fresh Records/Sleeping Bag Records/Prio rity/EMI Records, 1988); EPMD, Unfinished Business (Hollywood, CA: Priority Records, 1989); and Redma n, Whut? Thee Album (New York: Def Jam, 1992). 29 Ed. Joshua Â“FahiymÂ” Ratcliffe, The Source (New York: Source Publications, Inc.), June 2006, N o. 200, 53.
9 tactics of winning support from minorities and yout h to attack him, and appeal to conservative voters. Rap artist Nas later said: Â“Rap became a ve rsion of Malcolm [X] and Martin [Luther King, Jr.].Â”30 In other words, hip hop represented the leadership of a national socio-cultural movement with the potential of influencing AmericaÂ’ sÂ–or even other countriesÂ’Â–social and political arenas, with the hip hop nation as its co nstituency. Obviously this idea found great appeal within the hip hop nation because, if true, it demonstrated their culture and musicÂ’s power. Figure 2: Bill Clinton appears on the Arsenio Hall Show .31 Hip hop music and culture also drew attention from the American political arena, and this phenomenonÂ–hip hop gaining the attention of or infl uencing the political arenaÂ–replicated in 30 Nas, Â“The Last Real Nigga Alive,Â” GodÂ’s Son (New York: Sony Music Entertainment Inc./Columbia Records, 2002). 31 This picture is found in Steven M. Gillon and Cath y D. Mason, The American Experiment: A History of the United States (New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2002), 1273. Additionally, many rappers make a point of how significant Arsenio HallÂ’s show was, as it repr esented a potent example of the progress African-Am ericans made in television, as he was the first and best ex ample of a black late night talk show host. A Tribe Called Quest said on The Low End Theory : Â“Let everybody know, I get more props than the Ar senio Hall show.Â” De La Soul said on De La Soul is Dead : Â“Arsenio dissed us but the crowd kept clapping.Â” Diamond D said on Stunts, Blunts, and Hip Hop : Â“Do you watch Arsenio?Â” Finally, more than a deca de later, Nas said on Untitled : Â“Bring back Arsenio/hip hop was aborted so Nas breathes life back into the embr yo.Â” These showcase the symbolic weight Arsenio Hal l carried for hip hop fans and artists.
10 other places around the world. President Clinton us ed tactics in 1992 to win support from certain demographics, and he used similar tactics again to help him win re-election in 1996.32 Figure 3: Political Cartoon of Bill Clinton in The Source .33 To magazines like VIBE and The Source hip hop demonstrated it could effectively influence politics, or at the very least gain the a ttention of society and force governments and peoples to respond in some way to it, not only at h ome, but also abroad. To these magazines and many of the hip hop nationÂ’s participants, hip hop, during the late 1980s and through the 1990s, demonstrated its usefulness as a political tool, or vehicle for social change. Likewise, in Russia, Boris Yeltsin used hip hop to appeal to voters whil e his opponents denounced hip hopÂ’s cultural values, and the magazine article on this proclaimed it signified the Â“use of popular culture 32 Steven M. Gillon and Cathy D. Mason, The American Experiment: A History of the United St ates (New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2002), 1272-1277. 33 Ed. Adario Strange, The Source (New York: Source Publications, Inc.), January 1997 no. 88, final page.
11 generally and rap music specifically as a political tool.Â”34 Again, in the eyes of the nationally syndicated hip hop magazines, the appearance of hip hop as a political issue in Russia, demonstrated the legitimacy, value, and internation al appeal of the culture and music as a movement. In France, the group Supreme NTM made NWA Â’s infamous letter from the FBI look tame by comparison, when they actually got arrested and went to prison for making songs criticizing the government, and advocating the murd er of police officers who wrongfully engaged in police brutality.35 In the eyes of many constituents in the hip hop na tion, hip hop cultureÂ’s global presence authenticated and validat ed the powerful appeal of its cultural beliefs. As hip hop expanded due to the breakthroughs, succ esses, and developments established during the Golden Age, hip hop boosters began to im agine they had global influence. In 1997, a writer from The Source wrote, Â“These days weÂ’ve got rap and hip-hop heads all across the atlas and in virtually all walks of life. ThatÂ’s worldwid e culture for yaÂ’ ass.Â”36 By 1995, magazines like The Source and VIBE paid particular attention to rap music and hip hop cultureÂ’s advancement as a world phenomenon. In their eyes, i t demonstrated the validity, legitimacy, value, and universality of hip hop culture and its music. Hip hop culture spread both in the midst of, and well beyond, the boundaries of race and nat ionality, soon proving itself more versatile than even powerful movements like pan-Africanism. Â“ I saw in Solaar something thatÂ’s common with Black people all over the world: the ability t o take what little they have and make something really beautiful from it. ThatÂ’s what hip hop is all about and Solaar, being born in Senegal and raised in France, understands that,Â” wr ote Fab Five Freddy, a known Â‘ambassador of hip hop culture,Â’ on the French artist MC SolaarÂ’s 1994 album. Â“The thing that blows me away is how the messages and the keys to expression that we re developed and molded more than 10 34 Ed. Adario Strange, The Source (New York: Source Publications, Inc.), Septemeber 1 996, no. 84, 29. 35 Ed. Alan Light, VIBE (New York: Time Publishing Ventures, Inc.), March 1997, vol. 3, no. 2, 48. 36 Ed. Adario Strange, The Source (New York: Source Publications, Inc.), March 1997, no. 90, 103.
12 years ago in New York, are used by Solaar to open d oors and open peopleÂ’s eyes to his own experienceÂ…If you think about it, Black people who speak French or another language canÂ’t necessarily understand rap coming out of the states but they understand the larger messages and translate those keys into their own world.Â”37 In this way, people from other countries demonstrated an ability to shape the hip hop they l istened to.38 How could a sub-culture from an underprivileged, ur banized community in the South Bronx, in just a few decades, transform into the so undtrack, the style, the art, and the dominant culture for youths not only throughout America, but throughout the entire world?39 In many ways, 1995-1998 represented a magical era of techno logical advancement, particularly with respect to computers. One textbook recalled: Â“In 19 95, for the first time, the amount of money spent on PCs exceeded that spent on televisions.Â”40 During this time numerous other examples of this relentless advancement unfolded. By 1999 Ameri cans sent 2.2 billion email messages per day, compared with 293 million pieces of first-clas s mail. Even companies like Amazon.com, within three years following its launch in 1996, bo asted 2.25 million worldwide customers and annual sales reaching $350 million. Again, by 1999 more than 50 million people used the 37 Fab Five Freddy in MC Solaar, Prose Combat (New York: Cohiba Records/Island Records, Inc., 19 94), inside the album booklet. 38 Ed. Alan Light, The VIBE History of Hip Hop (New York: Three Rivers Press/VIBE Ventures, 1999) 361-370. Also please see, James McBride, Â“Hip Hop Planet: au thor James McBride searches for the roots of the mu sic that canÂ’t be ignored,Â” National Geographic April 2007, 211.4, 100-119. http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2007/04/hip-hop-p lanet/mcbride-text accessed 16 Oct. 2012. Lastly please see, Ishmael Beah, A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier (New York: Sarah Crichton Books, 2007), 6-7. 39 In Germany this past summer the author asked some local people in Berlin around his age who they thou ght the best rapper was, and without hesitation most said T upac. Several years ago while on vacation in Costa Rica, the author found to his surprise a restaurant where the y were playing GuruÂ’s Jazzmatazz Vol. 2 (1995). Also cars by the beach bumped TupacÂ’s All Eyez on Me (1996), and Notorious B.I.G. and Bone Thugs-N-Harm onyÂ’s Â“Notorious ThugsÂ” off of Life After Death (1997). Despite it being well into the 2000s and l ater, these seminal works being played came from this 1995-1998 era. Even last year in China, on some down time playing basketball in a park, the author dialoged at length about hip hop to a local, dressed in flashy red AND 1 sports apparel, who su rprised me with his incredible depth of knowledge on American hip hop artists like Gangstarr, Public Enemy, Pete Rock & CL Smooth, Wu-Tang Clan, Tupac, Biggie, Nas, Jay-Z, an d countless others. For this author, all of these e xamples demonstrated the inclusionary appeal of hip hop cul ture and its music, across national, language, ethn ic, class, and ideological barriers. 40 Steven M. Gillon and Cathy D. Mason, The American Experiment: A History of the United St ates (New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2002), 1283.
13 internet annually, and this rate nearly doubled eac h year for an extended range of time. This computer and internet revolution changed how Americ ans did almost everything, from business and commerce to education and social interaction.41 When rap artist Nas created his album Hip Hop is Dead he included a track wherein as a detective he enc ounters and converses with a woman who metaphorically epitomizes hip hop. Among other questions dealing with her origins and development, Nas asked her: Â“WhoÂ’s your sponsor lady? She said Â‘Bill GatesÂ’.Â”42 Nas said this to signify the importance of the growth in com puter technologies helping hip hop expand within the mainstream. Ultimately the unprecedented and impressive growth of computer and digital technologies during this time afforded an i ncredible opportunity for hip hopÂ’s expansion, spread, and prominence. The boom of digital technologies and the internet l argely enabled the widespread dissemination of such values and cultural elements as those found in hip hop.43 Furthermore, for many years up through the present time, American mu sic and movies have dominated abroad.44 When hip hop moved toward a greater immersion into mediums of commercialization, via the music industry, movies, television, fashion and clo thing, magazines, even comic books and later politics, it enabled hip hop to also partake in the advantages of national and hence globalized exposure. Hip hop stars, by crossing into film, signified hip hopÂ’s crossing into film on a scale never seen before; and of course, when distributed on a worldwide scale, with soundtracks to each of these films, including those starÂ’s music, meant more exposure for hip hop culture and 41 Steven M. Gillon and Cathy D. Mason, The American Experiment: A History of the United St ates (New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2002), 1283-1286. 42 Nas, Â“Who Killed It?,Â” Hip Hop Is Dead (New York: The Island Def Jam Music Group, 2006). 43 Steven M. Gillon and Cathy D. Mason, The American Experiment: A History of the United St ates (New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2002), 1291. 44 Ibid., 1291.
14 music. Â“During the 1990s, popular culture emerged a s AmericaÂ’s biggest export. By 1996, international sales of software and entertainment p roducts totaled $60.2 billion, more than any other industry,Â” mentions a college history text no ting the growth of the entertainment industries. Â“American corporations moved aggressively to tap in to the new markets. The Blockbuster Video chain opened 2,000 outlets in 26 foreign countries during the decade; Tower Records operated 70 stores in 15 countries.Â”45 Movie and music industries expanding meant hip hop also expanded, and certainly provided yet another medium through which hip hop expanded its influence on a global scale. Several hip hop celebrities after becoming famous i n the hip hop world, moved on to become famous on TV and movie screens as well.46 The growth of artists like Will Smith, who originally started out in hip hop as part of the gr oup DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince, helped to personify hip hopÂ’s growth into the forefront of th e mainstream. He went first from the television show The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air (1990-1996) to later a Hollywood megastar in block buster movies like Independence Day (1996) and Men in Black (1997). Many others, such as Queen Latifah ( Set it Off 1996), Ice Cube ( Boyz Â‘N the Hood 1991, Friday 1995), MC Eiht ( Menace II Society 1993), and Ice-T ( New Jack City 1991) also made successful jumps from hip hop star to movie star. While some never made a successful care er out of acting, a surprising number did, in some cases actually surpassing their music careers.47 Tupac Shakur himself followed this process, gaining recognition and acclaim from film critics while amplifying his respect from hip hop f ans, with starring performances in movies such as Juice 1992, Poetic Justice 1993, Above the Rim 1994, GridlockÂ’d 1996, Bullet 1996, and 45 Steven M. Gillon and Cathy D. Mason, The American Experiment: A History of the United St ates (New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2002), 1291. 46 Ed. Alan Light, The VIBE History of Hip Hop (New York: Three Rivers Press/VIBE Ventures, 1999) 201-208. 47 Ibid., 289.
15 Gang Related 1997. Therefore, fellow rapper Scarface rapped: Â“I Â’m like Â‘Pac, I make a mil[lion dollars] but I still live the Â‘thug lifeÂ’.Â”48 ScarfaceÂ’s quote means some rappers could in some instances still remain true to their cultureÂ’s beli efs and not compromise hip hopÂ’s original values or traditional conceptions of integrity, despite co mmercial success in the mainstream. Furthermore, magazines VIBE and The Source carried stories about hip hop spreading abroad and its involvement in the lives of the peop le living there, usually in underprivileged countries and places, which hip hop felt an inextri cable connection with.49 Again, in the eyes of these magazines and many in the hip hop nation, sto ries about hip hopÂ’s presence and influence in other countries demonstrated a perceived validit y, legitimacy, value, and universality of hip hopÂ’s culture and music.50 This theme of hip hopÂ’s global power and influence finds prevalence throughout the hip hop nation during the 1990s. Â“The Black and North A frican people took to hip hop right awayÂ….Where [artist MC] SolaarÂ’s from [Senegal and then France], racism is just as prominent. TheyÂ’re all suffering from the same madness and the kids over there are really feeling it,Â” wrote hip hop pioneer and global ambassador Fab Five Fred dy about hip hopÂ’s global expansion. Â“To me, hip hop is culture that goes beyond music, art and dance. ItÂ’s a culture that grows in the petri dish of a high pressure, fast urban environmentÂ…Now is the time for people everywhere to sit up and listen.Â”51 Hip hopÂ’s global prominence demonstrated to the hi p hop nation, provided 48 Scarface, Â“The White Sheet,Â” The Diary (Houston, TX: Rap-A-Lot Records, 1994). 49 See Ed. Alan Light, VIBE (New York: Time Publishing Ventures, Inc.), March 1996, vol. 4, no. 2, which features a section on the hip hop movements in Cuba, for exa mple. Or Ed. Adario Strange, The Source (New York: Source Publications, Inc.), February 1997, no. 89, 21, whi ch features a section on black slave holding center s in Ghana becoming tourist sites; or VIBE March 1997, vol. 5, no. 2, 48, for an article on FranceÂ’s Supreme NTM facing time prison for their lyrics. 50 Ed. Alan Light, The VIBE History of Hip Hop (New York: Three Rivers Press/VIBE Ventures, 1999) 361-370, 389. 51 MC Solaar, Prose Combat (New York: Cohiba Records/Island Records, Inc., 19 94), inside the album booklet.
16 testament to, and actual proof of its culture and m usicÂ’s universality, appeal, power, influence, and staying power.52 For many this also validated its integrity as an a rt form. As another example of this fixation on hip hopÂ’s gl obal presence and influences, letters from readers in The Source and VIBE sometimes included people from countries outside o f the U.S. When Tupac died, for example, readers from Afr ican countries, such as South Africa or Ghana, wrote letters which appeared in the magazine s. One of these read: Â“We lost one of the most influential rappers in the world. He is greatl y missed by all of us in Africa.Â”53 Even people outside of the U.S., like many national fans, comme nted on the stupidity of the bicoastal war in America, while the media outlets continued fanning the flames.54 The fact nationally syndicated magazines like VIBE and The Source received and published mail from people of other c ountries demonstrated how seriously these magazines and thei r readers viewed hip hopÂ’s global presence, evidencing its universality, influence, and authent icity across national and cultural boundaries. One of the best stories conveying American hip hopÂ’ s influence on people outside of America comes from Ishmael Beah. Ishmael Beah, a re habilitated child soldier from the Sierra Leone civil wars of the 1990s, included in his biog raphy several important parts about how hip hop remained a powerful influence in his life and s ubsequent rehabilitation. In his life before his involvement as a child soldier in the war, he remem bered having started a rap and dance group with his friends at the age of eight, participating in talent shows, memorizing songs such as Â“RapperÂ’s DelightÂ” by Sugar Hill Gang and Â“I Know Y ou Got SoulÂ” by Eric B. & Rakim, and 52 Ed. Alan Light, The VIBE History of Hip Hop (New York: Three Rivers Press/VIBE Ventures, 1999) 361-370; also Ed. Jeff Chang, Total Chaos: The Art and Aesthetics of Hip-Hop (New York: Basic Civitas Books, 2006), 247290. 53 This particular readerÂ’s statement is found in Ed. Alan Light, VIBE (New York: Time Publishing Ventures, Inc.), March 1997, vol. 5, no. 2, 42-47. 54 Mathematik from Montreal, Canada is one example in Ed. Adario Strange, The Source (New York: Source Publications, Inc.), July 1996, no. 82, 14.
17 described the allure the music held for him and his friends.55 After war broke out, he recalled in one event how having a Nature by Nature tape and pl aying their song Â“O.P.P.Â” convinced their captors to spare the lives of him and his friends.56 When he faced induction as a child soldier, they burned his old possessions to separate him fro m his previous identity and experiences, but when they burned his hip hop cassettes, Â“Tears form ed in my eyes, and my lips shook as I turned away.Â”57 He vividly remembered murdering another child sold ier who Â“wore a Tupac Shakur Tshirt that said: Â‘All eyes on meÂ’.Â”58 Later when UNICEF attempted to rehabilitate him, t hey successfully used rap music to reconnect him with h is previous identity, and help him heal from his traumatic endeavors to the point where he could forgive himself for his crimes and function normally in society again.59 While BeahÂ’s story goes far beyond a typical exper ience, it does demonstrate hip hopÂ’s potent influence on people in Africa.60 Also, his own life and survival at times depended upon the strong connections he forme d with hip hop music and culture. Hip hopÂ’s global presence meant events taking place in America within hip hop culture and its music impacted people throughout the world. Hip hop progressed from the periphery of society du ring the Golden Age of the late 1980s and rode the wave of incredible American econ omic growth and the explosion of internet and computer technologies to national and internati onal prominence in mainstream society. Hip hop scholar Adam Bradley noted: Â“Rap began the deca de  as a decidedly East CoastÂ–even specifically New YorkÂ–phenomenon and would end it a s a national, and even an international, 55 Ishmael Beah, A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier (New York: Sarah Crichton Books, 2007), 6-7. 56 Ibid., 66-68. They needed to prove themselves not soldiers or mercenaries, or they would face death f rom scared villagers who suspected them as child soldiers. Due to his tape, the village chief eventually became c onvinced of their innocence. 57 Ibid., 110. 58 Ibid., 119. This is the name of TupacÂ’s 1996 album 59 Ibid., 154, 160, 163. 166. 60 Ibid., 193. Though he eventually took up permanent residence there, he says at one point: Â“My concept ion of New York City came from rap music.Â” Surprisingly, he ac tually thought of it as more dangerous and scary th an what he experienced in Sierra Leone, until he actually arri ved there and saw it being much safer than back hom e.
18 art.Â”61 Its growth and prevalence as it spread across the nation and the globe marked its rise from periphery of society to mainstream and worldwide co mmercialization. 61 Ed. Adam Bradley, and Andrew DuBois, The Anthology of Rap (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2010), 325.
19 CHAPTER III DEVELOPMENT OF SPECIFIC REGIONAL STYLES AND SOUNDS WITHIN HIP HOP MUSIC AND CULTURE62 As hip hop spread nationally, the people in the are as it spread sought to make hip hop more their own by crafting and shaping it to relate specifically to the realities, cultural identities and distinctiveness of the places they lived.63 At first lyrical content was the defining feature of hip hop and its regional origins, but as technology advanced, and the music developed into a more widespread prominence, soon not only the lyric s, but also the sample choices and musical arrangements developed into a defining feature. By virtue of its creation in the South Bronx in the 1970s, hip hop culture and music from its inception embodied hip hop style. This original style of hip hop culture and music found itself retroactively redefined over time, first as East Co ast, and later as New York style, as a result of its spread across the United States. Due to its ine xtricable link with analog and later digital technology, early hip hop music appears sparse and limited in its sonic presentation, compared to later times and possibilities. During and throughou t the 1980s, rap music retained a decidedly East Coast feel, sound, and presentation, regardles s of where it played or who created it. For example, many people outside of New York who made b eats and rhymes possessed obvious connections and ties with New York and replicated a reasonable facsimile of the style. Meanwhile the biggest difference between regional m usical styles and arrangements remained 62 An oversimplified way to classify the three region al styles and sounds of the 1990s: East Coast Â– Highest Lyrical Complexity, Lowest Bea t Complexity (Boom-Bap) West Coast Â– Moderate Lyrical Complexity, Moderate Beat Complexity (G-Funk) Dirty South Â– Lowest Lyrical Complexity, Highest Be at Complexity (Dirty South/Crunk) 63 Ed. Alan Light, The VIBE History of Hip Hop (New York: Three Rivers Press/VIBE Ventures, 1999) 111-120, 265-276.
20 the identity of the MCs and their subject matter.64 Later, regions beyond New York opted to experiment with their own versions of the hip hop s ound. The West Coast, as the first, most influential and most prominent sound and style to g enerate its own distinctive identities and sounds, challenged the East CoastÂ’s domination and trend setting. Though active and known artists existed in the West Coast throughout the 1980s, not until Dr. DreÂ’s groundbreaking 1992 album, The Chronic did the West Coast claim to own a particular distinctive and identifiable style. Unli ke its previous manifestations, this new regional style of the West Coast did not limit its musical i dentity to just poetical and lyrical expression from the MCs, but now instead included musical, art istic, and conceptual traits formulated by its producers.65 Artists who emerged on the West Coast during the 1 980s, such as Ice-T, Too $hort, and NWA, all relied upon production today largely c lassified as the East Coast sound. It sounds minimalist, it draws from a broad array of samples and arrangements already popularized by the East Coast, and its sonic presentation often abound s with particular emphasis on the percussive aspect rather than the other instruments or sounds or new arrangements. In part, the minimalistic, repetitive nature of the looped beats helped accent uate the attention and emphasis placed on the lyrics for the listener. Initially, the lyrical sub ject matterÂ–which placed a heavier emphasis on incendiary content, vulgarity and curse words, as w ell as gangbangingÂ–made these West Coast artists special from their counterparts on the East Coast. Despite this lyrical distinction, West Coast hip hop still bore remarkable similarities in its instrumentation and sounds, sometimes purposely, in order to gain legitimacy and acceptan ce from the East Coast originators.66 64 Ed. Adam Bradley, and Andrew DuBois, The Anthology of Rap (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2010), 331332; and Ed. Alan Light, The VIBE History of Hip Hop (New York: Three Rivers Press/VIBE Ventures, 1999) 111120, 265-276 65 Ed. Joshua Â“FahiymÂ” Ratcliffe, The Source (New York: Source Publications, Inc.), June 2006, n o. 200, 56. 66 Brian Coleman, Check the Technique: Liner Notes for Hip Hop Junkie s (New York: Villard Books, 2007), 236242. Ice-T mentions how important his relationship and appealing to New York sensibilities was to his success and acceptance several times. Afrika Islam made it a po int to introduce Ice-T to New YorkÂ’s hip hop cognos centi, such
21 NWA, with Straight Outta Compton (1988), emerged as the most important artists to h ail from the West Coast in the late 1980s.67 Eazy E created Ruthless Records, allegedly using f unds from selling crack, and formed NWA, one of the most controversial groups of its time. In time, NWA established itself as every bit as controversia l as their East Coast counterparts, Public Enemy, but for very different reasons, such as what the groups stood for in their images and messages. Ice Cube emerged as NWAÂ’s biggest star, but because of contractual and personal disputes, Ice Cube broke away from the group in the very early 1990s, and teamed up with the Bomb Squad, the production group responsible for Pu blic EnemyÂ’s beats.68 While Cube definitely identified himself as a West Coast artis t, the creation of his beats by East Coast producers did little to help distinguish his beats from East Coast stylistics. This bears similar resemblance to how Ice-TÂ’s producer (Afrika Islam) also hailed from New York and made East Coast style beats.69 While commercial success paved the way for his inv olvement in acting and Hollywood, Cube could not articulate the West Coast Â’s identity beyond his image and lyrics, and the West Coast still lacked a distinctive sound fro m its Eastern counterparts, until Dr. Dre released The Chronic as Scott La Rock, Chuck Chillout, and Red Alert amo ng others. Afrika Islam also mentioned how Ice-TÂ’s track Â“6 in the MorninÂ’Â” gave Ice-T acceptance in New York City because, as Ice-T concurs, it was Â“definitely more of an East Coast style record,Â” meaning Ice-T needed to initia lly conform to East Coast hip hop styling and sensi bilities before he could gain legitimacy and acceptance as an LA em cee from the artists and fans hailing from New York City. 67 Ed. Kim Osorio, The Source (New York: The Source Enterprises, Inc.) August 200 3, no. 167, 145. 68 Alan Light in the CD booklet to Ice Cube, AmeriKKKaÂ’s Most Wanted (Hollywood, CA: Priority Records, Inc., 1990, 2003). Reissue. Also, Ed. Joshua Â“FahiymÂ” Ratcliffe, The Source (New York: Source Publications, Inc.), June 2006, no. 200, 54. 69 KRS-One actually mentions Afrika Islam by name as one of the hip hop pioneers on the East Coast, on Â“ South Bronx,Â” from Boogie Down ProductionÂ’s classic 1987 album Criminal Minded when he says: Â“I know a few understand what IÂ’m talking about/Remember Bronx Ri ver rolling thick/with Kool DJ Red Alert and Chuck Chillout on the mix/where Afrika Islam was rocking the jams/ and on the other side of town was a kid named [Gran d Master] FlashÂ…it was Â’76-1980.Â” The point here is that IceTÂ’s producer Afrika Islam was undeniably an East Co ast producer.
22 Dr. Dre on the other hand, expressed himself both m usically and lyrically as an East Coast artist on NWAÂ’s recordings. Even on Straight Outta Compton Dre sounds every bit as East Coast an MC as one from New York in his style.70 Yet, four years later he split from NWA and formed the independent label, Death Row Records with Marion Â“SugeÂ” Knight, and released The Chronic As both an MC and producer, Dre not only changed hi s image and lyrics, but also his sound for The Chronic Like fellow producer/MCs RZA and Havoc on the Eas t Coast who helped define the sound of their region by creating both beats and rhymes, Dre took a privileged position in creating the regionÂ’s identity through his image, lyrics, and sound. However, unlike Havoc or RZA, Dre not only simplified his rhyme sty le to appeal more, but also musically created what came to be called Â“G-Funk.Â” It took ma ny samples from George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic, Bootsy Collins, Bernie Worre ll, and many other funk musicians, which East Coast artists such as EPMD and Redman already did years before or near the exact same time;71 but Dre mixed and arranged the samples in a very d ifferent and more complex way than previously, and Dre sported a far more gangsta-esqu e persona (hence G-Funk = gangsta funk) with help from his new protg Snoop Doggy Dogg. Dr eÂ’s production signaled the beginning of the Â‘rolling bassÂ’ trend, which also helped to shap e as distinctive the West Coast sound, and also led somewhat indirectly, along with other artists f ollowing this trend, to the emphasis of bass in both house and car stereo speakers for music produc ers. The remarkable success of The Chronic served as the prototype for nearly all West Coast productions to follow. Along with Snoop DoggÂ’s even more successful Doggystyle the following 70 See the songs Â“Something Like That,Â” Â“Express Your self,Â” and Â“ComptonÂ’s N the House (Remix)Â” in NWA, Straight Outta Compton [Remastered] (Hollywood, CA: Priority Records LLC, 1988, 2002). Reissue. 71 For example, EPMD used plenty of funk based sample s on their classics, Strictly Business (1988) and Unfinished Business (1989), while Redman, their protg, on his album debut, Whut? Thee Album (1992), used samples from Parliament Funkadelic and other funk artists as wel l.
23 year (which Dre also produced), Dre effectively bir thed the West Coast sound and style, and, with Suge Knight, established Death Row Records as the eminent independent record label for the West Coast. Later the West CoastÂ’s challenge to the East CoastÂ’s prototypical stylistics forced the East to reformulate their own sounds and styles and accordingly modify their previous identities in response. Facing challenges to its authenticity and dealing w ith backsliding in its reputation for quality and realness, the New York artists of the 1 990s, especially following 1993, in part due to the emergence of a West Coast sound via The Chronic (1992) and Doggystyle (1993), felt they needed to reaffirm and reestablish their identities musically. They embraced an even grittier, grimier, darker, more menacing, and more noir style of sonic landscapes, and sought to reestablish their reputation for lyrical supremacy. In a representative example of these feelings, Fat Joe pointed out the significance of NasÂ’s East Coast classic, Illmatic (1994), for rekindling and answering the West CoastÂ’s challenge. Almost te n years later, rapper Fat Joe speculated in The Source : Â“The West Coast was representing [like] crazy and New York needed representation. Here came the god. Rakim was lyrica l about everything and the beats just happened to be crazy. Nas never made nothing for a partyÂ–it was gritty.Â”72 The relevance of this quote rests with how Fat Joe looked at the competit ive reputations and Â‘quality representationÂ’ rivalry between the East and West Coasts. Fat Joe a lso emphasized how NasÂ’s lyrical ability put perceptions of lyrical supremacy back in the East C oastÂ’s favor, and signaling the return, actively and retrospectively, of the East Coast having the b est and most complex lyrical skills, and restoring this aspect of lyrical supremacy as part of the East CoastÂ’s identity. This is especially apparent in the form of three fundamental 1993 East Coast albums: OnyxÂ’s Bacdafucup Black MoonÂ’s Enta da Stage and Wu-Tang ClanÂ’s Enter the 36 Chambers From there, the dark, gritty, 72 Fat Joe in Ed. Kim Osorio, The Source (New York: The Source Enterprises, Inc.), August 20 03, no. 167, 177.
24 hauntingly melodic sound-scapes of the East Coast b ecame synonymous with its sound and identity throughout the 1990s, as demonstrated by s uch albums as: GuruÂ’s Jazzmatazz Vol. 1 (1993) and Vol. 2 (1995), Method ManÂ’s Tical (1994), Gang StarrÂ’s Hard to Earn (1994), NasÂ’s Illmatic (1994), Notorious B.I.G.Â’s Ready to Die (1994), Mobb DeepÂ’s The Infamous (1995), RaekwonÂ’s Only Built 4 Cuban LinxÂ… (1995), Big LÂ’s Lifestylez of da Poor and Dangerous (1995), GZAÂ’s Liquid Swords (1995), The RootsÂ’s Illadelph Halflife (1996), NasÂ’s It Was Written (1996), M.O.P.Â’s Firing Squad (1996), Ghostface KillahÂ’s Ironman (1996), Jay-ZÂ’s Reasonable Doubt (1996), Mobb DeepÂ’s Hell on Earth (1996), Notorious B.I.G.Â’s Life After Death (1997), Camp LoÂ’s Uptown Saturday Night (1997), Wu-Tang ClanÂ’s Forever (1997), Capone-N-NoreagaÂ’s The War Report (1997), Big PunÂ’s Capital Punishment (1998), and DMXÂ’s ItÂ’s Dark and Hell is Hot (1998). When considering these albums, producers like RZA ( a member of Wu-Tang Clan) and Havoc (a member of Mobb Deep) helped start the tren d and involved themselves in a surprising number of these later projects; while the newcomers such as Trackmasters (who produced It Was Written ) and Swizz Beats (who produced ItÂ’s Dark and Hell is Hot ), initially largely followed in their footsteps. It became so prevalent a sound within a few short years that RZA felt the need to express his dismay at such a widespread copying of the style he helped to invent and popularize on the intro to Forever Â’s second disc: Â“We come out with a style and every body wanna imitate our style. And all you producers out thereÂ…itÂ’s all good to show love to a nigga, but stop bitinÂ’ [copying] my shit [style/sound]Â…com e from your own heart with this shit [music/sound]Â…We told you niggas on the fucking [ Only Built 4 ] Cuban Linx  album donÂ’t bite [copy] our shit. YÂ’all niggas keep bitin Â’ [copying].Â”73 RZA felt upset that, despite 73 RZA on Wu-Tang Clan, Â“Intro,Â” Wu-Tang Forever [Disc 2] (New York: Loud Records LLC, 1997).
25 warning MCs and producers on previous albums74 not to copy his own or his groupÂ’s style, people from all over the map, even globally, but es pecially on the East Coast, were imitating and copying these styles. Regardless of RZAÂ’s unhappine ss about the mainstream and widespread adoption of his style of sound, by 1997, the East C oast sound pioneered in 1993 materialized as the iconic music for the region. However, the West CoastÂ’s challenge to the East CoastÂ’s prototypical stylistics also opened the door for ot her regions and cities around the country to experiment with their own ideas. Hence, the South p rovided another example as they emerged with their own distinctive sound for hip hop during 1995-98. The Houston, Texas-based Geto Boys gain acknowledg ement as one of the first and best examples of a rap group really making waves for the SouthÂ’s recognition as a region,75 but like NWA before them, their beats sounded fairly East Co ast, despite having lyrical content and subject-matter different enough to distinguish them from their counterparts on either the East or West Coasts. Their two classic works, Grip It! On that Other Level (1990) and We CanÂ’t Be Stopped (1991), pushed the envelope for controversy well b eyond either their most inflammatory Eastern or Western counterparts. Yet, in spite of t heir inflammatory subject matter, vulgarity, sexually explicit lyrics, and even more Â“gangstafie dÂ” image, they still mainly relied on beats that sounded remarkably East Coast. Even though FloridaÂ’ s 2 Live Crew, with their own independent label, Luke Skyywalker Records, helped to promote t he over-the-top sexual innuendo and vulgarity, such as with the album As Nasty as They Wanna Be (1989), they also relied upon a producer/DJ with East Coast leanings.76 Nevertheless, the Geto Boys formed under Rap-A-Lot 74 The track RZA is specifically referencing on Raekw onÂ’s Only Built 4 Cuban LinxÂ… (1995) album, is the skit entitled, Â“Shark Niggas [Biters],Â” where Ghostface Killah and Raekwon indict, discourage, and disrespe ct artists who copy styles in the hip hop world, concluding th at if one is original, unique, and dedicated, theyÂ’ ll come up, or make it to the mainstream, on the merits of their o wn creativity and hard work. 75 Ed. Kim Osorio, The Source (New York: The Source Enterprises, Inc.), August 20 03, no. 167, 167. 76 Brian Coleman, Check the Technique: Liner Notes for Hip Hop Junkie s (New York: Villard Books, 2007), 4-14.
26 Records, an independent label owned by black entrep reneur J. Prince and following the commercial and critical successes of the Geto BoysÂ’ s albums helped to establish the Rap-A-Lot family as one of the great independent labels outsi de of New York and California. Within a few years J. Prince propelled his label successfully be yond even Luke SkyywalkerÂ’s own independent, Florida-based label. Greater abundance of profanity compared to their We st Coast counterparts (honestly a feat in and of itself), and more vulgar, sexually e xplicit lyrics, marked the Southern lyrical style even more so than even their West Coast counterpart s. Nonetheless, Atlanta, GeorgiaÂ’s burgeoning hip hop scene defined the SouthÂ’s sound artistically and commercially.77 In Atlanta, Antonio Â“L.A.Â” ReidÂ’s LaFace Records emerged as a t itan of the SouthÂ’s record labels, due to the help of the groups Outkast and Goodie Mob, as w ell as the sonic team most often behind the music to these groups: Organized Noize Productions. Outkast and Goodie Mob gained enormous respect artistically, commercially, critically, and musically for their debut albums, Southernplayalisticadillacmusik (1994) and Soul Food (1995), which included guest appearances from either group, as well as production from Organ ized Noize Productions. Their first albums, again, sound remarkably East Coast in terms of prod uction, despite interesting creativity and distinctiveness in their southern style of lyricism This is perhaps one reason that they experienced such success both within and outside of their region.78 Of great importance, though geographically situated on the East Coast, Atlanta, Georgia (much like Florida), identified themselves as hailing from the Southern traditions of rap music, despite having production obviously drawing from the New York-based beat styl istics. Yet, as they progressed and 77 Ed. Adam Bradley, and Andrew DuBois, The Anthology of Rap (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2010), 331. 78 For example, Jay-Z sampled Andre 3000Â’s lyrics (a tribute and sign of respect) alongside Nas, one of the most respected lyricists of all, on his song Â“Rap Game/C rack Game,Â” In My Lifetime, Vol. 1 (1997), which is evidence of how many on the East Coast readily accepted Outkast and Goodie Mob as respectable artists within the h ip hop community, despite not hailing from either Californ ia or New York.
27 matured, the two groups and their beat-makers expan ded to a point far beyond the limited scope of New York styles of beats and rhymes, into a worl d of beats and rhymes dictating and formulating the Southern sound. Part of Goodie Mob and OutkastÂ’s, as well as Organi zed NoizeÂ’s, initial acceptance outside of Atlanta, dealt with how their highly ski llful and lucid lyrical and production talents, matched some of their greatest counterparts on eith er coast. However, they soon transformed this talent into something entirely new, formulating the blueprint for the SouthÂ’s sound.79 By the time Outkast released ATLiens in 1996, Organized Noize started showing glimpses of the SouthÂ’s sound materializing. However, not until 1998 did th e distinctive Southern sound, sometimes called Â“crunk,Â” appear in Goodie MobÂ’s and OutkastÂ’ s albums, Still Standing and Aquemini Outkast used live instruments ranging from African drummers to horn sections to nontraditional instruments like harmonicas, which do n ot usually appear in hip hop music; they dived deeper into the musical presentation than any one in rap ever did; and they sounded completely unlike anything ever recorded in rap mus ic while retaining their southern identities and stylistics, sonically as well as poetically. Fi ve years after its release, rap artist David Banner wrote the following about the album: I look at Outkast as being visionary. They are one of the few groups that show there is dexterity in their music. From the poetry to the li ve feeling, this album changed the way people look at rap music. They brought in orchestra s and African drummers, different types of instruments that youÂ’re not used to hearin g in rap musicÂ….ItÂ’s funny how, in Southern music, for so many years people didnÂ’t wan t to give us our credit. The truth is, weÂ’re musicians, and that was something hard to fin d in a rap group. A lot of people are beatmakers; Outkast made music. If you took their l yrics out, the scores are amazing.80 While people on the East Coast like Guru and The Ro ots already experimented with and made staples of using live instruments, theirs manifeste d as largely jazz-based in terms of influence 79 On Goodie MobÂ’s Soul Food (1995), they coined the term Â“Dirty South,Â” as syn onymous with the SouthÂ’s style and sound. Yet again, it still sounded fairly East Coast. 80 The Source August 2003, No. 167, 178.
28 and presentation. East Coast artists such as Guru a nd The Roots sounded completely different from how Outkast and Organized Noize layered their tracks, organized the sequences and arrangements, and most importantlyÂ–rather than bein g jazz-based or needing to sound dark and grittyÂ–the tracks on Aquemini are brighter, fuller, smoother, and not quite as ha rsh or twodimensional as those found on the East Coast. The regionalization of hip hop culture and music he lped the commercialization of hip hop. For example, following the successes of Luke Skyywalker Records and Rap-A-Lot Records, LaFace RecordsÂ’s model then influenced oth er cities in the southern region to follow suite, making especially noteworthy, the New Orlean s-based artist Master P, and his own independent label No Limit Records. One magazine se ction later noted: Â“Hip HopÂ’s entrepreneurial spirit was taken to the next level by Master PÂ’s No Limit. Aside from the 4 million units of his [album] MP Da Last Don sold, his label was churning out gold records [500,000 copies sold] biweekly.Â”81 Before long, the pattern of establishing a regiona l identity and sound via artists and independent labels grew into an identifiable trend, one which interestingly enough, seemed to follow the model established more than a decade before by Russell Simmons, his Def Jam record label, and his recording artists in New York. The process began in New York in the mid-1980s, eve ntually replicated across the major urban centers across the country. This process firs t started in larger regions, before moving on to more and more localized areas. Meanwhile the progre ssion continued as business savvy entrepreneurs teamed up with artists to regionalize and nationalize hip hop music and culture. Eazy EÂ’s Ruthless label in Los Angeles, Luke Skyywa lkerÂ’s label in Miami, Dr. DreÂ’s Death Row label in Los Angeles, Puff DaddyÂ’s (P. DiddyÂ’s) Bad Boy label in New York, J. PrinceÂ’s Rap-A-Lot label in Houston, Mannie FreshÂ’s Cash Mon ey label in New Orleans, E-40Â’s Sick81 The Source June 2006, No. 200, 62.
29 Wid-It label in Vallejo, Jermaine DupriÂ’s So So Def label in Atlanta, Master PÂ’s No Limit label in New Orleans, Antonio ReidÂ’s LaFace label in Atla nta, and many others, all seemed to follow the model set by Russell Simmons and Def Jam in New York. This helped pave the way for the commercialization of rap music, while convincing no t only the major music industry labels, but also compelling giant corporations in other industr ies, to notice by 1995 that the time for profiting off of hip hop culture had arrived. In the mid-1990s with the coastal and stylistic war s going on, the Easterners sought to change the original inclusive messages of the East, to a more exclusive feeling. At one point in 1996, established hip hop radio icon Bobbito Garcia expressed his dismay over a claim from a line in Westside ConnectionÂ’s (a group known for fu eling antagonisms between the East and West Coasts) song Â“Westside Slaughterhouse,Â” where a group member claimed hip hop started in the West Coast, saying: Â“It also upsets me that he said hip hop started in the West. You know, you canÂ’t change historyÂ…saying that is disrespectf ul to the forefathers. If youÂ’re nice with a mike it doesnÂ’t matter where youÂ’re from.Â”82 Bobbito Garcia attempted to point out, based on rapÂ’s traditional roots, oneÂ’s abilities rather tha n oneÂ’s place of origin determined acceptance within the hip hop community, yet he could not forg ive the distortion to where hip hop originated from: New York. In hip hopÂ’s beginning s tages, New York sought to branch out well beyond its borders, but by the time it branched out across America, it then sought to protect its aesthetic and foundational legacies by continuing t o pronounce and extol its virtue as the creator, and originator of the art. Â“RapÂ’s geographic expans ion had important stylistic implications...Nowhere is this more apparent than i n southern rap,Â” mentioned Adam Bradley. Â“The South was nearly invisible on the rap landscap es in the 1980s, but by the late 1990s it 82 VIBE March 1996, vol. 4, no. 2, 42.
30 would become arguably the dominant rap region, defy ing East Coast-West Coast hegemony.Â”83 The dynamic between New York and the rest of the na tion changed dramatically from the Golden Age to the 1995-98 period, in a span of bare ly five to ten years. 83 Ed. Adam Bradley, and Andrew DuBois, The Anthology of Rap (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2010), 331.
31 CHAPTER IV COMMERCIALIZATION AND GOING MAINSTREAM Â“The hip hop nation is no different than any other segment of this society in its desire to live the American dream.Â” Â– VIBE 199684 For many in the hip hop nation, the Â“American Drea mÂ” meant rewards based on increasing material wealth and prosperity in exchan ge for unstinting devotion and hard work toward oneÂ’s aspirations in work and life. They rem ained dedicated in their aspirations toward this dream even if it meant undergoing and overcomi ng serious trials obstructing these goals. The growth of hip hop music throughout the U.S. in the form of independent record labels and regional styles represented only a part of the proc ess of hip hop cultureÂ’s expansion. The other part consisted of its mainstream commercialization, in the form of powerful and influential corporations buying into the profitable phenomenon hip hop gradually demonstrated. Hip hop music and culture underwent a process of increasing commercialization since 1979Â’s Â“RapperÂ’s DelightÂ” first commercialized it as a genre, but it took more than a decade before corporations embraced this phenomenon. The floodgates opened bet ween 1995 and 1998. One indication of the commercialization of hip hop music and culture demonstrated during this period materialized in the form of acad emic institutions, which actually started buying subscriptions from the few professional maga zines on hip hop, like VIBE and The Source University of Colorado Boulder for example, began s tocking issues of VIBE and The Source in late 1995 and 1996, which simply meant academia now took particular notice of the culture. This subsequently helped to validate and authenticate hi p hop culture and musicÂ’s significance on a mainstream level, even thousands of miles from the major urban centers embracing hip hop, such as Los Angeles, Houston, Atlanta, or New York City. People in the academic world also gave 84 Ed. Alan Light, VIBE (New York: Time Publishing Ventures, Inc.), Februa ry 1996, vol. 4, no. 1, 46.
32 credence to such publications by contributing artic les to these publications. This happened on several occasions, such as when Michael Eric Dyson did so for VIBE magazine or when opposing scholars Dr. Mary Lefkowitz (leading criti c of Afrocentricity) and Dr. Molefi Asante (Chair of African-American studies at Temple) debat ed Afrocentricity in The Source .85 By 1995, thanks largely to the advancements made d uring the Golden Age of the late 1980s,86 hip hopÂ’s influence then shifted from black youth culture to embracing a broader youth culture, including white suburbanites. This also le d to widespread implications, not only for the culture and music, but also for its commercializati on and the corporations seeking to exploit it. Before it could do so, however, hip hop needed to c onfront and overcome two obstacles to this shift from marginalized to massive appeal. First, i t needed to appease enough people and companies to counter the negative perceptions and s tigmas hip hop carried with it (at least until it proved itself so viable corporations refused to ign ore it, even despite such attributes). Second, it needed to expand its market well beyond that of the black community toward a more inclusive and broader youth culture, including whites. While music and film seemed to open the door to hip hopÂ’s mainstream commercialization, soon other industries, such as f ashion, sports, and even beverage makers, opened the floodgates for hip hop. The hip hop nati onÂ’s biggest concern stemmed from whether hip hopÂ’s values compromised in lieu of its commerc ialization, for considerations of style and appearance, instead of retaining its integrity and substance. Nothing seemed to encapsulate this feeling better than the rising prominence and fixat ion with fashion within hip hop.87 85 See VIBE December/January 1995, vol. 3, no. 10; and The Source August 1996, no. 83. 86 In one instance, playwright August Wilson wrote: Â“ Hip hop is the spiritual fist of African-American c ulture.Â” VIBE September 1996, vol. 4, no. 7, 160. 87 Such considerations abound throughout VIBE and The Source during this time. For example, one editorial makes a point of specifically referencing this subject, and expressed misgivings over the commercialization of the music, and problems with trends in the musicÂ’s commercializati on ranging from the Â“MafiosoÂ” theme as well as prob lems with
33 By the early 1990s, magazines like The Source and VIBE regularly contained sections pertaining to fashion in the hip hop world (as well as other sections such as sports) and served in the fashion industryÂ’s expansion. Dozens upon dozen s of full-page and multiple-page advertisements for fashion companies grace the page s of each issue of both VIBE and The Source throughout 1995-98 (and up to the present), in addi tion to regularly featuring an entire section devoted to the subject. These advertisements includ ed both high-end and independent fashion designers and manufacturers as: Hugo Boss, Karl Kan i, Tommy Hilfiger, Pelle Pelle, Versus, Emperio Armani, Kangol, Puma, Ralph Lauren, Perry E llis, Union Bay, Dolce & Gabbana, Lugz, Gasoline, Enyce, Moschino, Fila, Paco, Varcit y, Playaz, Calvin Klein, Nike, First Down, Moco, Helly Hansen, South Pole, Sketchers, Adidas, And 1, Marc Echo, Trezeta, Cope, Barcode, Davoucci, Pepe Jeans, Reebok, East Pack, Versace, O ctane 98, Rigo Sport, AKU, FUBU, DKNY, and others. So many name-brand manufacturers spending money in select national publications to convince hip hop consumers to buy t heir merchandise evidences both hip hopÂ’s real and perceived marketability in the fashion ind ustry during the mid to late 1990s. Fashion companies often went out of their way to secure pop ular recording artists in the genre, ranging from Nas and the Boot Camp Click to LÂ’il Kim and Fo xy Brown, for wearing and modeling their clothes in these magazines, and articulated how ser iously these companies took their investments in the hip hop market and its consumer base.88 Rappers and DJ/producers also embraced fashion, esp ecially high-end fashion, as not only a status symbol and indicator of success, but also as a way to help market themselves. As a result, name brands and expensive fashion, transfor med into a highly sought after commodity within the hip hop nation. This proved especially t rue for, but not limited to, the East Coast and embracing fashion where they contend the prevalence of brands such as Moschino, Versace, and DKNY is h armful to hip hop music and its culture. See The Source June 1996, no. 81, 8. 88 For example, see The Source March 1997, no. 90, 90-95.
34 New York, a noted center for the fashion industry. Fashion helped define oneÂ’s location geographically and also linked a rapper with their area and style. In The Chronic: 2001 Dr. Dre raps: Â“I came up in the game wearing khakis not Kan gols.Â”89 This meant Dr. Dre represented the West Coast because he wore khakis, an LA fashion, n ot Kangol, which is East Coast fashion. The Notorious B.I.G. and Raekwon separately both li nk fashion brands and East Coast haircut styles. B.I.G. raps: Â“Remember back in the days, when niggas had waves, Cazal shades, and cornbraids.Â”90 Raekwon raps: Â“Back in the days, crime pays in mad [lots of] ways/sporting Tommy Hil[figer] with caves, 360 waves/No more sear ching for loose ends/now I flex [show off my] 300 Benz/mad [lots of] timbs [Timberland boots] with mad [lots of] diamonds/now thatÂ’s the life of the good life/I paid the price througho ut my hood life.Â”91 Both referenced clothing brands (Cazal, Tommy Hilfiger, and Timberland), and both referenced popular hairstyle fashions (waves and cornbraids). For a time, haircut styles could even denote oneÂ’s coastal affiliation, as with Jheri curls in the West Coast (worn by NWA for example) or the baldies synonymous with the East Coast (sported by Onyx).92 Many hip hop artists rapped about fashion during 19 95-98. Nas rapped: Â“When I dress, itÂ’s never nothing less than Guess.Â”93 Big L rapped: Â“We never bring luggage, we go shopp ing 89 Dr. Dre, Â“Light Speed,Â” The Chronic: 2001 (Santa Monica, CA: Aftermath Entertainment/Intersc ope Records, 1999). 90 Notorious B.I.G., Â“Things Done Changed,Â” Ready to Die (New York: Bad Boy Records LLC/Atlantic Recording Corporation, 1994, 2004). Reissue. 91 Raekwon, Â“Can It Be All Simple [Remix],Â” Only Built 4 Cuban LinxÂ… (New York: Loud/BMG/RCA Records, 1995). 92 Alan Light, VIBE Â’s chief editor, chronicles an account in one of Ic e CubeÂ’s albums, telling of how oneÂ’s hairstyle designated their place of origin and coastal affili ation, and how Ice Cube used this to his advantage during a performance at HarlemÂ’s Apollo Theatre, where after taking the stage: Â“The jacketÂ’s hood was snatched back to reveal Ice Cube, the definitive chronicler of Los A ngeles street life, wearing a New York Yankees cap. The crowd went bananas. Then he tore off the cap and we could see that Ice Cube had shaved off his trademark jhe ri curls Â– the ultimate signifier of West Coast style Â– and was ro cking a Brooklyn-style baldie. Pandemonium.Â” This d emonstrates the connections between fashion and haircut as indi cators of regional style, and this excerpt comes fr om the liner notes booklet in Ice Cube, AmeriKKKaÂ’s Most Wanted [Reissue] (Hollywood, CA: Priority Records, Inc., 1990, 2003). Also see The Source August 2003, No. 167, 100, 148; and The Source June 2006, No. 200, 55, 60. 93 Nas, Â“Represent,Â” Illmatic (New York: Sony Music Entertainment Inc./Columbia Records, 1994, 2004).
35 when the plane landsÂ…I used to be a [Big Daddy] Kan e fan/everything I rock [wear] is namebrand.Â”94 Both Nas and Big L showcase the importance of fash ion as part of their image, and both pointed out they refused to sport anything les s than name-brand or expensive fashion. Despite fashionÂ’s widespread adoption within the cu lture, more than a few fans, magazine writers, and even artists themselves showed signs o f dismay over what they saw as a fixation with appearances rather than substance within their music and culture.95 This, in conjunction with other misgivings complicating the struggle wit h the culture going mainstream and its commoditizing, only served to increase tensions bot h within the culture and without.96 As one of the most notorious examples of fans in the hip hop nation reacting upset about the overuse of the trend, Foxy Brown caught flak for her verse on Â“Aff irmative ActionÂ” from NasÂ’s It Was Written album, because of how she threw in a number of bran ds during her one verse, including Chevy, Wallabees (expensive loafers), Lexus, Moet Chandon (expensive Champaign), Armani, Carolina Herrera, Mercury, and Cristal (alcohol).97 In unusual cases, a clothing brand might court some one personifying authenticity within hip hop culture and use them to promote their produ ct. In one such instance, Louis Vuitton succeeded in courting Grand Master Flash, a legenda ry hip hop pioneer known for his DJing/producing in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Louis VuittonÂ’s explicit goal was using Grand Master Flash to help Â“resurrectÂ” their compan yÂ’s name and image.98 This stemmed from a desire to replicate the similar remarkable successe s of recent efforts by its competitors, Donna 94 Big L, Â“The Big Picture (Intro),Â” The Big Picture 1974-1999 (New York: Rawkus Records, 2002). 95 For example, see The Source June 1996, no. 81, 8; and The Source January 1997, no. 88, 98-100. 96 See the editorial entitled Â“Revolutionary SuicideÂ” discussing the problems associating with hip hop Â“ selling out,Â” and possibly bankrupting its ideologies and what it stands for in VIBE April 1996, vol. 4, no. 3, 29. 97 Foxy Brown on Nas, Â“Affirmative Action,Â” It Was Written (New York: Sony Music Entertainment Inc./Columbia Records, 1996). Also, for example, Jeru the Damaja disrespects Foxy Brown and the commercialization sh e represents by essentially calling her fake, with th e lines: Â“Foxy Brown sipping Cristal in the backgro und/with fake alligator boots on.Â” This is found in Jeru the Dama ja, Â“One Day,Â” Wrath of the Math (New York: Payday/FFRR/Polygram Records, 1996). The author fur ther elaborates on this point in section V. 98 The Source September 1996, no. 84, 29-30.
36 Karan and Versace.99 Additionally, in late 1996, Versace estimated 60% of its business came from customers Â“involved in the urban music scene,Â” while Dolce & Gabbana estimated 40% of its business did as well.100 Yet Russell Simmons also bitterly pointed out how it unfortunately represented yet another demonstration of whites get ting rich off blacks.101 At her keynote address for the 2012 Sankofa Lecture SeriesÂ’ Cultural Liter acy Conference, MC Lyte mentioned how the fashion industry changed from the 1980s to the pres ent because of hip hop, and concluded, Â“Before the European fashion brands set the fashion trends and styles, but nowadays itÂ’s AmericaÂ’s hip hop fashion that influences what runw ay models in European countries wear.Â”102 Fashion not only exerted an influence on hip hop cu lture and music, but hip hop music and culture also exerted a great deal of influence on t he fashion industry. One final result of the blending of corporate fashi on and mainstream hip hop materialized in the form of business savvy hip hop icons and art ists who launched successful clothing lines, either independently or as a branch of an establish ed clothing brand. Naughty by Nature was the first to start the successful trend with its Naught y Gear in the early 1990s.103 Soon others followed suite, and more than a few grew into succe ssful ventures entirely on its own merits. As early as 1992, Russell Simmons also established his own fashion line, Phat Farm, which itself grew to multimillion dollar proportions by the pres ent day. Wu-Tang Clan introduced its WuWear merchandise soon after its debut album and pro moted it on their 1997 album.104 Meanwhile Ghostface Killah revitalized, almost sing lehandedly, ClarkÂ’s Wallabee footwear 99 The Source September 1996, no. 84, 29-30. 100 The Source November 1996, no. 86, 29-30. 101 Ibid. 102 The Sankofa Lecture Series 2012 Cultural Literacy Conference lasted from Oct. 3-5, 2012. MC LyteÂ’s ad dress started just after 7:00 PM on October 4, 2012. Its keynote speakers included MC Lyte and Richie Â“Crazy LegsÂ” Colon. http://www.sankofalectureseries.com/ accessed 10 October 2012. 103 The Source August 2003, no. 167, 149; and The Source June 2006, No. 200, 53. 104 Wu-Tang Clan, Â“The Closing,Â” Wu-Tang Forever (New York: Loud Records LLC, 1997).
37 market with his uncanny fashion sense and entrepren eurial savvy, earning him the title Â“Wallabee Champ.Â”105 Jay-Z, ever the resourceful and successful business man, created one of the most prominent and successful labels in hip hop culture with his Rocawear line in 1999.106 However, perhaps the most successful of all turned out to be Â“the most successful businessman ever to pick up a mic,Â” Sean Â“PuffyÂ” (Puff Daddy/P. Diddy) Combs CEO of Bad Boy Records. Puff Daddy masterminded and launched Sean John Clothing in 199 8.107 Later, others would continue this trend well into the 2000s, as evidenced by EminemÂ’s Shady Ltd. and 50 CentÂ’s G-Unit Clothing Company and Street King clothing lines, although bo th artistÂ’s ventures eventually folded and became defunct.108 Nevertheless, the successful launching of certain clothing lines by hip hop artists symbolized the merger of the culture and mu sic with the commercial apparel and fashion industry. This unexpected shift in mainstream, corporate Amer icaÂ’s priorities toward embracing hip hop also surfaced in other spaces beyond the fa shion industry. For example Prodigy of Mobb Deep, on a 1998 album, bragged about his commercial power and newfound potential partnerships with corporations: Â“My rhymes get Ruge r endorsements/my song boosts Intertec sales through the ceiling.Â”109 Prodigy bragged he was affecting the sales of gun companies when he endorses them, such as with gun manufactures Rug er (maker of the LC9 and RC22 handguns) 105 References to these developments can even be found on the albums: Raekwon, Â“Glaciers of Ice,Â” Only Built 4 Cuban LinxÂ… (New York: Loud/BMG/RCA Records, 1995); and Ghostf ace Killah, Ironman (New York: Epic Records, 1996). 106 Ruters, Â“Iconix to Buy Rocawear, Jay-Z's Clothing Line,Â” New York Times 2007-03-07. http://www.nytimes.com/2007/03/07/business/07clothe s.html?_r=0 accessed 18 October 2012. Despite selling Rocawear to Iconix for over $200 million, Jay-Z sti ll retained his stake in the company and stayed on as CEO of the clothing line as part of the deal. It also mentions Rocawear achieved more than $700 million in annual sales by 2007. 107 The Source August, 2003, no. 167, 150. 108 For Eminem please see http://guycodeblog.mtv.com/2011/07/25/8-rapper-fash ion-lines-that-prove-rappersshouldnt-start-fashion-lines/ accessed 20 October 2012. For 50 Cent, please see http://www.sohh.com/2010/02/special_to_sohh_the_ris e_fall_of_g-unit.html accessed 20 October 2012. A portion states: Â“After numerous rumors, the G-Unit brand of clothing is officially shutting down.Â” 109 Prodigy, featured on Big Pun, Â“Tres Leches,Â” Capital Punishment (New York: Loud Records, 1998).
38 and Intertec (maker of the Tec-9 handgun). Not only gun makers, but also electronics and stereo manufacturers, such as Alpine or Pioneer, and bever age makers, ranging from both lowand high-end soda pops to alcoholic beverages, found me thods of endorsement in hip hop songs and magazines. Sports teams and players also found ways to get involved in a mutually reciprocal and beneficial commercial relationship, finding ath letes to endorse products now linked to both cultures. Both Tiger Woods and Grant Hill, despite enormous deals and endorsements of huge companies like Nike and Sprite, battled a bit with the negative perceptions conveyed when they revealed either dabbling in, or outright liking hip hop music.110 Nonetheless, while sports found it rather easy to attach brands like Nike to the hi p hop, sports, and fashion cultures, the beverage industry remains one of the more interesting and le ss obvious industries to branch into a hip hop audience, both during and after the mid to late 199 0s. Both non-alcoholic and alcoholic beverage corporati ons cashed in on hip hopÂ’s newfound marketability, and its subsidiary, untapped markets Even lower-end soda pop brands found their company names referenced. In FaygoÂ’s case, they fou nd endorsement from the Detroit-based Insane Clown Posse and its affiliate artists, such as Twisted.111 Sprite actually used its money to secure contractual endorsements from specific sport s players and hip hop artists who personified hip hop culture in their respective fields, such as Grant Hill or KRS-One.112 Even alcoholic beverages, whether on the loweror higher-ends of reputation, appeared almost everywhere in hip hop artistÂ’s songs. After 1995, they appeared f ar more frequently than ever before. Notorious B.I.G. referenced almost everything from Ripple (a 40-ounce malt liquor drink) to Cristal (a very 110 For one example, see The Source September 1996, no. 84, 29; and The Source March 1997, no. 90, 108-112. 111 There are numerous potential songs to be used for evidence. For one, see Â“Hokus PokusÂ” on Insane Clow n Posse, The Great Milenko (New York: Island, 1997). Faygo is referenced quit e often by ICP on nearly all music releases. 112 VIBE April 1996, vol. 4, no. 3, 92; or The Source January 1997, 98-100.
39 high-end liqueur).113 Tupac and many, many others, ranging from Lauryn H ill of the Fugees and NWA to Foxy Brown and Master PÂ’s No Limit artists, referenced expensive liquors and liqueurs.114 Some artists actually made entire songs about drin king liquor and what brands they endorsed.115 At one point, some liquor companies actually hired hip hop artists to endorse their products, such as when St. Ides (malt liquor) secur ed endorsement deals with Method Man (WuTang Clan) and Ice Cube (NWA).116 As hip hop music and culture went increasingly tow ard the mainstream and underwent rampant commercialization, corporations took pains to consciously promote the culture in conjunction with their own business interests. As a direct result, hip hopÂ’s participants struggled with the changes in hip hopÂ’s identity, as well as their own identities, as it shifted from a marginalized subculture to a commoditized, mainstre am culture. Corporations in a number of powerful, mainstream and influential industries, ra nging from music and film to media, beverages, sports, and fashion, prodigiously and (s ometimes) judiciously117 invested money in this newly available and lucrative hip hop market. As a result, these corporations developed a vested interest in what they sold to those consumer s, while paying close attention to the trends selling within this market and culture. Aware of these changes in hip hop, both its produce rs and consumers responded by sharing both conflicted feelings and vastly differe nt opinions about hip hopÂ’s move to the 113 For example, see the songs Â“The Long Kiss Goodnigh tÂ” (Disc Two) and Â“Fuck You TonightÂ” (Disc 1) on Notorious B.I.G., Life After Death (New York: Bad Boy Records/Universal Records, 1997 ). 114 Two of TupacÂ’s most famous and often referenced li nes are: Â“Years ago, a friend of mine/told me Alize and Cristal blows your mind,Â” and Â“IÂ’m drinking Henness y/IÂ’m trying to make it last/I drank a fifth [750 m l bottle] for that ass when you passed [away].Â” These lyrics are found respectively in the songs Â“IÂ’ve Got My Mind M ade UpÂ” and Â“Life Goes OnÂ” on 2pac, All Eyez on Me [Disc 1] (CA: Death Row Records, 1996). 115 The most famous example is Mobb Deep, Â“Drink Away the Pain (Situations),Â” The Infamous (New York: RCA/BMG/Loud Records LLC, 1995). 116 VIBE September 1996, vol. 4, no. 8, 58. 117 The Source January 1997, no. 88, 98-100. For a more complete understanding of what is meant by the use of this term Â“judiciousÂ” relative to corporations exploitin g or desiring to use hip hop for profit, please see Tricia Rose, The Hip Hop Wars: What we Talk About When we Talk About Hip Hop Â– And Why it Matters (New York: Basic Civitas Books, 2008), 138-147.
40 forefront of mainstream national culture and how th ese changes affected both hip hopÂ’s identity and their own.118 Some people felt it a positive development for hip hopÂ’s widespread acceptance in the national culture, for it validated hip hopÂ’s legitimacy and value.119 Meanwhile, others felt this threatened its original values because of the distortions and corruptions of its artistic integrity and aesthetic purpose.120 118 The Source January 1997, no. 88, 98-100; and VIBE April 1996, vol. 4, no. 3, 29, 92. 119 Such people pointed to and reflected sentiments ex pressed from the late 1980s and early 1990s, such a s when Ice Cube said: Â“Fuck Top 40/And fuck Top 30 and Top 20 and Top 10/Until you put more hip hop in.Â” The lyri c indicates, among other things, how much Ice Cube wo uld like to see hip hop music gain status and recog nition in the mainstream music industry, and expresses his frustr ation at not being accepted in the mainstream via r adio play. This is found on Ice Cube, Â“Turn Off the Radio,Â” AmeriKKKaÂ’s Most Wanted (Hollywood, CA: Priority Records, Inc., 1990, 2003). Reissue. 120 See The Source June 1996, no. 81, 8; The Source January 1997, no. 88, 98-100; and VIBE April 1996, vol. 4, no. 3, 29, 92.
41 CHAPTER V STRUGGLING TO PRESERVE HIP HOPÂ’S IDENTITY AND Â‘REAL NESSÂ’121 AS IT SHIFTS FROM MARGINALIZED TO COMMODITIZED Â“Fundamentally, these discussions pivot on the noti on of hip-hopÂ’s essential characterÂ–its authentic expression. Authenticity, however defined or imagined, has always been central to the culture.Â” Â– Jeffrey O.G. Ogbar122 The spread and prominence of hip hop both nationall y and internationally, along with the emerging regional styles and identities therein, pr ecipitated contestation, dialog, and debate, over what the changes in its commercialization and shift toward the mainstream meant for hip hop culture.123 Were the changes inevitable and unavoidable as hip hop progressed and matured, or was hip hop now being controlled by actors and agen cies whose primary concern had little if anything to do with the original values espoused by hip hop culture? Was hip hop still Â‘keeping it real,Â’ or was it now Â‘fakeÂ’ because of how its valu es had shifted and its principles been compromised? As hip hop scholar Jeffrey Ogbar put i t: Â“Some view this [rampant commercialization of hip hop] as a portentous sign of hip-hopÂ’s decline and corruption. Others welcome it as an example of young black talent and business expertise and even as a salve for AmericaÂ’s old wounds of racism.Â”124 Nevertheless, while some expressed excitement and others indignation at hip hopÂ’s excessive mainstream comme rcialization, these questions burned in the 121 The subject of Â‘realnessÂ’ is a sticky, complex, re lative, situational, and often nebulous concept. Th e author does not wish to delve into such definitional considerat ions fearing its detraction from his subject. He th erefore recommends looking to other authors for more intima te and intricate discussions on this subject of Â‘re alnessÂ’ and authenticity in hip hop, such as: Jeffrey O.G. Ogba r, Hip Hop Revolution: The Culture and Politics of Rap (Lawrence, Kansas: The University Press of Kansas, 2007), 37-71; M.K. Asante, Jr., ItÂ’s Bigger than Hip Hop: The Rise of the Post-Hip-Hop Generation (New York: St. MartinÂ’s Press, 2008), 13-33; KRS-O ne, The Gospel of Hip Hop: The First Instrument (New York: PowerHouse Books, 2009), 58-101; Ed. Mi chael Eric Dyson, and Sohail Daulatzai, Born to Use Mics: Reading NasÂ’s Illmatic (New York: Basic Civitas Books, 2010), 22, 29, 64, 66, 101, 107-109, 182, 185, 193, 247; Tricia Rose, The Hip Hop Wars: What we Talk About When we Talk A bout Hip Hop Â– And Why it Matters (New York: Basic Civitas Books, 2008), 38, 134-147 189, 190, 223, 234; and Adam Bradley, Book of Rhymes: The Poetics of Hip Hop (New York: Basic Civitas Books, 2009), 166-170. 122 Jeffrey O.G. Ogbar, Hip Hop Revolution: The Culture and Politics of Rap (Lawrence, Kansas: The University Press of Kansas, 2007), 1. 123 The Source January 1997, no. 88, 98-100; and VIBE April 1996, vol. 4, no. 3, 29. 124 Jeffrey O.G. Ogbar, Hip Hop Revolution: The Culture and Politics of Rap (Lawrence, Kansas: The University Press of Kansas, 2007), 38.
42 minds of artists, fans, magazine contributors, and countless others who felt they possessed a stake in how hip hop progressed.125 As scholar Jeffrey Ogbar described: Â“At its most fu ndamental level, Â‘realnessÂ’ in hip-hop implies an intimate familiarity with the urban, wor king-class landscapes that gave rise to hip-hop in the 1970sÂ…Conversely, middle-class status, subur ban living, and whiteness have been further removed from hip-hop authenticity physically, spati ally, and culturally.Â”126 In other words, could hip hop retain its Â‘realnessÂ’ in spite of accepting and perhaps overlooking the inclusion of white, middle-class suburbanites, who helped push hip hop into the mainstream, or did this signify selling out its values, traditions, and cultures in order to find acceptance from this dominant segment of society?127 Artists and fans from the very beginnings of hip ho p always scrutinized the abilities of rappers and producers,128 praising those of outstanding talents (using slang like Â“ill,Â” Â“dope,Â” or Â“realÂ”), and denouncing those of subpar or inferior aptitude (using slang like Â“lame,Â” Â“wack,Â” or Â“fakeÂ”). Whereas a dichotomy between good and bad a rtistic ability previously defined the focus of concern between hip hop fans and artists, the co nsiderations in the mid-90s grew beyond simple concerns of whether an artist was Â“wackÂ” or Â“ill,Â” into what the artist and his or her music represented, not only within the culture, but in ma instream society. Magazines like The Source and VIBE also contributed to the discussion, perhaps more abundantly and influentially than almost anyone apa rt from the artists themselves. They not only 125 For some examples, please see: The Source December 1996, no. 87, 18-25; The Source January 1997, no. 88, 98-100; and The Source March 1997, no. 90, 20-25. 126 Jeffrey O.G. Ogbar, Hip Hop Revolution: The Culture and Politics of Rap (Lawrence, Kansas: The University Press of Kansas, 2007), 39. 127 Ed. Adam Bradley, and Andrew DuBois. The Anthology of Rap (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2010), 329. He writes: Â“RapÂ’s expanding audience carried with i t much of the baggage that always accompanies cross -racial artistic exchange in AmericaÂ–in this case anxieties about the Â‘corruption of youthÂ’ on one side, fears of banalization [sic] and cooptation on the other.Â” 128 Jeffrey O.G. Ogbar, Hip Hop Revolution: The Culture and Politics of Rap (Lawrence, Kansas: The University Press of Kansas, 2007), 1.
43 opined views similar to what many of their readers believed, but also, more importantly, readers debated or hotly contested infractions they felt th e magazines committed against both the culture and its artists. While the magazines held ultimate control over whether their disagreeing and sometimes angry readersÂ’ letters actually made it i nto the letters section of their magazines, there is plenty of evidence to suggest their sensitivity to readerÂ’s comments and responses to their magazineÂ’s content.129 Unsurprisingly, debate abounds throughout these mag azines as to hip hopÂ’s integrity, artistically as well as its role socially. In a Mar ch 1996 issue, one editorial in VIBE by Greg Tate, questioned, Â“Is Hip Hop Dead?Â” Reflecting one of th e more popular viewpoints during this time, Tate, noticeably upset at how hip hop changed from its earlier days, argued hip hop no longer existed. Tate, however, consciously or unconsciousl y refused to define what hip hop was or meant.130 Others at the same time refused to either believe o r entertain such a viewpoint, dismissing it as ridiculous and absurd, and considered the 199 5-98 period a phase of excellence in the hip hop world. After Greg TateÂ’s Â“Is Hip Hop Dead?Â” pie ce, letters flooded the VIBE office, criticizing both TateÂ’s inability to understand the times and his biased nostalgic feelings of the Â‘good old daysÂ’ of hip hop, while defending the hip hop artists and music materializing during this time. Two issues after TateÂ’s editorial, at le ast two letters criticizing TateÂ’s piece and 129 For one example, after printing a story on Jackie Chan, then an up and coming presence in the states, a reader vehemently responded their indignation that Jackie Chan got so much attention, when the great legend o f martial arts superstardom, Bruce Lee, should be remembered, VIBE responded by putting Bruce Lee in its Â“PropsÂ” sect ion, which was designed to give Â“proper respectÂ” to a pe rson VIBE felt a debt of gratitude toward for their positive influence on urban and minority culture. This insta nce appears first with Jackie Chan in VIBE March 1996, vol. 4, no.2 82; next with the disgruntled and criticizin g reader in VIBE May 1996, vol. 4, no. 4, 19-24; and later with Bruce Lee in VIBE June/July 1996, vol 4, no. 5, 152. In another instance, due to the flood of letters co mplaining about their rating system and accusing The Source of having ulterior motives and interests compromising or biasing their ratings, The Source felt it necessary to dedicate an entire editorial and section to inform the reade rs of what is involved in this process of ratings, and to (hopefully) convince its readers of its impartiality. This inst ance appears in The Source March 1997, no. 90, 16-22. Both of these suggest the sensitivity these magazines place d on the responses of their readers. 130 VIBE March 1996, vol. 4, no. 2, 35.
44 defending the hip hop of the day appeared in the ma il section of the magazine, showcasing the division between viewpoints within the hip hop comm unity.131 The fact so many felt the need to refute TateÂ’s piece demonstrates the divergence and diversity of opinions the fans felt in regard to the hip hop music of the day. The magazines themselves often came under attack fr om its readership for errors in judgment, overt biases, irresponsible reporting, an d even its own hypocrisies, which many felt antithetical to the realness of hip hop. At one poi nt, VIBE decided to run an article decrying the use of drugs. Many media outlets, concerned parents and discriminatory or oppositional people toward hip hop, contended hip hop glorified the use of and promoted a lifestyle and behavior providing a bad influence on the youth within Ameri can society.132 VIBE usually tried to represent both sides of the responses in its mail s ection, but interestingly they only included letters that positively received and applauded VIBE Â’s anti-drug use article and never included any oppositional letters to its anti-drug article. Nevertheless, the letter of David White from Brookl yn, New York, found its way into the mail section, where he openly criticized VIBE Â’s hypocrisy. David White of Brooklyn, started his critique by applauding VIBE Â’s attempt at responsibility by facing the drug iss ue, yet he went on to criticize VIBE Â’s integrity, as he pointed out their complicity an d disregard for their personal responsibility in promoting drugs and the lifestyle s of the stars reflecting it.133 In the same antidrug article, it decried alcohol usage and endorsem ent, and even one issue later, criticized artists Method Man and Ice Cube for their paid endorsement of St. Ides Malt Liquor.134 VIBE promoted 131 VIBE May 1996, vol. 4, no. 4, 19-21. 132 Steven M. Gillon and Cathy D. Mason, The American Experiment: A History of the United St ates (New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2002), 1291. A passage in relation to the above statement reads: Â“Many Ameri cans reacted in horror, arguing that mass culture was re sponsible for producing a generation of Â‘selfish, d ishonest, sexually promiscuous, and violentÂ’ children.Â” 133 VIBE August 1996, vol. 4, no. 6, 31-34. 134 VIBE September 1996, vol. 4, no. 7, 58.
45 a view that use of drugs and alcohol reflected poor choices and behavior. Yet, hypocritically, VIBE advertised a plethora of alcohol-related brands th roughout each issue, including: Budweiser, Coors, Hennessy, Tanqueray, DewarÂ’s, Bac ardi, Remy Martin, Jim Beam, E&J, and others.135 The magazines themselves often appeared to also de monstrate this contradiction: denouncing drug and alcohol use in one article, and then advertising or promoting alcohol and drug use in ads and interviews with artists. Both the integrity of the magazinesÂ’ and the hip ho p artists found themselves questioned by the readers and fans in greater quantities. The artists, though they might previously have personified Â“realÂ” or authentic hip hop, now seemed to represent something else divorced from hip hop: selling out.136 One of the best examples illustrating this resentm ent among the fans came in the form of KRS-One, a hip hop icon from its ear lier days, who still managed to remain relevant. Initially, KRS-One formed Boogie Down Pro ductions in the mid 1980s, which released two pivotal albums for hip hop: Criminal Minded (1987) and By All Means Necessary (1988). KRS-OneÂ’s beef with MC Shan of Marley MarlÂ’s Juice Crew All-Stars still stood among the most important rivalries in hip hop history.137 KRS-One also possessed enormous street credibility, and for that reason, he attracted the attention of not only hip hop fans, but mainstream companies as well. He helped in the creation of both Â“socially consciousÂ” and Â“gangsta rapÂ” as i dentifiable trends with those albums.138 He lived at a shelter when homeless, immediately prior to his record deal; and his own DJ, Scott La 135 These advertisements can be found throughout numer ous issues. For example, Bacardi, Remy Martin, and DewarÂ’s can be found in VIBE October 1996, vol. 4, no. 8, 45, 54, 72-73. 136 The Source February 1997, no. 89, 10-12. Also, The Source March 1997, no. 90, 20-22. An unusual number of readers criticize The Source in these issues for various reasons. Many take sho ts at its integrity and it possibly Â‘selling out.Â’ 137 VIBE December/January 1995, vol. 3, no. 10, 101. In re ference to this event, a writer proclaimed: Â“Rivalr y is the essence of hip hop.Â” 138 Brian Coleman, Check the Technique: Liner Notes for Hip-Hop Junkie s (New York: Villard Books, 2007), 89-90.
46 Rock, was murdered during the time in between the t wo albums.139 He also started the Â“Stop the ViolenceÂ” movement in response to his own experienc es with gang violence and Scott La RockÂ’s death. Later during the height of the East vs. West bicoastal Â‘war,Â’ KRS-One refused to choose a side and instead tried squashing the rivalries, sta nding firmly against any kind of Â‘warÂ’ between East and West.140 Furthermore, with his lyrical skills, KRS-One coul d demolish other MCs with relative ease. In one particularly noteworthy incid ent, while at a PM Dawn concert, utterly convinced of PM DawnÂ’s Â“wackness,Â” he proceeded to physically and literally throw them off stage.141 He then finished their concert set by improvising with his own material. In other words, KRS-One possessed plenty of Â“juiceÂ” or respect in t he hip hop community and warranted enough reason for companies such as Sprite, Nike, Echo, an d the NBA to seek endorsement deals with him during this time.142 KRS-One, around 1996-97, also did in-depth intervie ws with VIBE and The Source (appearing on the covers of both magazines), and in spite of the differences in their respective articles, both magazines raised questions about whe ther KRS-One sold out, or at the very least, bankrupted his ideological positioning by embracing endorsement deals.143 The once invincible stature of KRS-One, one of hip hopÂ’s greatest legen ds, seemed somehow vulnerable. Several peopleÂ’s responses to the VIBE article felt it reflected KRS-OneÂ’s ego and expres sed negative 139 Ibid. 140 As a result of this stance of anti-East vs. West C oast, KRS-One recorded a track with Nas, B-Real (of Cypress Hill), and Dr. Dre, called Â“East Coast, West Coast, Killers,Â” and designed to help squash the beef bet ween the East and West Coast artists. It is the second track foun d on Dr. Dre, Dr. Dre Presents: The Aftermath (CA: Aftermath/Interscope Records, 1996). 141 This legendary event can be found on the works of several contemporary artists who wrote references t o the incident in their lyrics. For example, Big L says: Â“I must warn, I got it going on, word is bond/Ducks be getting thrown off platforms like PM DawnÂ” on Big L, Â“All B lack,Â” Lifestylez ov da Poor & Dangerous (New York: Columbia Records, 1995). Reference to this event is also found in The Source August 2003, no. 167, 110. 142 The Source January 1997, no.88, 98. 143 This is alluded to in several places. One prime ex ample is found in VIBE April 1996, vol. 4, no. 3, 29.
47 sentiments toward KRS-One and what he now represent ed.144 Already, he appeared in a series of television commercials and magazine advertisements endorsing various brands, and fans who wrote into the magazines disrespected his willingne ss to sellout and his justifications for it. He justified his decision to accept such endorsement d eals because the Â‘time had come for KRS-One to embrace mainstream commercialization.Â’145 It seemed more than mere coincidence which prompted the magazine editors to place a Nike ad fe aturing KRS-One immediately following the mail section where these letters decried KRS-OneÂ’s selling out.146 Even when KRS-One appeared in The Source the writer of the article speculated whether or n ot todayÂ’s hip hop generation really still felt or identified with KRS -One.147 Other problems with KRS-OneÂ’s supposedly Â“realÂ” image surfaced with the appearanc e of NBA and Sprite ads.148 It seemed like in almost one fell swoop, three top commercial industries, beverages, fashion, and sports, corrupted (sold out) one of hi p hopÂ’s best-known figures personifying realness. Many could not help but feel betrayed by the corruption of the person many people identified or regarded as the personification of re al in hip hop, alternately laughing or mocking at how in his NBA and Nike ads on TV, KRS-One called b asketball Â“revolutionary.Â”149 Sprite did its absolute best to reconstruct history in the hop es of identifying itself with the consumer, as Â‘down with hip hopÂ’ and its cultural history and tr aditions. For SpriteÂ’s commercial, it reenacted the historic battle between KRS-One of Boogie Down Productions, who represented the South Bronx, and MC Shan of the Juice Crew representing Q ueens, by placing both in a boxing ring 144 VIBE February 1996, vol. 4, no. 1, 23-25. 145 VIBE November 1995, vol. 3, no. 10, 68-72; VIBE February 1996, vol. 4, no. 1, 23-25. VIBE April 1996, vol. 4, no. 3, 29, 92. 146 VIBE February 1996, vol. 4, no. 1, 26. 147 The Source March 1997, no. 90, 104; The Source January 1997, no. 88, 98-100; and VIBE April 1996, vol. 4, no. 3, 29, 92. 148 VIBE February 1996, vol. 4, no. 1, 23-25; VIBE April 1996, vol. 4, no. 3, 29, 92; The Source January 1997, no. 88, 98-100; and The Source March 1997, no. 90, 104. 149 VIBE November 1995, vol. 3, no. 10, 68-72; VIBE February 1996, vol. 4, no. 1, 23-25.
48 with mics and backed by their respective DJs, Red A lert and Mr. Magic, with DJ Kid Capri as referee.150 Despite its attention and respect for hip hopÂ’s hi story and culture, it received a mixture of support and condemnation among fans, especially after KRS-OneÂ’s commercial for NBA and Nike. Sprite also gained an endorsement deal with N BA star Grant Hill, known for liking hip hop music, but caught flak from critics for his identif ication and endorsement of hip hop. His critics reiterated the same criticisms of hip hop: its prom otion of misogyny, violence, disrespect for laws, and destructive influences for minors and soc iety at large.151 Nevertheless, through the eyes of American mainstream corporate businesses, it see med natural to connect KRS-One with basketball as well, and by proxy sports fashion, an d, as a result, both the NBA and Nike secured endorsement deals with KRS-One. There also loomed the issue of what other old-schoo l legends felt about the arrangement between the commercialization of hip hop and its in tegrity. MC Lyte maintained hip hop remained real and defended it against allegations o f it no longer retaining its hardcore elements, despite going commercial and some people selling ou t, which reflected the views of a great many artists and fans.152 However, others such as Chuck D of Public Enemy, al so retained their reputation for outspokenness and realness, as one of the most pote nt critics on how commercialization compromised hip hopÂ’s integrity. For example, when the NBAÂ’s Dream Team II took the cover of VIBE Â’s August 1996 issue, Chuck D wrote a letter appear ing in the mail section, criticizing VIBE for selling out to the NBA: Â“No offense to the NBA Â…but damn, with all the deserving hip hop and black music artists out there, why must a m usic magazine give a cover to athletes who already have their own magazines? Culture my ass! S port is sport, and that industry doesnÂ’t care 150 VIBE April 1996, vol. 4, no. 3, 92. 151 The Source September 1996, vol 4, no. 7, 29. 152 See VIBE November 1996, vol. 4, no. 9, 96; or The Source October 1996, no. 85, 79-82.
49 what [the hip hop generation] think[s].Â”153 In another instance, he expressed his misgivings a bout how the commodification of hip hop obstructed its v alues and purpose, and found the music industry: Â“detrimental to the growth and developmen t of hip hop culture.Â”154 While the hip hop nation decried corporate AmericaÂ’ s cooptation of hip hop and distortion of its principles, people outside the hi p hop nation decried hip hopÂ’s negative influences. 155 Especially during the 1990s, a trend in psychology studies emphasized these concerns, such as the debilitating and negative aff ects occurring in minors as a result of exposure to different kinds of music, especially hip hop and heavy metal. Some studies attempted to show how exposure to hip hop music negatively affected t he propensity for misogyny and sexual violence against women.156 Other studies sought to link teenagers and delinqu ents with preferences for rap music and heavy metal and linke d such preferences with behavioral problems. Such studies were especially interested o n these affects demonstrated in social environments like public schools.157 Among the most potent of criticisms against the mu sic and culture of hip hop regarded the idea and perception it influenced juvenile crime, or promoted and taught violence, even sexual violence.158 This contentionÂ–rap music causes violenceÂ–found its elf refuted again and again by artists prior to, during, and even after this period. Willi e D of the Geto Boys said in 1992: Â“Rap Music, they're trying to ban it/Cause blacks are getting p aid and they can't stand it/They say we're too 153 VIBE, October 1996, vol. 4, no. 8, 31. 154 VIBE November 1996, vol. 4, no. 9, 138. 155 James D. Johnson, Lee Anderson Jackson, and Leslie Gatto, Â“Violent attitudes and deferred academic as pirations: Deleterious effects of exposure to rap music,Â” Basic and Applied Social Psychology 16, no. 1-2 (1995): 27-41. 156 Christy Barongan, and Gordon C. Nagayama Hall, Â“Th e influence of misogynous rap music on sexual aggre ssion against women,Â” Psychology of Women Quarterly 19, no. 2 (1995): 195-207. 157 Jonathon S. Epstein, David J. Pratto, and James K. Skipper Jr., Â“Teenagers, behavioral problems, and preferences for heavy metal and rap music: A case study of a so uthern middle school,Â” Deviant Behavior 11, no. 4 (1990): 381394. 158 Two such studies are: Susan C. Gardstrom, Â“Music E xposure and Criminal Behavior: Perceptions of Juven ile Offenders,Â” Journal of Music Therapy 36, no. 3 (1999): 207; and James D. Johnson, Mike S. Adams, Leslie Ashburn, and William Reed, Â“Differential gender eff ects of exposure to rap music on African American a dolescentsÂ’ acceptance of teen dating violence,Â” Sex Roles 33, no. 7 (1995): 597-605.
50 violent for instance/But why in the hell is Rock st ill in existence?/IÂ’ma tell you why it still remains,/Like a coat it'll hang/Cause itÂ’s a white thing/This attack on the black sound/Is just one more plot to keep the brother man down.Â”159 Willie D, like many other artists, felt people who criticized rap used a double standard when passing judgment and provided a way for whites to express veiled racism. Additionally, Big Pun mentio ned in 1998: Â“Parental discretion, advised keep out the eyes of the youth, itÂ’s too explicit/B ullshit, I challenge the statistics/Violence existed before our music was even suggestedÂ…so blam e it all on the gangsta rapper.Â”160 Among the numerous opponents appearing against rap music and hip hop culture during this time was C. Delores Tucker. Â“[T]hat self-procl aimed sexually frustrated church lady,Â”161 Tucker, who also happened to be African-American, c reated visible problems for rap musicÂ’s rapid expansion into the mainstream. She scored her greatest victory by using her governmental connections to apply pressure to the music industry and targeted specific labels. The one foremost on her list, Death Row Records, gained her attention by virtue of its status as the most successful and profitable rap music label for the t ime.162 After months of organizing support, rallying her allies, railing against the vices and problems of hip hop, she finally succeeded. She applied enough pressure to cause Time Warner, one o f the largest and most powerful businesses involved in the music industry, to drop its subsidi ary, Interscope Records, and as a result Death Row Records as well.163 The fact that MCA rushed in and immediately signed Interscope and Death Row to its own label meant little to hip hop fans and artists.164 They instead felt the damage represented a serious problem and resistance to hip hop. It also meant far more rested at 159 Geto Boys, Â“No Sellout,Â” We CanÂ’t Be Stopped (Houston, TX: Rap-A-Lot Records, 1992). 160 Big Pun, Â“Parental Discretion,Â” Capital Punishment (New York: Loud Records, 1998). 161 Ed. Alan Light, The VIBE History of Hip Hop (New York: Three Rivers Press/VIBE Ventures, 1999) 290. 162 The Source September 1996, no. 84, 124-132, 176-178. 163 This is mentioned in several places due to its sig nificance in the hip hop world. For example, see VIBE May 1996, vol. 4, no. 4, 30; or also The Source July 1996, no. 82, 76. 164 VIBE May 1996, vol. 4, no. 4, 30.
51 stake than just a record company dropping its subsi diary simply because of controversy and pressure. Tucker succeeded at getting a multimillio n dollar company like Time Warner to drop the most commercially successful record label for r ap music of the era.165 C. Delores TuckerÂ’s destructive influence reached s uch a point of contention within the hip hop nation where it prompted numerous hip hop a rtists to express their sentiments about her and what she represented. The majority of song refe rences deal with her inability to understand or relate to the culture and its music, and often d egrade her character in response to her own attacks on the character of the hip hop culture and its artists. In one example, KRS-One dedicated an entire verse to her, commenting: You canÂ’t dis hip-hop, so don't you even go there/C Delores Tucker, you wanna quote the scripture/Everytime you hear Â“nigga,Â” listen up sista/Â… I met up with this girl named Delores, a prankster/I said I MC, she said, Â“YouÂ’re a gangsterÂ”Â… Recognize moms IÂ’m one of your sons, I'm hip-hopÂ… Representin MCÂ’s across America/She said, Â“You're t he one who be causing all that mass hysteriaÂ”Â… But you blinded by cultural ignorance and steady judging/But judge not, lest ye may be judged /For the judgment ye judge ye shall surely be judged, you gets no love.166 KRS-One refutes TuckerÂ’s attacks on the basis of me rit, rather than degrading her character. Many other artists responded to TuckerÂ’s accusation s by preferring to degrade her character. Ras Kass said: Â“You donÂ’t even understan d, I ainÂ’t scared of you motherfuckers/Senator Bob Dole and C. Delores Tucke r.Â”167 Others got far more graphic and offensive in their responses, such as when WC said: Â“But ainÂ’t no stopping this westside clique/So, tell that bitch Delores Tucker to suck a niggaÂ’s dick/Cause I'm punking more niggas than Deebo/Illegal sipping Seagrams, straight smoki ng on a Primo.Â”168 WC explains how he bullies people like Deebo did in the movie Friday (1995). He also reiterates and shares the 165 Ed. Adam Bradley, and Andrew DuBois, The Anthology of Rap (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2010), 329. It says: Â“Between 1992 and 1996 alone, Death Row ea rned an estimated $125 million.Â” 166 KRS-One, Â“Free Mumia,Â” KRS-ONE (New York: Jive Records, 1995). 167 Ras Kass, Â“Miami Life,Â” Soul on Ice (New York: Priority Records, 1996). 168 Westside Connection, Â“3 Time Felons,Â” Bow Down (CA: Lench Mob/Priority Records, 1996).
52 notion of many contemporary artists, who declare th eir complete disregard for her views and demonstrates little inclination to care what she th inks of him, emphasizing the point by continuing to drink liquor and smoking on a blunt l aced with cocaine. Lastly, WC addresses her as a Â“bitchÂ” and tells her to Â“suck a dick,Â” basica lly meaning Â‘go fuck offÂ’ in as vulgar and misogynistic a way as possible to compound his insu lt. Other hip hop artists got involved by offering their opinions on the issues Tucker raised without specifically mentioning her, but instead confronting her criticisms, especially whet her or not hip hop caused violence.169 The most significant confrontation against C. Delor es Tucker in musical form came from Tupac Shakur, a Death Row artist himself, who refer enced her numerous times in his music. TupacÂ’s criticisms of Tucker, in part because of hi s status as arguably the most commercially successful hip hop artist of the time, seemed to ho ld the most weight out of all the artists who felt the need to criticize her. In one hit song, Tupac s aid: C. Delores Tucker, youÂ’s a motherfucker/Instead of trying to help a nigga you destroy your brother/Worse than the others Â– Bill Clinton, Mr. Bob Dole/You're too old to understand the way the gameÂ’s told/Â…They wanna cens or me; theyÂ’d rather see me in a cell/Living in hell Â– only a few of usÂ’ll live to t ell/Now everybody talking Â‘bout us I could give a fuck/I'd be the first one to bomb and cuss.170 Here Tupac attacks her by saying instead of helping blacks sheÂ’s betraying them by seeking to divide and destroy them, and questioning her loyalt y to her race. He also makes the point how Tucker, and other high profile critics of hip hop, simply do not understand the youth and their culture, and because they cannot change who he is, he could not care less about what they have to say about it. He even dedicates a song, Â“Wonder Why They Call U Bitch,Â” to Tucker. Tupac used this song both as a means to help explain to h er and other critics the reason why in songs he 169 For two examples see Big Pun, Â“Parental Discretion ,Â” Capital Punishment (New York: Loud Records, 1998); and Scarface, Â“Hand of the Dead Body,Â” The Diary (Houston, TX: Rap-A-Lot Records, 1994). 170 2pac, Â“How Do U Want It,Â” All Eyez on Me [Disc 1] (CA: Death Row Records, 1996).
53 refers to certain kinds of women as Â“bitches,Â” and as a tactic to compound the insult.171 At another point he stated: Â“When Bob Dole and C. Delo res Tucker wanna know where my soldiers at, GO VOTE!Â”172 This demonstrated Tupac wished to confront Tucker and presidential candidate Dole not only musically, but politically as well. In yet another song, after specifically naming C. Delores Tucker and Bob Dole, and defendin g himself from a legal standpoint by pointing out he is protected by the ConstitutionÂ’s provision for freedom of speech, he mocked them in jest: Â“Goddamn! Rap music I hate that. ItÂ’s just so violent and it destroys everyone, it makes the kids crazy. The kids kill people. There c op hater, here going against society, I donÂ’t understand the music. ItÂ’s too loud, itÂ’s too rowdy itÂ’s too violent. LetÂ’s ban all rap music. Ban Tupac, ban [TupacÂ’s group] the Outlaw Immortalz, ba n Â‘em.Â”173 Not only the hip hop artists, but also VIBE and The Source participated in the discussion between Tucker and the hip hop nation. They ultimat ely discredited Tucker and her allies while successfully defending both the hip hop nation and themselves. VIBE featured an article where they interviewed Tucker, which, as evidenced by let ters, demonstrated to hip hop fans how misinformed and ignorant about the music and cultur e Tucker actually was.174 VIBE used its editorial section to launch incendiary salvos direc ted at C. Delores Tucker, her tactics, and integrity.175 Furthermore, several months later, The Source also dedicated an entire editorial as Â“An Open Letter to C. Delores,Â” a scathing criticis m of herself and her position against hip 171 2pac, Â“Wonder Why They Call U Bitch,Â” All Eyez on Me [Disc 1] (CA: Death Row Records, 1996). He says at the end of the song: Â“Dear Ms. Delores Tucker, keep stressing me, fucking with a motherfucking mind. I figured you wanted to know...why we call them hoes bitches, and maybe this might help you understand. It ain't per sonal. Strictly business, baby. Strictly business.Â” 172 2pac, Â“Military Minds,Â” Better Dayz [Disc 2] (CA: Amaru Entertainment, 2002). This song originally appeared on an album called One Nation 173 2pac, Â“DonÂ’t Stop,Â” PacÂ’s Life (CA: Amaru Entertainment, 2006). This track does a ppear on a posthumously released album, but the point is that the song was recorded in 1996, and reflected his sentiments. 174 VIBE September 1995, vol. 3, no. 7, 93-94. 175 VIBE September 1996, vol. 4, no. 7, 55.
54 hop.176 Both magazines unleashed an arsenal of attacks on her character on the basis of several of her hypocritical and scandalous dealings: owning sl um housing in Philadelphia with histories of poor management made her a slum lord; she dishonest ly falsified her educational credentials; and it even came out she committed a serious embezz lement scandal, amounting to tens of thousands of dollars, while employed as a public wo rker for the state of Pennsylvania.177 Additionally, ScarfaceÂ’s Â“Hand of the Dead Body,Â” featuring Ice Cube, offers the best supposition of the criticsÂ’ positions against hip h op during this time, among the many available for selection. He begins with a skit demonstrating the position of people like C. Delores Tucker against hip hop: In world news today, officials decree that rapper B rad Jordan alias Scarface must be stopped. After being monitored by secret service ag ents for two years, evidence leads Tobacco and Fire Arms officials to believe that his literally dope lyrics promote drug usage and distribution, degrade women, influence ga mbling, promote and teach violence, and more importantly, its influencing our minors an d destroying our communities. Officials say heÂ’s a lord of underground rap, and h e and his music must be stopped.178 This skit excellently encapsulates many of the main attacks against rap music and its artists, giving a fairly accurate portrayal. Of course mains tream hip hop artists frequently degraded women during this period, and Scarface obfuscates s exism by pointing to racism. Even so, Scarface then proceeds to decimate such contentions about hip hop causing violence. He also pointed out double standards and confused or misinf ormed logic, and highlighted the history of racism and oppression against black Americans throu ghout American history, using lines like: Â“AmericaÂ’s always been known for blaming us niggas for they fuck ups.Â”179 Although hip hop once again successfully defended i tself against the onslaught of critical persons, organizations, and political agendas, it f ound it much harder to deal with whether rap 176 The Source February 1997, no. 89, 8. 177 The Source June 1996, no. 81, 17-18. 178 Scarface, Â“Hand of the Dead Body,Â” The Diary (Houston, TX: Rap-A-Lot Records, 1994). 179 Scarface, Â“Hand of the Dead Body,Â” The Diary (Houston, TX: Rap-A-Lot Records, 1994).
55 musicÂ’s corruption via commercialization fundamenta lly changed hip hop from its initial values to a point where it threatened its advancement, acc eptance, and legitimacy within the hip hop community. Many artists expressed these concerns in a number of songs, and the concerns over whether hip hop Â‘sold outÂ’ continued to linger in t he minds of both fans and artists. Most recognized such scrutinizing only worked effectivel y on a case-by-case basis and did not apply to the whole of the hip hop nation. Yet people coul d identify trends within the artistic community reflecting such changes, and many voiced strong opi nions on the matter. For example, at one point, an editorial in The Source expressed negative opinions over the whole Mafioso trend popularized by RaekwonÂ’s Only Built 4 Cuban LinxÂ… (1995), stating it indicated not only hip hop artists Â“trying to be white,Â” but also signaled a decline in integrity and uniqueness.180 Jeru the DamajaÂ’s Â“One Day,Â” looked at how this ram pant commercialization affected hip hop. JeruÂ’s image conveyed to the hip hop world his realness and legitimacy.181 His first album, The Sun Rises in the East (1994), established him as one of the elite reviva lists of the East CoastÂ’s lyrical supremacy,182 and his anti-commercialized stance in addition to his seemingly incorruptible values as a hip hop purest, enabled h im to garner praise and attention for his own feelings regarding the direction rap music headed. His fans awaited his second album, Wrath of the Math (1996), with serious anticipation, and he did not disappoint. Jeru confronted the modern-day issues hip hop found itself up against. He even gained a prestigious Â“Hip Hop QuotableÂ” for his lyrics in The Source ,183 while gaining decent reviews from both magazines. His track Â“One DayÂ” drew the most attention from ma gazines and fans because of how he tackled the issues concerning the state of hip hop for the present time. Like CommonÂ’s Â“I Used 180 The Source June 1996, no. 81, 8. 181 The Source November 1996, no. 86, 76-78. 182 The Source June 2006, no. 200, 58. 183 The Source November 1996, no. 86, 36.
56 to Love H.E.R.,Â”184 Jeru used an extended metaphor about hip hop to de scribe hip hop and its present move to the forefront of mainstream America n society. Unlike Common, who fixated on the corruption of his love for hip hop through gang sta rap, materialism, and commercialization, and how he hoped to bring hip hop back to (the woma n he fell in love with or) what it used to embody; Jeru instead paid particular attention to m ore precise attributes hip hop embraced. More importantly, Jeru specifically named those he felt responsible for such changes: Puff Daddy and Suge Knight, the respective independent owners of t he two most commercially successful record labels of the day, Bad Boy and Death Row. At the be ginning of the song, Jeru awakened early in the morning by a vehicle screeching off. Upon inves tigation he finds a note saying: Â“We have hip hop hostage with guns to his throat/Do the righ t thing and we might let him go/But if you call the police, thatÂ’s all she wrote/You know what the motive is, itÂ’s all about dough/And in case ya think we bullshittinÂ’ hereÂ’s the photo.Â”185 This statement related the feelings that Â‘gangsta rapÂ’ highjacked or held hip hop hostage and sold hip hop out for money or ransom, especially because the motive Â“is all about dough,Â” and symbol izing commercialism. Jeru continued on, noticing Â“Foxy Brown sipping Cri stal in the background/with fake alligator boots on/and smack dab in the middle was hip hop with a Versace suit on,Â”186 which meant artists who put fashion with high class luxur y before the music (representing the shifting of style replacing substance) endangered hip hop. A dditionally, the fake alligator boots Foxy wears symbolized the fakeness of hip hopÂ’s rampant commercialization. He then tells how he contacted DJ Premier, his producer, so they could r etrieve, or get hip hop back, by creating more real hip hop, truer to its initial values. 184 This song appears on Common, Resurrection (New York: Relativity, 1994). The song personifies hip hop as a woman who Common used to love, but now that sheÂ’s c hanged (become commercialized) he finds it difficul t to remain in love with her. He longs for her to return to the woman (hip hop) he used to love. 185 Jeru the Damaja, Â“One Day,Â” Wrath of the Math (New York: Payday/FFRR/Polygram Records, 1996). 186 Ibid.
57 Next Jeru mentions: Â“If I recall correctly I last s aw hip hop down at Bad Boy/We'll see if Puff knows whatÂ’s up/Cause heÂ’s the one getting him drunk and fucking his mind up.Â”187 He unambiguously places blame on Puff Daddy, manager t o Biggie and the owner of Bad Boy Records, the second most powerful and commercially successful independent label in hip hop, for Â“fuckingÂ” hip hopÂ’s Â“mind upÂ” by getting it dru nk on luxury, expensive alcohol, commercialism, and other undesirable effects of mai nstream commoditization. Although it is very important to notice Jeru implicates Puff Daddy he does not make any specific mention of Biggie, which meant Jeru, like many others in the h ip hop nation, still felt despite BiggieÂ’s success he still maintained his realness and credib ility as an artist. Jeru goes to Bad BoyÂ’s headquarters and beats down one of the record label staff members, specifically naming one of Puff DaddyÂ’s associates, symbolizing JeruÂ’s realnes s and asserting authority as artists over the industry workers, and forces him to divulge what ha ppened to hip hop. The record industry staff member confesses to Jeru: Â“Suge [Knight from Death Row] came and took him from Puff last night/He said heÂ’d give him up if a real nigga came to retrieve him/So we went to L.A. later that evening.Â”188 This symbolized how the independent labels in hip hop music wrestled control from the normal reco rd industry companies, but also acknowledged Death Row, thanks to help from TupacÂ’s quintuple platinum All Eyez on Me ,189 as taking the crown away from Bad Boy and Biggie as th e premier hip hop label, and placing it firmly in Death RowÂ’s hands. It also symbolized how hip hop moved from New York to Los Angeles, or the East Coast to the West Coast, as to who set the national hip hop trends. The fact 187 Jeru the Damaja, Â“One Day,Â” Wrath of the Math (New York: Payday/FFRR/Polygram Records, 1996). 188 Ibid. 189 All Eyez on Me (1996) set all kinds of trends, such as gaining th e distinction as first ever double disc album in hi p hop. Later this double album trend found others cop ying the trend, such as the East Coast powerhouses Wu-Tang Clan for its Forever (1997) double disc album, as well as his chief riv al, the Notorious B.I.G., who released his own double disc album Life After Death (1997).
58 Suge Knight refused to return hip hop safely unless a Â“real niggaÂ” came to retrieve him, speaks to Suge KnightÂ’s characterization as a gangsta reco rd executive. Suge only gives a Â“realÂ” person, either in their dedication to either hip hopÂ’s valu es, or else to street and gang life values, the ability to negotiate a safe return for hip hop. Aga in, Jeru, despite mentioning Suge Knight by name, refrains from implicating or criticizing Tupa c, presumably because, as with Biggie, many in the hip hop nation felt despite his massive comm ercial success, Tupac maintained his realness and credibility as an artist.190 Finally, Jeru accomplishes his task: Â“When we got there, everything was aight/And we brought hip hop back ho me that night.Â”191 Jeru as a Â“realÂ” artist regained control over hip hop from Suge Knight, the personification of gangsta rap musicÂ’s power. The story addressed an important conflict ex isting within hip hop, but very few actually expressed it in terms as concrete and specific as J eru the Damaja did. PeopleÂ’s perceptions of hip hopÂ’s identity fundamen tally changed as a result of the struggles caused by its shifting from a marginalize d subculture to the forefront of mainstream national culture. A few years later, Nas expressed the feelings of many in his comments on a song years later, in the following way: Â“We used to be a ghetto secret/canÂ’t make my mind up, if I want that or the whole world to peep [see] it.Â”192 Nas finds it difficult to decide whether he preferred hip hop to remain in the fringes of socie ty, so it remained true to its origins and traditional values, or if he preferred hip hop to g o so mainstream it emerged as a globally recognized culture, but knowing full-well what comp romises might result from such a shift. This clarifies the conflicting feelings the hip hop part icipants and audiences felt sandwiched between during the 1995-1998 era. 190 As previously mentioned, fellow artists such as Sc arface rapped lines reflecting this: Â“IÂ’m like Â‘Pac I make a mil[lion dollars] but I still live the thug life.Â” This line is from Scarface, Â“The White Sheet,Â” The Diary (Houston, TX: Rap-A-Lot Records, 1994). 191 Jeru the Damaja, Â“One Day,Â” Wrath of the Math (New York: Payday/FFRR/Polygram Records, 1996). 192 Nas, Â“Carry on Tradition,Â” Hip Hop Is Dead (New York: The Island Def Jam Music Group, 2006).
59 Over the ensuing years, the hip hop nation continu ed to battle with whether it compromised its values by going so mainstream and c ommercialized. Rappers and producers foresaw and speculated on these problems long befor e it reached the first point of crisis during the 1995-1998 era, but much like other genres befor e it, this problem waxed and waned without a clear resolve or solution. A host of MCs who expres sed doubts with the commercialization of the hip hop industry released songs about the issue, an d their rhymes gained perhaps more truth as hip hop went more and more mainstream in its promin ence. In one instance, MC Lyte confronted this issue by making an entire song about it.193 Guru for example rapped in 1990: Â“ItÂ’s just some hype that the companyÂ’s selling ya/cause theyÂ’ll ta ke a dud talking crud and theyÂ’ll push Â‘em/but in the next year someone new will just squish Â‘em/c ause when you sellout to appeal to the masses/you have to go back and enroll in some class es.Â”194 This quote relates to how some artists in hip hop get on because of marketing and not skil l, but due to this will undoubtedly fall off. Guru recommended when someone sells out, they shoul d go back and study the traditions and craft of hip hop in order to remain successful and true to the art. As if to encapsulate the sentiment of music fans everywhere, during a regula r feature in VIBE with Bobbito Garcia and a famous celebrity called Â“Sound Check,Â” Garcia expla ined to his guest Tony Bennett, Â“In hip hop, the more spiritually and emotionally inspired a rec ord is, the less commercially viable it becomes.Â” Tony Bennett responded to GarciaÂ’s state ment by lamenting, Â“ItÂ’s really an injustice. In my eraÂ…the excellency of the artist was first an d foremostÂ…Now, whatever is marketed becomes popular.Â”195 This summarized the opinions of many hip hop fans who felt previously in hip hop the Â“excellency of the artistÂ” came first, but now Â“whatever is marketed becomes 193 MC Lyte, Â“Kamikaze,Â” Act Like You Know (New York: First Priority/Atlantic Recording Corpo ration, 1991). 194 Gang Starr, Â“Here Today, Gone Tomorrow,Â” Step in the Arena (New York: Chrysalis Records, Inc., 1990). 195 VIBE June/July 1997, vol. 5, no. 5, 56-57.
60 popular,Â” meaning hip hopÂ’s quality underwent a dec line via mainstream commercialization. In other words, as with BennettÂ’s feelings, it represe nted Â“an injustice.Â” However, one of the best acknowledgments of this co nflict on record between hip hopÂ’s traditional roots and the mainstream came from a pr oducer rather than an MC, when in 1998 DJ Premier said: To whom it may concern, this goes out to anybody wh oÂ’s doing the bullshit straight upÂ… yÂ’all are supposed to be hip hoppers and all that, and letting the industry control the rules of the hip hop world that we made? YÂ’all need to knock that shit off. ThatÂ’s some greedy ass fake bullshit. Knock that shit off for r ealÂ…And when that shit come and slap you in the faceÂ…that greed, IÂ’ma be right there lau ghing at yÂ’allÂ…Stop doing that, yÂ’all are violating, straight up and down. Word up man, I Â’m sick of this shit, yÂ’all motherfuckers really donÂ’t know what this hip hopÂ’s all about. So while you keep on faking the funk, weÂ’re gonna keep walking through t he darkness carrying our torches.196 Premier makes a serious point to acknowledge the di stortions given to hip hop as a product of its commercialization and the negative ramifications re sulting from it. Premier used several words, such as Â“greedy ass,Â” Â“fake,Â” Â“bullshit,Â” Â“violatin g,Â” and Â“faking the funk,Â” to convey how Â“letting the industry control the rules of the hip hop worldÂ” real hip hop artists Â“madeÂ” damages the integrity, principles, rules, and values of hip hopÂ’s origins and traditions. He urged these perpetrators to stop violating hip hop by making it Â“fakeÂ” and embracing Â“greed,Â” or rampant commercialization. Regardless of PremierÂ’s warnings the battle between tradition and commercialization just went underway during 1995-98 and since then intensified, but even to this day still lacks a clear resolution. 196 Gang Starr, Â“Royalty,Â” Moment of Truth (New York: Noo Tribe/Virgin/EMI Records, 1998).
61 CHAPTER VI CONCLUSION Hip hop music and culture evolved and transformed f rom its Golden Age in the 1980s, spreading nationally, and then globally, as well as developing its identities and sounds regionally, as it expanded in power and influence. It underwent commercialization on its way toward the mainstream of American culture. Along th e way it also struggled with its own identity. In the midst of a personal rivalry turned bicoastal war by media involvement and rampant allure of increased sales through controver sy and exposure, Tupac and Biggie eventually paid the price for merging the street li fe and values of hip hop culture and music with excess commercialization, abundant materialism and heightened exposure with celebrity notoriety, and died violent deaths as a partial res ult of the mixture of this dangerous combination of lifestyles. Tupac and BiggieÂ’s careers symbolized for many peop le hip hopÂ’s movement from the periphery to the center of mainstream culture, and for many in the hip hop nation both managed the feat without jeopardizing what they stood for.197 Tupac and Biggie stood for many things, most of all the ability to retain their realness an d credibility in spite of their commercialized successes.198 Much like hip hopÂ’s rapid rise toward the mainstre am of America during 19951998, they also mirrored this incredible rise with their careers reaching toward the highest echelons of success in the music world, and only wi thin a few short years. 197 Reader Lena R. from Detroit, MI wrote: Â“[2pacÂ’s] d efinitely the Malcolm X of the 90Â’s.Â” VIBE April 1996, vol. 4, no.3, 23-28. For fans perceptions of Biggie plea se see: VIBE June/July 1997, vol. 5, no. 5, 43; and The Source April 1997, no. 91, mail section. 198 Reader Robin Johnson of Athens, CA wrote: Â“[2pacÂ’s ] definitively the epitome of true: H.A.R.D.C.O.R.E (Hip Hop Artists Representing Diversity Creativity Origi nality Reality Eternity)Â” VIBE April 1996, vol. 4, no.3, 23-28. For Biggie please see: VIBE May 1997, vol. 5, no. 4, 45-50. Also, almost a de cade later, an article wrote about Biggie, Â“His death combined with his brilliant arti stry, propelled [him] to the front of popular cultu reÂ’s consciousness,Â” in Ed. Joshua Â“FahiymÂ” Ratcliffe, The Source (New York: Source Publications, Inc.), June 2006, n o. 200, 61.
62 Throughout the 1990s, Tupac and Biggie remained tru e to hip hopÂ’s values and aesthetic sensibilities, maintained and respected tenants of ghetto lifestyles and gang cultures, all while outselling nearly every other artist in music, and, in TupacÂ’s case, starring in Hollywood movies. They rose from relative obscurity in the beginnings of their careers to eventually providing the dominant embodiment and personification of realness and aesthetic quality in hip hop music, and soon found worldwide recognition. As hip hop develo ped regional styles and identities, by early 1996 Tupac and Biggie exemplified their respective Coastal affiliations, West and East. As much success as they experienced, they, like hip hop, li kewise struggled at times to grapple with the conflict between hip hop principles and their stree t values, in attempting to balance this with their mainstream successes. In lieu of their inextr icable connections with the advancement and shift in hip hop from the periphery to mainstream s ociety, Adam Bradley accordingly wrote: Â“Any discussion of rap in the 1990s begins with 2pa c and Biggie.Â”199 Ultimately, their deaths triggered not only the end of the East Coast/West C oast war or rivalry for hip hop supremacy, but also signaled the start of the end for a pivota l era in hip hopÂ’s development. Many at the time held the East vs. West tensions am plified by national media involvement responsible or contributive to Tupac an d BiggieÂ’s deaths. With such commercial prominence and national exposure, their deaths Â“wer e fueled by an atmosphere that pitted East Coast against West Coast in a battle about style an d substance.Â”200 An article appearing in The Source shortly after BiggieÂ’s death attempted to answer t he blame for the death of rapÂ’s greatest superstars. Â“WhoÂ’s to blame for this East/West schi sm? Primary level: CapitalismÂ–itÂ’s that mentality that causes the worship of the dollar at all other expense. Secondary level: Radio stations, video outlets and all other media (mainst ream and otherwise)Â–we, albeit unknowingly at 199 Ed. Adam Bradley, and Andrew DuBois. The Anthology of Rap (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2010), 326. 200 Ed. Adam Bradley, and Andrew DuBois. The Anthology of Rap (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2010), 325.
63 timesÂ–add sticks to this nasty mess with limited pl aylists, stratified programming and segregated views. Tertiary level: Everyone else,Â” wrote the ar ticle, partially taking blame for the waste of life and for overhyping this bicoastal war. Â“Black AmericaÂ’s cry for power, as reflected through the braggadocios swagger of hip-hop, has mixed with the worship of the almighty dollar to form a volatile Molotov cocktail.Â”201 Unable to escape the influence of mainstream comme rcialism, as well as their own realness and loyalty to both hip hopÂ’s principles and their Â‘street values and gang cultures,Â’ Tupac and Biggie succumbed to this deadly combination of ingredients. The deaths of hip hopÂ’s greatest stars signaled the beg inning of the end for this era in hip hopÂ’s history. 1998 marked the end of one era in hip hopÂ’s history and the beginning of another, one which embraced a rampant commercialism, excess mate rialism, and frivolous consumption, later simply called Â“the Bling BlingÂ” era.202 Scholar Jeffrey Ogbar recognized: Â“By 1998 hip-hop records outsold every other genre of music in the U nited States. From cinema, clothing lines, magazines, and American vernacular, hip-hopÂ’s influ enceÂ… made an indelible mark in popular culture.Â”203 Dethroning the reign of the East and West Coasts, the South suddenly emerged as the newest, most profitable, and most dominant region a nd format for hip hop music. Â“At the end of the decade, songs by southern MCs accounted for bet ween 30 and 40 percent of hit singles on the hip-hop charts. By the early 2000s, that number was close to 60 percent. The Dirty SouthÂ…was supreme,Â”204 wrote Adam Bradley about the SouthÂ’s rise to domin ance in hip hop and its ramifications. 201 The Source January 1997, no. 88, 80-81. 202 The Source June 2006, no. 200, 63. 203 Jeffrey O.G. Ogbar, Hip-Hop Revolution: The Culture and Politics of Rap (Kansas: The University Press of Kansas, 2007), 38. 204 Ed. Adam Bradley, and Andrew DuBois. The Anthology of Rap (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2010), 331.
64 One article coming to terms with the meaning of the se changes in the mainstream commodification of hip hop culture for its future w rote: Â“What this means, friends, Romans and countrymen, is that our beloved hip hop has fully e ntered the zone of commodified cultureÂ…Final analysis: the marriage of hip hop and capitalist/corporate dictates is here to stay. Get used to it, learn to use it. DonÂ’t abuse it.Â”205 Adam Bradley added: Â“In the 1990s hip-hop went mainstream, shaping American culture even as h ip-hop was still shaping itselfÂ….The 1990s now stand as perhaps the most important decade in h ip-hop for the ways it made use of the past and predicted the future.Â”206 From 1995-1998, riding the wave of increasing globa lization, incredible American economic growth, and the explosion of internet and computer technologies to national and international prominence in mainstream society, hip hop music and cultureÂ’s growth and prevalence as it spread across the nation and the g lobe marked its rise from periphery of society to mainstream and worldwide commercialization. Duri ng this time, hip hop also developed distinctive regional sounds, styles, and identities namely in the West Coast and the South, which challenged New YorkÂ’s hegemony, trend setting, and dominance over the culture and its music. Furthermore, hip hop experienced rampant mainstream commoditization, and widespread cooptation by corporate interests. Thus, during 199 5-1998, because of the crystallization of hip hop culture in corporate and mainstream American so ciety, the hip hop nation struggled to maintain its realness and trueness to its tradition al identities and foundational values in the face of cooptation and assimilation from mainstream and corporate America. By the end of the decade, hip hop manifested itself as both a multibi llion dollar industry, and as the nationÂ’s 205 The Source January 1997, no. 88, 98-100. 206 Ed. Adam Bradley, and Andrew DuBois. The Anthology of Rap (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2010), 325, 332.
65 number one selling musical genre,207 highlighting an important shift toward a new era i n hip hopÂ’s ongoing development. 207 Jeffrey O.G. Ogbar, Hip-Hop Revolution: The Culture and Politics of Rap (Kansas: The University Press of Kansas, 2007), 4-5. In 1996 hip hop experienced its first billion-dollar year, and in 1998 it outsold every other genre of music for the first time. Due to these and other considerations in hip hopÂ’s development before the year 2000 led Ogbar to proclaim, Â“[Hip hopÂ’s] impact is unquestio nable.Â”
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