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Branded Hate: Is Hip-Hop Content A Message of Life Or Death?
By: Emory Brown
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Once upon a time there was a culture called Hip-Hop. It was vibrant, exciting, and breathed life into the masses of youngsters across America and the world as it broke down barriers and opened doors to the paths of success for many artists from the days of Funk Master Flash to the antics of Kanye West. Hip-Hop has served as a vehicle of opportunity for brands and artists alike, creating revolutions in sales like Jay-Z’s deal with Reebok, which made him as famous as Michael Jordan in the realm of sneakers, to Hip-Hop executives like Steve Stoute creating specialty ad agencies like his shop Translation, which does work for Wrigley, Sprite, and other brands to get them into the heart of urban culture.
Despite all of its glory and business success, today Hip-Hop seems to be taking an ugly twist towards the dark side again. As we listen to the radio, there seems to be a resurgence of the celebration of “Hate” in the way that brought about the untimely demise of Biggie and Tupac, with new artists like Chief Keef creating music like his infamous song “Bang Bang,” which has led to beefing between camps and rampant gun violence in the city of Chicago and in some cases entire south-side neighborhoods. This revokes Chief Keef’s hood pass and is a very lethal message for Chief Keef and his crew.

As a result of music that we all know is branded “Hate,” several hate-driven incidents have occurred in Hip-Hop culture due to his entrance, ending with the death of 18-year old rapper Lil Jo Jo, whose murder is being linked to the release of a song about Chief Keef and his #300 crew. Now Chief Keef’s label Interscope is considering canceling his recording deal altogether. Is this a sign that Hip-Hop is on its deathbed? It’s looking like it, considering that when WGN Chicago interviewed former Windy City rapper Ryhmefest, who just recently ran for alderman, he told reporters that he “was called a hater for speaking out against gun violence." Something is really wrong! When did someone become a hater for speaking up for life? Are we watching gangster music totally dominate a culture that once celebrated the diverse voices of urban youth and force it into a monotone of “Hate” music and content?
Bearing all this in mind, the real question is for those of us that are in the business of creating and branding Hip-Hop content is: Are we branding life or death? 

If you look at the shows like VH1’s “Love & Hip-Hop,” we are witnessing producer Steve J as he is glorified for manipulating his child’s mother and a young woman who’s signed to a recording deal with him. During one episode in the season, he had a counseling session with his live-in girlfriend, a.k.a. baby mama, and the young lady whose album he was producing. At the time she was also pregnant, and he literally basked in the glory of the moment. Then things turned violent when the mother of his child announced that she currently lived with him to the other young lady, who was the beginning stages of her pregnancy. There’s no need to say “It went down!” Fists flew, there was screaming, and 6 foot 2 and larger intercessors filled the room immediately. The expectant mother was humiliated in a matter of seconds on national TV.  

Just think: there are millions of people tuning into this weekly, but even sadder is that the children and young adults that watch these shows are learning behaviors that are being directly tied to levels of success...which isn’t always the case. These shows don’t promote family and unity, they promote unstable relationships and discord. Can there be a constant flow of content that celebrates the good side of Hip-Hop? Can we get more Run’s House content from Hip-Hop? Rev. Run's kids and family are perfectly normal and Uncle Russell Simmons, who we know is notorious, can deliver “Boss Talk” in the most elegant hood fashion and is chill on camera. So what are we branding: Hip-Hop’s life or Hip-Hop’s death? It’s hard to tell sometimes because the negative seems to be the basis for creating headlines and sales. 

Moreover, it is a message of celebrating the things that destroy life in communities and families. We have to call it what it is…an imbalance in the creation and promotion of content that is socially conscious from a Hip-Hop perspective.

What happened to the days of Public Enemy? Where are the Heavy Ds of the world? Where are the MC Hammers? Has the Hip-Hop brand become a disproportionate view of urban life? Let's be real. It has and it will continue to be until we, the listeners and creators, make sure there is a broader look at the culture and the life we call Hip-Hop, because the way it looks now, it seems like some big decision makers and content producers are sentencing Hip-Hop to death. There’s too much life in Hip-Hop for that. 


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About the Author
Emory Brown is an award-winning creative director/writer whose mission is to spread the gospel of what great marketers can do when they put their heads together and work together for the greater good and not the bottom line. Working with many esteemed clients, his portfolio of work ranges in genre from conservative to ultra-modern including American Family Insurance, United Airlines, Mazda 6 and RX-8, Illinois Lottery, Tyson, Miller Genuine Draft, Nike Air Force 1, and Mercedes Benz, to name a few.  
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