The Impact of the Commercialism of Hip-Hop - Essay Sample

Published: 2021-08-15 08:08:38
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University of Richmond
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Research paper
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The commercialism of hip-hop music has had various effects. Commercialism mainly stresses on the maximization of profits. Hip-hop is a music genre that was invented by African-Americans in New York in early 1970s (Candelaria & Kingman, 2014). It is a rhythmic form of music that is usually accompanied by a chanted rhythmic speech that is referred to as rap. Although hip-hop is mainly used to describe a music genre, it also includes other related elements such as DJing, break-dancing and graffiti art. Hip-hop began as an artistic expression of the experience of minorities especially the young African-Americans and Latinos experience in the inner New York (Robinson, 2011). The music genre was an expression of their hopelessness and their poverty. The music then evolved into a sub-culture which then evolved into a huge industry which has had a key influence on the culture of the United States. According to Robinson (2011), hip-hop began as a pastiche of other popular music. DJs used an innovative process known as sampling to develop the genre. The hoops of popular disco songs were played and looped by the DJs in order to create a continuous track. In that period, the hooks were the most popular parts of songs and people in discos waited for those parts in order to dance, and this forced the DJs to cut out the other parts of the music. It is this sampling that leads to the development of a new sound and established a new music style. Although the emphasis on profits in the hip-hop industry has been viewed as progressive, it has had some impact.

Due to the commercialism of the genre, hip-hop music has turned from communicating social messages to highlighting an artist's visual appeal. When hip-hop was being founded, it was used by talented artists as a form of expressing the social oppression of African-Americans. The talent of the artists, the lyrics of the songs and social messages in the music was very important. Artists comprehended and supported the social message that they passed through the music. However, todays hip-hop artists main aim is to sell their records. They have had to pass messages which they may not believe in since their only goal is to increase their popularity in order to raise their earnings (Robinson, 2011). Hip-hop has been used to represent a rebellious, creative outlook in which black youth can release their aggression. In so doing, they seem to concentrate more on attracting attention than communicating the intended social messages.

Hip-hop music is no longer an avenue for expressing oneself. As an art, the genre previously enabled African-Americans to express their emotions in order to bring positive change and understanding for people who needed solutions to challenges they encountered in their day-to-day lives (Candelaria & Kingman, 2014). Through music, poetry, and dance, hip-hop brought awareness on key aspects of the lives of African-Americans such as education, poverty, drug abuse and racism. However, due to the commercialism, the artists who come from diverse backgrounds are mainly interested in getting a share of the huge revenue available in the industry (Candelaria & Kingman, 2014). Most of these new rappers do not comprehend the diverse issues facing the African-Americans in the United States. Thus, hip-hop is no longer the voice of the oppressed African-Americans. Its commercialism has shifted the genre from a form of self-expression to a money-making capitalist entity.

Consequently, commercialism has turned hip-hop music into a business that is focused specifically on capital gains. With the music having been made to reach a wider audience, ranging from adults to children, the hip-hop music has effectively been used in marketing products to large audiences. (Johnson II, 2011). The first endorsement deal between hip-hop artists and a non-music corporation can be traced back to 1986 when Run-D.M.C. signed $1.5 million deal with Adidas (Mellery-Pratt, 2014). Since then, the industry has become one of the most lucrative entertainment entities in the United States. The hip-hop industry has become one of the largest marketing tools in the entertainment industry. This research paper analyzes how the commercialism of hip-hop has affected the music and the sub-culture. Many corporations have had to use hip-hop to increase their credibility among the African-Americans. Corporations such as Nike, T-Mobile, and General Motor have sponsored key hip-hop events due to the belief that the field has evolved into a genre that is acceptable to the mainstream audience across the world. In order for artists to appease the corporations, they have had to develop lyrics or video in a manner that promotes the products of the corporation (Robinson, 2011). For example, when Nike went for an alliance with Missy Elliott about a new line of shoes named "Respect Me Collection," Missy Elliott had to exclusively use the shoes in her music videos (Candelaria & Kingman, 2014). It is such deals and focuses that have led rappers to target specific audiences. For example, Soulja Boy Tell Em has targeted teenagers with very simple lyrics as well as catchy choruses. The people who enjoyed the original hip-hop are very critical of these changes that have made the contemporary hip-hop music too commercial.

Also, in order to appeal to a wide range of audience, the theme of hip-hop music has shifted significantly. The lyrics have drastically shifted from political, cultural and social issues to the promotion of hyper-masculinity and hyper-violence. Initially, hip-hop provided an avenue for African-Americans to express how they were the victims of the American system (Candelaria & Kingman, 2014). This has shifted to Gangster Rap which glorifies women as sexual objects and also promotes violence (Johnson II, 2011). Today, most hip-hop videos consist of lavish parties with women clad in sexually-inappropriate clothing and money being thrown around. The videos have no other cultural or social significance rather than entertainment. As such, the commercialism of hip-hop has considerably changed the original intention of the music.

On the other hand, the commercialism of hip-hop has made it possible for musicians and artists to earn a living through the industry. Artists like P Diddy and Jay Z have made hundreds of millions of dollars due to this commercialism. These individuals have demonstrated that there is more to hip-hop rather than making music. These individuals have created their empires through record labels, clothing lines, endorsements and selling millions of music records (Johnson II, 2011). Although clothing lines are not related directly to music, they are a vital part of the hip-hop culture. This has motivated the key artists in hip-hop to develop their clothing lines such as Jay-Z's Rocawear, P Diddy's Sean John, and 50 Cent's G-Unit. But it is not only the musicians that are earning money from the industry. The development of the industry has provided an opportunity for magazines and websites focusing on the hip-hop culture. Magazines such as XXL and Vibe have benefitted immensely from hip-hop, and they provide employment opportunities for writers and photographers.

The commercialism of hip-hop has also opened new opportunities for hip-hop artists to act in Hollywood. Hip-hop has become attractive to all audiences across the United States, and this makes the movies involving hip-hop artistes more appealing (Robinson, 2011). Since 1990's hip-hop artiste have played key roles in Hollywood movies. Hollywood has been using their fame to increase the popularity of their movies leading to increased ticket sales. One of the greatest rappers ever, Tupac Shakur, was among the earliest actors with a background in hip-hop. Other major rappers who have thrived in the Hollywood include Ludacris, Will Smith, and Ice Cube. These individuals have starred in major blockbusters.

In conclusion, it is clear that the commercialism of hip-hop music has had both positive and negative effects. Although hip-hop began as a form of artistic expression for African-Americans against the social injustices they faced, it evolved into a subculture which addressed the key issues affecting the blacks such as racism and drug abuse. However, as it progressed into a subculture, corporations in the United States saw it as an opportunity to reach the blacks. Corporations such as Adidas endorsed some artists in an effort to make the brand accepted among the African-Americans. With endorsement from corporations, the artists realized the high potential of the hip-hop culture. This made the industry to shift from being the voice of African-American to developing content that would be acceptable to a wider audience. Thus, hip-hop has adopted lyrics that promote violence, drug abuse and objectify women as sexual objects. Todays hip-hop videos are filled with scantly-dressed women, lavish parties, people abusing drugs and people throwing money around. Nevertheless, the commercialism of the industry ensures that individuals can make a living with their talent. These individuals include the artists and employees in media organization that focus on the subculture. As a result, the commercialism of hip-hop has reached an extent that is difficult to be stopped. There is a need for hip-hop artists to incorporate lyrics that are appropriate to all individuals without demeaning any gender. Artists should not only focus on the creation of catchy' video, but they should also ensure their videos have concepts that address the day-to-day issues. Therefore, it is necessary to control the commercialism of hip-hop so as to avoid the decline or the extinction of the subculture.


Buckingham, D. (2008). Youth, identity, and digital media. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press.

Candelaria, L., & Kingman, D. (2014). American music: a panorama, concise. Cengage Learning.

Johnson II, M. (2011). A historical analysis: the evolution of commercial rap music (Masters). Florida State University.

Mellery-Pratt, R. (2014). Run-D.M.C.'s 'My Adidas' and the birth of hip-hop sneaker culture. The business of fashion. Retrieved 30 November 2017, from

Robinson, C. (2011). The effects of commercialism on the perception of hip-hop culture and black culture in mainstream culture in the United States (Undergraduate). University of Denver.

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