As we enter the holiday season, I look forward to spending quality time with family and friends. I am one of those people who light up when exchanging gifts and holiday cheers. I also love the symbolic moments for togetherness, spiritual reflection and thankfulness. However, when some stores started playing Christmas music in October, I couldn’t help but think of how I was being primed for the holiday spirit of spending.
In every aspect of our lives we are being marketed to. Although this is an unavoidable aspect of our society, as consumers we hold the power to choose where we spend our dollars. The marketing of products extends to such innocuous things such as TV shows and music.
We are living in a hip hop culture that has come a long way from it’s subcultural roots. There was a time when the genre couldn’t get mainstream/corporate attention and now record sales are “secondary, even tertiary revenue streams” to product endorsement deals and other entrepreneurial ventures. In the same way that the holidays have become increasingly commercialized, so has the culture to some extent. It was Charlie Stettler who was able to get the first corporate sponsorship for a hip hop related event from Coca Cola in 1983. This event opened the door for companies like Adidas, Sprite and similar brands to follow suit which has contributed to the increase in wealth for many hip hop artists.
“I’m not a businessman, I’m a business, man.”- Jay Z
What does this mean for the hip hop generation?
In the early days when hip hop was still a counter culture, artist had to hustle to get their music out to the general public. Because hip hop was not played on mainstream airwaves, artist would sell their tapes out of the truck of their cars and amass street teams to promote associated events. The artists’ success rested on whether or not they had skills – it was the people who decided who rose to the top by supporting the artform with their dollars. Had it not been for the support and strength of the people who embraced this new artform, hip hop could not be where it is today.
Today hip hop artists are marketing powerhouses for clothing, liquor, cars and other lifestyle accoutrements. This corporatization isn’t necessarily a bad thing according to Dan Charnas the author of The Big Payback , he believes we are witnessing a “generation of African-Americans carving out their own economic space in corporate America.” However, Munson Steed, founder of Rolling Out, cautions that “the new hip-hop generation should spend their money with businesses that reciprocate resources to their communities.”
As we witness the cultural evolution of conscious consumption. We are more mindful of the circulation of black dollar and supporting small businesses. As we shop during the holiday season, think about how you can support local artists such as MUCE’s presenting artists Erica Appleby , Greg Beebe and Art Africa Miami and small black businesses listed at South Florida Black Business Directory. Our culture has become one where we are constantly bombarded with what we should buy, but by being intentional about how we spend our dollars as in the early days of hip hop; we will create a new paradigm of economic empowerment that is geared towards the promotion of artistic endeavors and small businesses.
Written by: Natasha Wright – Festival Admin.