The rise and rise of hip-hop. But since when did music become such a cynical exercise in product placement. Back when Cypress Hill ‘Don’t mess with the big four-o, bro’ there was still a healthy counter-culture element – I guess that’s a measure of success, even if the affiliation with weed became something of a gimmick in its own right. Brands like Hennessey and Cristal were content to bask in the reflected glory of Gangsta affiliation but others were more ‘forward-looking’, seeing the potential in an ever more crowded market place. Hip-hop, like soccer has cultivated the pervasive aroma of success – like boxing used to be, they’re seen as a ladder to success for poor, largely black youth – which in retrospect is as remarkable as it is predictable.
In the days of Public Enemy and NWA hip-hop played to a radical, Black audience; down on ‘the man’ and big on self-aggrandisement. Now many of those artists are ‘the man’: see how Ice Cube, Ice T and Snoop Dogg have crossed over, become practically family viewing. Cypress and Beastie Boys paved the way:
Real music lovers love authenticity, feed off sincerity and can’t help but be drawn to an original voice. That’s why Hip hop became the mainstream success that it is. When I saw PE play Brighton seven years ago they played to an audience that was 90% white and mostly middle-class: their once-radical words had transcended race, class and nationality and become emblematic and all-embracing. Dre didn’t set out to be a pop star but he understood the pop mentality and in acts like Snoop Dogg and Eminem he hit the big time.‘Puffy’ could easily be read as a cultural vulture, but hats off to him for being culturally aware.
C’est la vie – lets congratulate the victors on their victory and look elsewhere if ‘radical’ is your bag. British pop is indubitably the richer for taking on board the influences of American Hip Hop and R’n’B: see ‘Brit Hop Hooray’
Here’s a couple more Hip-Hop classics, enjoy: