Home Entertainment Will Hip Hop Die If We Don’t Purchase “Good” Music?

Will Hip Hop Die If We Don’t Purchase “Good” Music?

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Nas released a gem last week. If you like rap music and you haven’t heard it by now, I would recommend you do so at your earliest convenience. It’s been a while since we’ve heard this type of rap music and it has been missed. A few of my frat brothers and me started to discuss if the album could be considered a classic when someone interjected with, “Just make sure you buy the album if you think it’s great.” Well, damn. That’s a hell of a way to dead a conversation about whether the album deserves five mics or not. It raises a great point about the current state of hip hop though. Never before has there been more of a push to get people to start buying music again.

My frat brother raised a few excellent points in his plea:

  • The industry can’t survive if people don’t purchase the album.
  • The amounts of albums that get sold have a tremendous impact on what is considered mainstream hip hop. In turn, album sales have a significant impact on where the industry will spend resources.
  • The culture of hip hop that Nas represents needs to be preserved.

I’ll address these points before moving on to my feelings and asking for your thoughts and commentary.

1.      The music industry will have to adapt to a changing environment.

Their artists have, but the record label executives seem reluctant to catch on. They’re essentially faithful employees at a failing corporation. Meanwhile, their CEO (The Artist) is selling all his stocks for whatever he can get because he knows the company is going to fail.

2.      Believing that album sales are driving the industry is a slippery slope.

On one hand, you have artists who maintain mainstream status by only producing mixtapes. Rick Ross is at the forefront of mainstream hip hop and he’s never had an album that got any further than gold. There’s a valid argument that the radio DJs can control the definition of mainstream hip hop. This in turn means that the music that the masses want to hear is really what’s driving hip hop and we’re just losing our connection with that massive. On the other hand, the big winners are selling records and gaining exposure for it too. Drake, Lil’ Wayne and Nicki Minaj are all going platinum in their album sales and because of it they gain a lot of radio play, endorsements and other forms of revenue.

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3.      This is how I feel about people who believe that the Nas era of hip hop must be preserved at all costs.

The Architect: You are here because Zion is about to be destroyed. Its every living inhabitant terminated, its entire existence eradicated.

Neo: Bullsh*t.

[the monitors respond the same]

The Architect: Denial is the most predictable of all human responses. But, rest assured, this will be the sixth time we have destroyed it, and we have become exceedingly efficient at it.

I’m unable to understand the obsession with keeping artists like Nas at the forefront of mainstream hip hop. There was a time when Def Jam decided that much of the hip hop that was already being produced and given away for free could be capitalized upon. We  changed hip hop then. There was another time when gangsta rap ruled the airwaves, we changed hip hop again. Then there was a time when artists like Jay-Z and Nas reigned supreme, the truth of the matter is, hip hop has now changed again. Hip hop has been through so many iterations over the years we can’t even give it a finite definition. It’s more like your first elementary school speech in front of the class, “What Hip Hop Means To Me.” When I see what has happened to hip hop these days, all I can say to myself is, “if that’s what people want to hear, then that’s the new hip hop.” I’ve got to make choice if I want to listen or not.

“This for my trapped in the 90′s n*ggas .” – Nas in Loco-Motive on Life is Good.

Interesting point, Nas.

“You have to adjust to the environment, it’s cold outside, and everybody’s standing outside in bathing suits. I’m not going to stand outside in my bathing suit. I’m going to adapt to the situation. If I’m not getting my money from records, then we’re going to get our money from shows, appearances, endorsements, building other brands, television shows…” – Diddy.

Excellent point, Diddy.

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Let’s bring this back to the issue of purchasing music. There are three main reasons why I find it to be problematic.

1. Music is the only thing that we’re asked to pay for that is readily available for free.

Nobody buys something that you can get for free. That’s almost like going to an open bar and being the odd ball who pays for his drinks. You know what type of person does that? The self-pretentious jerks who think nightlife is more of a statement than recreation.

2. The prices of concert tickets are now absurd.

I’m a guy who really appreciates live music. I went to see Lil’ Wayne’s last concert tour four times. Those tickets were well over $100 each time. He got a nice piece of change out of me. As a consumer, i’ve given Lil’ Wayne ALL the money he’s going to get from me. What’s baffling to me is the people who buy My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy and Watch The Throne, because it’s good music. Then, they go see the Watch The Throne tour and Kanye West at MSG for $150 a ticket. In the end they’ve paid $340 to Kanye, who won’t put a dime in their pocket.

Ask them how much money they’ll donate to Obama in 2012?

3. The inconsistency in the request for someone to purchase music is absurd.

I’m asked to purchase Nas and Frank Ocean’s album because it’s good. However, nobody cares if you download Drake or MMG’s album illegally because it’s trash. Well, what if I thought Frank Ocean’s album was trash and I really liked ignorant music? Am I allowed to get mad at someone who disagrees with me and accuse them of ruining hip hop? It’s confusing.

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In all of this, I really don’t care if someone buys an album or downloads it for free. I’m glad people are listening to Nas’s album, a great one only comes around every ten years. We need to appreciate this. I think it’s tragic that we want to hold onto to Nas, but artists like Big KRIT and Kendrick Lamar have absolutely no chance at a gold album. If you haven’t checked those guys out, that’s hip hop today. That’s not a bunch of music that’s only played in the club and strip clubs, it’s good music. I bet you nobody buys those albums and I also bet you that nobody gives a damn. If you’re in the industry of hip hop, I completely understand why you want people to buy the music. If you’re not and you want to buy the music that’s great, we need more people like you. However, when you buy it don’t send an email out about how your bought the album, or twitpic your iTunes receipt, just buy it. Otherwise, let’s call a spade a spade, people like that who still buy music in 2012 are merely just exhibiting a humble brag.

#KanyeShrug

What are y’all thoughts on buying music and hip hop’s changing climate in general? Does the consumer need to preserve the old business model of hip hop or is a decision that the industry needs to make for itself? Feel free to comment on Nas’s album too, I’m sure we all have thoughts.

– Dr. J

Admin Note:  Just a heads up that the next SBM NYC event is scheduled for Friday, July 27th at Empire Room in Manhattan. More details to come later this week. No, this is not the same type of self-promotion as discussed in this post!

 

Comment(32)

  1. "In the end they’ve paid $340 to Kanye, who won’t put a dime in their pocket."

    Best statement of the whole post. I couldn't agree more about #1 tho. Pay for somethin that's free? Where they do that at? Next they gon try to tell me we should pay for sex…with commitment 😛 i kid i kid

    1. "Next they gon try to tell me we should pay for sex…with commitment" Justme you do pay for it, just not monetarily.

    2. Am I the only person who sees something wrong in point #2? If you spent $100 on 4 concert tickets = $400 which is >340…. Did I misread that paragraph? You spent more money on basically the same concert-going experience.

  2. i totally co-sign!! "As a consumer, i’ve given Lil’ Wayne ALL the money he’s going to get from me.".. Until we meet again…..

  3. I haven't heard NAS album in its entirety, but I will be making a purchase on iTunes today. I think for people who grew up listening to NAS and Jay-Z will always give them their due diligence as being two of the dopest MC's ever. I must concur though that guys like Kendrick Lamar and Big Krit are the new age of hip-hop. If you haven't heard of them, I will highly suggest you listen to "K.R.I.T. Wuz Here," "Return of 4Eva" and "Ever Heard of Section 80." Definitely classics from Big Krit and Kendrick Lamar.
    You made a good reference to the comment made by P. Diddy. For any business to survive you have to adapt to the environment or you will perish.

    1. Idk im just not a KRIT guy, i like returnof4eva but everything since is just meh to me. I rocks with Kendrick tho

  4. It isnt about the quality of music anymore its about the brands and fan bases. People arent buying the album because they can't otherwise access it (DELUXE edition albums are leaking weeks in a advance) but because they want to support their imaginary husbands/hold it down for the set they not really in…Taylor Gang or Die.

    Prime example, Nicki's last LP was gah-bahj but still went gold because her fan base felt some type of way about Funk flexing on her. They aren't buying a wack album they are simply down the cause. There are some people who dont believe in stealing music but otherwise only people buying albums these days are stans, the labels themselves and other artists.

    As for "Life is Good", excellent. Theres a little something for everyone on the album, old school hip hop heads to the basic fan who just need a banging beat and a hook that doesnt go over their head. Although most of the features i could've done without (Mary, Miguel, the late Amy Whinehouse)

      1. im not talking about her first LP that went platinum, the second one didn't go gold until the whole summer jam beef

  5. Big KRIT's 4EVANADAY is probably the best thing that I've heard all year and he gave that away for free.
    I haven't heard much from other artist's that begs for me to even contribute 99cents to a single. Let's be real here, when I hear variation and something different I might concede to plunking down dollars for a digital download, but half these rappers use the same damn drum kit and synth riffs with a different elementary school chorus. I'm not supporting that. I've given many of my after school paychecks to The Wiz, Tower Records and Circuit City (I'm showing my age considering none of those are in DC anymore) and I think that's enough.

    They shoulda never shown me how Napster worked…

    1. even bootleggers were making too much money off me $5 for an album they made for free….i got a computer for christmas and it was a wrap

  6. I don't really listen to rap like that anymore…but this post made me want to buy the album (showing my age) actually, lol. I believe in supporting good music as a principle. I think your friend has a point…money speaks. But, I also agree with you…its not that simple. I listened to the snippets…it really does sound official.

    And finally, that Nas is a fine somebody. He's gonna be a fine old man, lol. MmmMmm! And his image (dress, etc.) is still hiphop but on that grown man level…no skinny jeans, lol. That guy…woo child!

  7. I love Nas. I'll definitely cop it just cause it's him. I don't listen to much rap myself cause it all sounds so commercialized & "trending."
    I like that Thinkin Bout You Frank Ocean song. I would buy the single cd of it, (do they still even make those)? lol Sad thing is some folks that know Frank's music is good won't buy it because he's gay and they don't want to support someone gay; particularly the "church folks."
    Definitely people should support music and actually buy it. But as u said Doc J they won't because it's free.
    Generations have changed and what youngins now like has changed. I think this is a big part of the reason why the hip-hop us "ole skool" folks know and love has changed and just isn't trending anymore like it was. We the fans are the only ones who can preserve "the old business model of hip hop." When we no longer support and go to shows and buy the new stuff and keep it alive then hip hop as we, ie 30 and up people know it will surely die out and be replaced with the new; ie Nicki M's, Drakes, Weezy's etc etc etc.

  8. Sidebar question: Did I just see SBM's Mr. Spradley on a Huffington Post interview with Trayvon Martin's lawyer?

    I can't keep up with y'all anymore, lol…doing big thangs, lol…

  9. I'm bias on this subject, as an indie artist. The site keeps timing out when I try to upload my more in-depth comment, so I'll ask a couple questions:

    1.) Why was music worth money in the past? Why is music no longer worth your money?
    2.) How can artists create without funding of some sort? How can an industry continue to exist without income?

    This conversation is being had by many in the industry, on every level, and very frequently and vehemently. I appreciate the discussion, though I don't think we're that close to a solution yet.

    1. 1. Because it was harder to get music for free back in the day
      2. Artists can create music even if they don't sell as much e.g. endorsements, films, clothing lines blah blah blah… u get my point?

      I see it like this I would love to buy music but financially its not viable right now its like £1.29 (in the UK) for a song and my iTunes library is over 2500 songs so £2500 on people who will NEVER pay me back uh-uh no way.But I must admit about 300 of those songs were bought because I wanted to do the right thing then I saw my bank balance…

  10. I've been a big proponent of "buy music" for years now. That isn't to say that I don't do the occasional d/l to see if I may like something but its rare. I like a wide spectrum of rap, some of what folks want to pull out their ass and call "real" hip hop to straight up tomfoolery like OJ da Juiceman.

    If I like it I will buy it. I have just about split the number of physical copies and digital the past year though. The sales on Amazon MP3 and Google Music make it too easy to pass up. I mean who doesn't want 3-5 dollar albums a month after they are released?
    My recent post Murci, Murci Me

  11. "I’m unable to understand the obsession with keeping artists like Nas at the forefront of mainstream hip hop. There was a time when Def Jam decided that much of the hip hop that was already being produced and given away for free could be capitalized upon. We changed hip hop then. There was another time when gangsta rap ruled the airwaves, we changed hip hop again. Then there was a time when artists like Jay-Z and Nas reigned supreme, the truth of the matter is, hip hop has now changed again…"

    These are two main points expressed in this article, First point…any business must adapt to survive – agreed. Second point (specific to this excerpt) is this "adaption" has now made today's trash GOOD music – disagree. There is a difference between adapting to survive and quality of content. More to the point I personally believe there is a difference between Rap and Hip Hop. I'll give you an extreme example, Blueprint 3 = Rap, 808 & Heartbreaks = Hip Hop. I know there are several flavors of Rap (I.e. progressive, gangsta, etc). LIG represents most. I think this balance represents the era of RAP at it's full maturity (giving a realistic depection of life in Americas ghettos as well as provokes thought, over a beat that doesn't ). As such rap hasn't changed much but hip hop is ever changing. Sjavascript: postComment(0);o the obsession is to keep garbage like Drake from depicted as the Good "Rap." And yes that Kendrick Lamar is dope!

  12. "I’m unable to understand the obsession with keeping artists like Nas at the forefront of mainstream hip hop. There was a time when Def Jam decided that much of the hip hop that was already being produced and given away for free could be capitalized upon. We changed hip hop then. There was another time when gangsta rap ruled the airwaves, we changed hip hop again. Then there was a time when artists like Jay-Z and Nas reigned supreme, the truth of the matter is, hip hop has now changed again…"

    These are two main points expressed in this article, First point…any business must adapt to survive – agreed. Second point (specific to this excerpt) is this "adaption" has now made today's trash GOOD music – disagree. There is a difference between adapting to survive and quality of content. More to the point I personally believe there is a difference between Rap and Hip Hop. I'll give you an extreme example, Blueprint 3 = Rap, 808 & Heartbreaks = Hip Hop. I know there are several flavors of Rap (I.e. progressive, gangsta, etc). LIG represents most. I think this balance represents the era of RAP at it's full maturity (giving a realistic depection of life in Americas ghettos as well as provokes thought, over a beat that isn't relegated to "the club" ). As such rap hasn't changed much but hip hop is ever changing. So the obsession is to keep garbage like Drake from depicted as the Good "Rap." And yes that Kendrick Lamar is dope!

  13. "Rappers make money off shows now" Exactly Streetz…..especially the ole skool ones….shows are their bread and butter and the only way they can eat. Even if they were to put out new material, not enough people would buy it, and record sales would be very dismal.

  14. The reason why album sales went down has actually less to do with the artists and more to do with the labels being greedy. About a decade ago, music labels got full of themselves and started charging niggas $20 an album. 1st of all, that's an absurd amount of money and 2ndly, we were getting charged $20 an album for albums that sucked. A couple radio singles, a good track and the rest was garbage. That's why Napster blew up, niggas got tired of paying for trash music, so they found other ways to consume it. Then niggas got used to consuming music for free and the industry been fucked ever since.

    Also of note, is the rise of the MP3 players. MP3 players made it to where instead of carrying around a notebook full of cds you paid precious money for, you could carry around thousands of CDs on a portable player in your pocket. If the music industry had any damn sense, they could've created something like iTunes long before Stever Jobs created it and everybody could've gotten paid. Add that in with those bullshit RIAA legal actions for downloading music and you're basically in a situation where the music industry has pretty much made a wrong/bad decision every single chance it's had to revolutionize the way it's doing business.

    I still buy albums, but only from established artists who I know won't disappoint…and even that doesn't always work (looks at Common for that wack ass UMC album). Not to mention I have far more faith in these new artist's mixtapes/free albums than I do their retail albums. KRIT's last 3 FreeEps far surpassed his debut in terms of quality and listenability. Wiz Khalifa gave us Burn After Rolling, Kush and OJ, Cabin Fever then dropped his official debut Rolling Papers…and that shit sucked. Lot of of times these cats create a core fanbase, get put on to a label, then create some wack ass label directed album that nobody wants to pay for (looks at Lupe, Little Brother, Jadakiss, etc.)

    In short…the industry will never die. Artists have been crafty enough to find other ways to get money…for alot of cats though, it just won't come from niggas buying their album. Also…if you bought concert tickets for WTT, you got the album for free. That's $150 well spent to see arguably the greatest rapper (Hov) and the greatest producer (Ye) of our generation.

  15. Hip hop is very cyclical in its appeal. For example, back in the late 80s-90s, hip hop was about a life that wasn't far removed from its consumers. We all knew drug dealers and fiends in our neighborhoods. Then it shifted in the early 2000s where the consumer was more mainstream and the music shifted to be all about fun, club life, and living it up. Now it's shifted to be a blend of dope boy life, model chicks in VIP, self-preservation, and then the ostentatious lyrics of the elite.

    Most hip hop artists have a niche group of fans. Taylor Gang, YMCMB, and Throne-watchers have a crazy loyal fanbase. They'll buy albums and sell out shows because the fans know exactly what they're getting from the artist. Other guys like Kendrick Lamar and KRIT have a more insulated fanbase, so because of that, I feel like it's harder for them to go gold. Hell, not even gold, moving 50,000 units opening week is a feat for a new artist.

    I don't think it'll "die". I think it's just keeps changing so often that there isn't continuity.

  16. I think you should buy albums of up and coming artists (struggling artists) whose music you like, and/or artists and albums in general that you like and support. Period. I bought Channel Orange because I love FO and his music catalogue thus far. Yeah I could have downloaded it for free, but I wanted that album cover and the credits and the physical CD. I appreciate that sh*t. Have I downloaded music illegally? Most definitely. But I'm grown enough now to afford a $15 CD. Ain't a music snob, but it's just the morally superior thing to do.

    And you really paid $400+ to see Lil Wayne?

  17. Wow, 400 bucks on Lil Wayne. Album sales means nothing with regards to the quality of music(remember Master P). All it is is good marketing and one or two catchy singles and it's bought. By who? I'm not sure I'll buy any rap album now because the quality has fallen to an all time low but that's just me. Maybe I don't listen to it enough nowadays
    My recent post Chivalry “Died” When The New Age Crept In

  18. I agree with J that hip hop is constantly evolving and that people should not try and guilt trip people into buying music. Personally I think that there will always be people who will download albums for free but there will also be people who will buy the album or buy just the singles they like. I think the nature of the consumer today is that people buy singles they like and album popularity is driven by singles. If you make a whole album of lyrically sound music without any standout single that can get you airplay then I think you probably would not sell as much. Basic marketing if you ask me. Artists like the Diddy quote says above should adapt to the market conditions, singles are what drive sales and make you popular or wealthy.
    My recent post African/Nigerian Love: In search of PDA

  19. Although I've never had the pleasure, there are jobs that people love to do. "If you do something you love, you'll never work a day in your life." Hip Hop is no different. It's (in some cases) a well paying job. I'm not going to work for free and I don't expect an artist to either. If I like it, I buy it. If I don't, I won't. It's not a bill. I have a choice…

  20. I have downloaded illegally before but I've cooled on that. Now if I like a song or two, I buy that. I used to buy cas-singles (Yea, I'm that old. And?). If I like at least the majority of the album, I buy the CD. I love having the CD to look at the art, read the credits and thank you's, and just having it as part of my physical collection. It's the updated version of having a vinyl collection. People still do that and listen to record players even though they can now get all the same music in digital form with a clearer sound. Nothing wrong with it, though. It's just for the love of the music…Those artists that want to adapt, go ahead. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn't. All change isn't good. There's a difference between adapting and selling out…A few more change to add to my 2 cents: Spending $400 to go to the same Lil Wayne concert? "Not I", said the cat. Especially now since he's on some other ish. But if it moves you, who am I to say he's been slowly turning into hot garbage since after Carter III. A hater? Ok then that's what it is. I've been called worse 🙂

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