The Branding In and Of Hip Hop


As Fall sets in on Tuesday it pains me to use the phrase ‘over the Summer’ so recently Trinidad James was dropped from Def Jam. Unsurprisingly to me and probably many others he never dropped an album and they released him after two years. I never expected too much of him and I hated the repeated use of the ‘n’ word. Other rappers do use the word but this dude made the word the hook! I was very offended when it first came out. Everybody compared him to the character Jerome on the hit Hip Hop influenced comedic sitcom Martin starring Martin Lawrence. Now that’s no diss to Martin but it certainly was to James who’s hair and style of dress became his image which had a negative influence on his brand as an artist. If he doesn’t own his publishing or have any rights they can use that song at any time without him.

If you’ve got a company like Def Jam ready to invest in trash they are cultivating a trash dump of musical acts. Not all their artists are trash Nas, The Roots, Common, Kanye, Luda, Kiss, and a lot of great people but I don’t see any work from some of those names. A label can have real and commercial artist but who are they spending their money on? Do the labels really care about their own brand? They could care less about the brand of the artist (depending on the artist) because they just want to make the money. With a lot of labels tossing branding out the window that has an overall impact on the brand of Hip Hop Culture itself. When an artist is signed in the age of social media they have to already be a package because labels no longer do artist development. You have to already have fans so they can estimate how much money they’ll make off of you. You have to already have your brand together and if not their just going to put you out there just to capitalize off your momentum of the time.

Not sure if he knew those things were a part of his overall appeal to the music audience but that’s what a brand is. Anything that you put your name on is a part of your brand as an artist. Soon as he hit the scene his brand was likened to a joke and thus he was perceived as one. So easily his brand wasn’t worth much. The deal was for two million and he probably spent that on sneakers. I’m not being judgmental he’s a sneaker head that’s what they do buy sneakers. I just hope he saved the more rare pairs so he could sell them if need be. Def Jam is just as responsible for the brands that they put out there. Some would think that Def Jam’s brand is invincible but it isn’t and if a major company such as Def Jam puts out bad music the brand will indeed suffer. People will start looking at the major brand more cautiously causing a decline in influence and possibly some financial recourse as well. Let’s not forget the elephant in the room Def Jam isn’t what it used to be. Def Jam was so busy trying to capitalize off the ignorance and left culture at the curb like everybody else. No wonder the brand isn’t what it once was. Don’t get me wrong nothing can and will never take away from what Def Jam did for Hip Hop Culture.

We even brand different artists within Hip Hop as gangster, conscious, trap, or whatever. Categorizing and keeping artists in a box stops them and us from thinking outside of what we see, think, and hear. We are the voice of the culture so when we brand Common or Mos Def as ‘conscious’ artists the rest of the world takes our lead. Young Jeezy makes gangster rap so he can’t do a song like ‘My President is Black’. Young Jeezy had one of the biggest Hip Hop albums with The Recession voicing his feelings about the dismantled economy so don’t tell me he can only do gangster or trap music. Mainstream rap is a portion of Hip Hop’s overall brand. The brand of Hip Hop includes DJs, Breakers, and Graffiti artists because that is part of the culture. We don’t embrace all the elements of the culture on a mainstream level and that effects the brand of Hip Hop as well. For Hip Hop our brand is what those outside of our culture use for reference. That’s why twerkin’ got so popular. Hip Hop was talking about twerking in a lot of mainstream joints and people not of the culture like Miley Cyrus took it and ran. We have to value Hip Hop and return it to its core fundamentals. The brand of Hip Hop is not what it was because artists and labels are selling a product. Hip Hop is a folk art developed by young Black-Americans in the late seventies therefore it is best when it is homegrown and not manufactured.

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