Like everything in life, once something becomes popular, people will figure out a way to make money from it. In order to understand why mainstream hip-hop is in the state that it’s in, you need to have an understanding of how the record industry works. Ask yourself what the goal of a record label is and who exactly calls the shots?
Here is a diagram of a typical set-up of a record label:
At the top sits the record company president, notice just below to the right of him is a stack of money, representing ‘business affairs’, this is because he is essentially a business man concerned with making money through music. Typically, he will be a white male with little interest in the arts but a strong knowledge of business and how to run a successful company. Think Simon Cowell. Just below the boss and his business men are a team of college graduates which the men at the top use to sell their products on ground levels.
It is the A & R’s job to sign new acts. He works in conjunction with the promoters and marketing department. Notice the term artist development listed beside promotion. In recent years, the name of this section has been changed to “product development”. It is a fact that all major labels see their acts as products to be sold. Now If your wondering why hip-hop is producing poor yet best-selling artists in the mainstream you have to question the motives and decisions of the A & R‘s.
It is their intention to sign puppets that will produce songs which can be marketed at a young, impressionable audience. The best way to do this is by selecting acts which can give teens unattainable goals. The majority of hip-hop acts signed on major labels are made to look tough, rich and rebellious; everything that a young male may wish to be. The product then becomes something the listener will continuously purchase in the hope he can emulate the lifestyles of the act.
Nightclubs, radio stations, music channels and concert promoters all form unspoken pacts with the record labels. This is why just a small amount of acts receive all the air play. No-one would say Lady Gaga is the best singer of her generation yet her constant promotion means she is played more than all other pop acts. The end result is that casual music listeners assume the most played and talked about acts represent the best of their genre.
The truth is hip-hop music is a culture formed by people on the streets. In it’s original form it wasn’t created for making money, rather it was created by us and for us. The talentless acts you see on television are the record companies picks for the biggest money makers. They are moulded pawns of rich white men, often the early careers of these artists don’t resemble anything like the finished version you see on music television. This is because now they have been reshaped to fit the system, i.e. the product has been developed.
Bryan Williams (I won’t bother promoting his on stage persona) runs a subsidiary label of rap music to which he signed his son Dwayne Carter. Dwayne is the ultimate moulded rap star, he was brought up by his ‘father’ to act, behave and live a certain lifestyle which could be percieved glamorous. An A & R’s dream, the label ‘Cash Money Records’ is under the ownership of Universal Records. Pictured on the left below is Doug Morris, boss of Bryan Williams and Dwayne Carter.
In this video Bryan talks about his philosophy with regards to hip-hop, it promotes a lifestyle which his boss Doug hopes you buy into:
So to sum up this video, here is Doug’s product telling us he dosn’t care about music, the only thing he cares about is money.
As people we have to stop supporting this joke of a system, if you search hard enough you will find the artists the record labels don’t want you to know about. People who make honest music to uplift, inspire and educate.