I enjoy my fair share of hip-hop just like anyone else (well that’s not entirely true, let me stop lying). Nevertheless, is it just me, or have some artists gone too far with their message of rampant consumerism? While I am not one to bash the whole genre and blame rap music for the demise of an entire generation, I do believe that at some point, as informed consumers we have to stop and ask ourselves, “What the f*ck did he/she just say and how does that ish really pertain to me?” I don’t know about you, but I don’t “ball so hard” and the ish that I particularly find cray is five-dollar gas prices.

If you didn’t notice by my references, the latest rappers to perturb me are Kanye West and Jay Z.

I may be one of the only people who did not purchase, or listen to every song off of the Watch The Throne album. But the two that I have heard–OTIS and the infamous, too often recited N*ggas in Paris–make me want to throw up in my mouth. After barely getting through both songs in their entirety, I thought my head was going to rupture, and I wouldn’t be able to afford my subsequent melt down with the exorbitant cost of health care.

In fact, I kinda find some of this music to be in bad taste, considering the real economic conditions of some of the most ardent Hip-Hop followers. These guys have the problems of the 1%, with concerns such as “spilling ace of spades” on a pair of Jordans. A $1200 bottle of champagne, that cost more than most folks’ rent or mortgage. I’m just saying, the least of the 99% concerns are “Audemars that don’t tick tock” (which can cost as much as $500,000). The sad part is that some of us can recall these lyrics more than we can the debtors we owe.

What frightens me is that, collectively, the world is experiencing an economic crisis, but Black folk are being disproportionately impacted by this fiscal catastrophe. With African-Americans average a net worth of a whopping 20 times lower than whites in this country, (only about $2,000), and one study even finding that the median net worth for Black women is a meager five-dollars, we should really give less than a damn that Kanye West is “about to go dumb again” because he “pulled up in [his] other, other Benz.”

These hip-hop songs boasting of all the material items they have accumulated, and the fabulous gold-plated, diamond-encrusted lives they live is a bit passé. Unfortunately, Americans (and specifically black folks) are the ultimate consumers and eat up every word of this mess up, dying to buy new Louis Vuitton bags (or sneakers), when they receive government assistance, or live a paycheck above the poverty line.

As Yasiin would say, “Poor so hard….that ish cray.”

Am I wrong for putting some of the blame on hip-hop for keeping Black folk in debt, or are their more substantial factors involved?

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  • There are more substantial factors at play, but the music certainly doesn’t help. A lot of folks are still in the cycle of spending money they don’t have to impress people they don’t like/know/care about. A lot of lyrics and messaging in hip-hop feed into that same cycle.

    I think a lot of the flashing in music is in poor taste considering the recession as well, but some art forms are meant to be aspirational…which would only serve to support the point of your article.

    Nicely done.

    • leonard smalls

      Interesting comment; however, allow me to add the following:

      1. powerlessness – The consumerism arguably is an attempt by a powerless people to drape themselves in cloth that makes them feel empowered. Actually, I’ll go further and argue that the one of the primary reasons that the hip-hop community (read Colored people) consume on such a large scale is to sooth their wounded ego. Unfortunately, Colored people tend to “sooth” their wounded egos by purchasing needless crap from the very people that have injured their ego to begin with.

      2. negro assimilationist fantasies – It is arguably negro assimilationist fantasies that lead one to conclude that he/she may consume themselves to power. A group has never consumed themselves to power ever in world history, period. Hence, the promotion of such an idea is likely the result of blatant misdirection by an industry likely littered with persons that cling to negro assimilationist fantasies.

      3. conclusion – Your enemies can not be who they are unless you are who you are. Focus on changing yourself and your enemies will be forced to change. Lastly, stop complaining and start competing.

    • LadyT

      “3. conclusion – Your enemies can not be who they are unless you are who you are. Focus on changing yourself and your enemies will be forced to change. Lastly, stop complaining and start competing.”

      THANK YOU LEONARD!!! this 3rd point seems to be lost on black people. sitting around talking to each other about what the problems are is so silly at this point. we know what the issues are. we know how we got here. and while we should never forget, we have to get to a point where we stop talking about how unfair the game is and start playing it so that we can ultimately change it. it seems black people would rather sit around and talk about what people aren’t doing right (*ahem* tavis, cornell)—people who we should never entrust with “the movement” anyway. the sooner black intelligentsia realizes that artists are not supposed to teach, teachers are, the better off we’ll be. what good is policing how someone chooses to express themselves musically when you’re sitting around with all the education and know-how in the world, talking about what someone who never even graduated high school (insert Jay-z) is doing? we’ve been trying to check rap music for years and guess what? IT’S NOT WORKING!

  • Vance

    I think it’s a factor, no doubt. Rap and hip hop are all about strutting and posing and being all big time, so yeah I think it makes people spend those dead presidents.

  • It’s funny cuz u can argue that this is what’s happening with the poor white folk who continue to support republicans…I think that IDEA of living that lifestyle or the POSSIBILITY of living that one day or even vicariously living through materialistic rap stars is more potent than one’s actual financial reality. Yes, all of this is particularly hurtful to African Americans but I think the hip-hop materialism is part of the larger American society that promotes the idea that money= success, no matter how it’s obtained. Once that changes, I still think people with less will always live above their means regardless of what hip hop promotes. People tend to judge their self worth by monetary or material possessions.

  • Guest

    nope, folks will be stupid if ya clog thier head with polka

  • Kaya

    People is going to have to learn to take that kind of musical message with a grain of salt. I mean I’ve met people who refuses to be caught dead wearing WalMart clothes nevertheless their babies. Their idealism of wealthy lies within gold and diamonds, luxury cars and over the top houses because that what they see – that’s what they hear-hip hop artists, in particular, confirms their believe by making music about it.
    We can blame hip hop for encouraging consumerism but really everybody has a job to educate themselves. At the end of the day entertain yourself if you wish with the beat of the music and even enjoy their lyrics (eye roll) but turn around and pay ya bills! Got anything extra and decide ya want to treat yourself to something nice, if you dont wanna save if, go ahead.
    But nothin’ wrong with putting some of the blame on hip hop their just keeping its listeners in this cycle of material idealism confirmation.

    • MK2

      WalMart is no better. WalMart is also to blame for materialistic/rampant consumerism. WalMart also destroys independent businesses. WalMart clothes and other products they sell are made in China crap.