Industrial Capitalism and the Hip Hop Music and Culture Industry

I was just browsing videos on YouTube. I came across this interesting video that made me think. Our economic system is composed of various competing producers who sell commodities for a profit. In the case of hip hop, the product is a medium but also an ideological cultural appropriation. This is a strange concept of late capitalism that deserves close inspection. When we buy from competing producers we also buy into a culture or lifestyle. Ideology has thus permeated into our very day to day lives. We are defined by which commodities we buy and which producers of those commodities more specifically. Ideology as the expression of false consciousness, the ideas being imposed through propaganda, is essentially what the culture industry is. Beyond the commodity itself, the cd, dvd, mp3 player and so on, exchange value is also dictated by the labor of the artist. A blank cd will cost less than the latest Nicki Minaj album. But what use is it to us? We pay extra for our own indoctrination into an oppressive system that everyday reminds us of what we’re not allowed to be. In any case, I am seriously digressing here.

By establishing that hip hop music that is sold for profit is part of the culture industry, that sells media and propaganda, we have to acknowledge two things. The first, briefly, is that the commodification of cultural production is a double edged sword. The reappropriation of cultural knowledge by capital’s own process of commodification occurs as mass pedagogy and through the process of mass production and replication. Our histories, broadly and specifically/subjectively, are burned as shadows onto the artists themselves.

But the real point I wanted to make is that as a consequence of this, the market becomes balkanized to the extent that it’s foundational constructs are threatened. In any industry, the companies must compete not only with each other but also with competing interests themselves within an even more generalized industrial framework. An individual may forgo purchasing a laptop and opt for a smartphone instead, while the capitalist must remain aware of the fact that the rules which govern the laptop market may not necessarily translate neatly to the smart phone world.

So from time to time you will see cooperation instead of competition between competing forces of industry. If laptop sales drop, the capitalists class may opt for less aggressive inter competition to bolster sales against competing products of somewhat different industries but that can fulfill the same use value. In the case of this video, the hip hop industry, normally divided along regional lines, namely the South, the East Coast, the West Coast, and apparently the Midwest as well, put aside their difference and release a single in an effort to boost sales of rap and rap only. Although the whole national market is represented, what is not included are other genres or cross genre acts, metal, country, rock, blues, jazz, classical etc.

I thoroughly enjoyed it, although I would have gone with Texas instead of Atlanta. Another possibility is that this may just represent the same label across different sales regions. I’m not feeling motivated enough to find out for sure. Read it either way, but verify if you’re making a specific claim. I see that at least two major labels are represented, Sony and Vivendi, if you want to consider it in imperialist terms, you’re looking at Japan and France. Also, it’s worth considering that Sony teamed with BMG, a German company. Another important consideration is the fact that artists often change hands between labels operating within the region and that this video is from 2009. Wikipedia associates Jermaine Dupri with Sony but that’s today, it may have been different four years ago. A more detailed look may reveal more of these sorts of capital flows, indicating through the art itself, the economic forces that shaped its creation. This more or less brings us closer to situationism by creating the possibility for détournement to occur.  Funny, and here I thought I was being such a good Marxist!

Ok here’s the video. I like it!

And here’s the same idea, but focused in the lone star state!

By Mariano Agustin

I've had a long and troubled relationship with hip hop, all the way back to the Fat Boy days, and on through the grungy nineties, until today, where I mostly listen to Southern and West Coast rap, although East Coast is alright, particularly if you're into a more overtly high brow experience.

I think a lot of people resist the notion that race is a factor in our cultural consumption. Saying things like rap is a "black" genre or cumbia is a Latin genre might get you a citation from the PC police (but don't get comfortable, because the PC police police is just as bad). It's complicated, as the affinities and loyalties of regional rap artists will attest to. The nineties took this logic to an absurd height, but the point remains, people generally identify in art what they experience in their daily lives.

That's just a little background to explain where I am coming from. I'm going to stumble from time to time, maybe offend too, but definitely I'm going to try to entertain you. I'm not going to give you the typical dry industry rundown. This is an opinion piece after all. And hey, you might actually learn something.

So turn up the bass, pass the mic, and get crunk because we're gonna try to bring a little ruckus up in here. Just a little.


Hard Track - Needs more Nicki, get it? Also, I own social commentary. Tell that hater to get off the boo boo and light one up.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.