Eric Olsen brought my attention to his entry about the history of hip hop at MSNBC. It was written in anticipation of the upcoming Grammy Awards.
Rap music and the so-called "hip-hop lifestyle" have become integral to American popular culture, as even a cursory look at movies, television, radio, or a simple stroll through a CD store, reveal.
Rappers appear across the cultural landscape: Will Smith, Ice Cube, and Queen Latifah are among Hollywood's most prominent black actors. A cozy Lil' Kim cooed for the Gap in Christmas TV commercials, Snoop Dogg pitches AOL, McDonald?s "I'm lovin' it" campaign jingles to the rhythms of hip-hop, and heavyweight brands like Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Budweiser, Nike, Reebok, Lincoln/Mercury and Cover Girl have all availed themselves of hip-hop personalities or incorporated the lifestyle into their marketing strategies. Top 40 radio is now dominated by rap and hip-hop. Terms like "bling bling," "dis" and Snoop's "izzle" lingo are now ubiquitous. Rap hits are pumped over the sound systems of virtually every professional sport team.
Since 1999, rap and hip-hop sales have been second only to rock in the U.S., in 2002 rising to 13.8 percent of all records sold, a total of†more†than†84 million recordings. 50 Cent?s thuggish, monochromatic "Get Rich or Die Tryin'" was Billboard's top album for 2003, and his "In Da Club," Sean Paul's "Get Busy," and pop-R&B singer Beyonce's "Crazy In Love," with prominent raps by Jay-Z, were three of the four top singles for the year.
I never expected rap to be as successful as it has become. I guess I'm old-fashioned. Pipes, as in voices that can break glass, will always impress me more than clever rhymes. The inanity of the lyrics, which often focus on hallucinogens, 'hos' and homicide, leaves something to be desired, too. The other aspect of hip hop culture that has left me ambivalent is its ongoing relationship with violence. Yes, the reputation is overstated, but there is a core of truth to it. For example, the assumption that a rapper and his main man had killed a young lawyer in Maryland was ridiculous.
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