“And together, we can get paid in full…” said Eric B. to Ra in the permanent classic of every Hip Hop lover. “I got… more money than a sucker could ever spend”, rapped the Sugarhill Gang years before. Fast it forward a tad and you’ve got Notorious telling you to ‘Get Money’.
Yes, Hip Hop is an art form. Yes, true artists should and do care more about their art then about money. Still, it is nice to be the master of your craft and get paid for the same. Needless to say, most Hip Hop artists did not come from money. The seemingly endless financial resources available to them nowadays certainly mean drastically new steps in their lives. Most basketball players have a very similar story. It is interesting, how while unique in every case, they are so close. Entertaining masses with their talents, they drop a verse or dunk a ball. Then they get paid.
There are plenty of stories of broken hopes and dreams. However that’s not what this evening was about. This was an evening of Shaq and Phife from The Tribe Called Quest. This was an evening of one of the greatest mixtape DJs, DJ Vlad and Mos Def. This was an evening of BET’s Mad Linx and Sadat X. This was an evening of having fun and playing games. Yes, literally playing games. 2K Sports launch party was filled with almost every celebrity taking a shot at the games. Big screens with live-like players… Remote controls, just as the ones your little cousin has… Brand new X Boxes… Cameras and bright lights pointed at in every direction… It was a celebrity bash of its own kind. There was no Adriana Lima or Tyra Banks there. Fashion Week is over. There was no Tom Cruise or Cameron Diaz present either. Although 2K Sports comes from California, this was a Big Apple event. The Big Apple way. People were drinking, having fun, dancing and networking. With some of the latest Hip Hop radio hits blasting all night long, it was simply a VIP event dedicated to enjoying that wonderful feeling. When you get ‘Paid In Full’.
True artists keep it about their craft. Some of those true artists also get paid for what they do. When does it stop being about money? Well, “Money makes the world go round, the world go round…” sang Liza Minnelli in Cabaret. A lot of individuals on every level are certainly trying to do music and sports just for the sake of money. They are the ones who often make people question the integrity of the game. Now, don’t get it twisted. Every industry, every movement, every cause has some rotten apples. It is also irrational to expect excellence from every person trying to take a bite out of the NBA or out of Hip Hop. Just because the US basketball gave us Michael Jordon, Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabar, we can’t expect the same from everyone. Just because Hip Hop gave us Tupac, Nas and The Roots, it is naïve to seek the same level of creativity from every freshman trying to jump into it. Afterall, even Eminem’s earlier works lacked the smoothness and precision of the master of art we know now. The truth known to all is that sports and Hip Hop became very unique and rare chances for many to break out of the hood. Unfortunately there are not enough government programs out there motivating and helping the residents from lower class neighborhoods to better themselves through education and just improving their lives in general. Hence they take the road well traveled and well known to their peers. It’s simply people trying to better themselves on their own. How much can those people be blamed then?
So, when does it stop about being just art and become more about getting paid? Is the art of Hip Hop lost? Should we hope for the ‘good old times’ to reemerge? Elaborating on the topic further, BET’s Mad Linx adds: “Hip Hop won’t go back. It’s a business now. Like every industry out there it has entered a new stage. People are making money off of it.” Talking more of the audience out there, Linx explains how people demand the music they get. Supply and demand in Hip Hop. Would Adam Smith be proud of that?
3 forms of entertainment joined together for this one event. Courtesy of one, hosted by another, enhanced by the third. The first one was 2K Sports, the second’s Shaq, the third would be all of the Hip Hop celebrities. While there were some whose stories differed drastically, there was a sound harmony of all. Yes, unfortunately Sadat X is going away for a year on October 20th. While he’s planned several shows before that, he will become unreachable and potentially glorified for that time. “A year in New York is 8 months”, he says. Good thing you got your spirit with you, Sadat. Kim and Shyne received some flattering and encouraging publicity as they did their time. Perhaps the same awaits you. Mos Def showed up with a hood over his head, hiding his face from everyone, as the girl accompanying him was shining in her dashing dress and nervously avoiding direct looks. Refusing an interview and sneaking away from a camera he clearly wanted to be more Hollywood than a Bedsty rapper. 2 albums (well, 3 if you give him the Black Star Talib colab) and a dozen movies should have been enough of a warning. Change affects all people differently. Banging on the dining room tables and rapping during his high school lunch time Mos had evolved to become one of the least predictable and the most acclaimed Hip Hop to cinema transitions.
What awaits Hip Hop in this market-centric overly commercialized heavily congested market? Time will tell. Some forms of music went entirely underground. Some just went extinct. The 70’s of Zeppelin, Morrison and Hendrix. The 80’s of Madonna, Jackson and The Cure. The 90’s of Cobein, Vedder and Hootie. We are going through the next stage. The music is changing, but one thing remains constant. Hip Hop has prevailed. Through all those years it has evolved, it changed for better or for worse, but it clearly reached the status of a top music genre. No matter how positive (or negative) the money has influenced this music, it had helped it to survive. Making radio hits got artists paid. Making underground mixtapes got them fans. Making music survive got them glory. Hip Hop. Is it THE music of a survivor?