Commercialization of Hip Hop

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The topic of commercialization in the hip-hop world is one of large debate. Two lob-sided arguments on both ends, one end of the discussion pose the commercialization of hip-hop as a positive one due to giving a spotlight light on artists, giving them the ability to share their message with the world and make a considerable profit. Another argument is of the negative aspect of commercialization, that to a certain extent, the artist is essentially 'selling out' and that hip hop loses its core identity due to the commercialization of the genre. This paper aims to answer the question of to what extent commercialization goes in hip-hop, and how the effect of it shapes the future of hip-hop as a genre. This paper argues that the commercialization of hip-hop has a negative effect on the genre. This paper outlines how commercialization causes a negative stereotype of African American to pervade, the paper then discusses how commercialization turns hip-hop into a capitalistic system where money is valued higher than the actual quality of music. Before concluding, the paper examines the future implications of commercialization in hip hop.

Hip-hop was a genre that began in the 1980s used by primarily African American communities as a tool to voice their opinions on a number of subject matters pertaining to politics, discrimination, and the struggles of the African American community, (The Gentrification of Hip-Hop, 2016). Over time, the genre began to gain mass popularity and with the popularity, the genre became commercialized. With the commercialization of hip-hop, the industry had to make the genre more appealing to a wider audience to gain more money. The audience that hip-hop became very popular with is the white community, (The Gentrification of Hip-Hop, 2016). With the shift of focus in the aspect of lyrics and music videos, in hip-hop to market to the white community, themes of hyper-masculinity, drug use, and violence, become more prevalent due to them being more profitable than other aspects of hip-hop, (Robinson, 2011). Over time, the themes of violence, drug use, and misogyny became the main focus of hip hop and were a sort of a staple of authenticity, 'Unfortunately in the United States sex, drugs, violence, and material excess have become the earmarks of authenticity for hip hop artists because hip hop music that incorporates these topics sells the most.' (Robinson 2011). Due to the negative aspects of hip-hop being marketed more toward the white community, this in turn reinforced the negative stereotype of African Americans. The stereotype that all African Americans are perceived to be 'gangsters', is due mostly to the negative aspects of hip-hop being marketed and commercialized to gain more money and popularity amongst the public.

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As the commercialization of hip-hop gain more and more traction during the early 90s. and 2000s, the hip hop starts to slowly lose its core values as quantity was valued more than quality. The origins of hip-hop in its basic form were to give a voice to the disenfranchised, people who didn't have a voice could voice their struggles through hip-hop. As the commercialization of the genre began to become more prevalent, the true core of hip hop, artist voicing their struggles and speaking on matters that aren't, 'marketable', started to fade as hip hop had to focus on being more on the market that made the genre the most profits. The quality of music began to dull as aspects of other genres began to mix in within it such as pop music, and a struggle for authenticity begins as commercialization rises (Clark, n.d). due to artists having to focus on selling records, the quality of their work begins to lessen as artists have to focus on making music that sells and appeals to the market or their target demographic, 'hip-hop seems less attentive than its predecessors to the genre's history of providing a vocal outlet for America's underrepresented demographics. Given the current moment's rapidly changing social circumstances and the fact that musical genres develop over time, inevitably aspects of hip-hop music were bound to change' (Seidenberg, 2019).

The future working of the process of commercializing in hip-hop is not a bright one. As discussed earlier, the quality of music worsens as can be seen today with the popularity of 'mumble' rappers and artists who blatantly sound exactly the same as one another. Social media is one aspect of commercialization that gives artists a platform to grow themselves, however, social media is one of content that is a constant hunger for more (Future of hip hop, N.d). this, in turn, makes artists have to work to feed the system and not to express their own creativity, commercialization is a system that doesn't allow for creativity or innovation, it primarily focuses on profits. This can be seen today as many of the popular hip-hop artists don't care for the music they create, rather, it's about the money. This is a huge issue due to the origins of hip hop being a tool for creatively expressing the way they feel, and giving messages of hope, prosperity, and struggle through their music. 'We need to think long term, not viral. We need to love the music, not the artist's brand or look on socials or the sound du jour. Artists and managers need to educate themselves so that they can have this long career trajectory, instead of a steep growth curve for a track everyone forgets the next day. That's the future of hip hop, and we can build it.' (Future of hip hop, N.d). Hip-hop is an art form, but with commercialization in the mix, it becomes a product. And the future of hip hop, if commercialization continues, will have negative effects on the genre as a whole.

The commercialization of hip-hop is an important discussion to have because of the many factors that have and will be applied to the genre as a whole. This paper argued that the commercialization of hip hop has a negative effect on the genre, due to the negative stereotypes of African Americans that are allowed to pervade this image of 'gangster', selling more to the market of the white community. Also, the paper outline how commercialization has turned hip-hop into a capitalistic system where money is valued higher than the actual quality of music. Before concluding, the paper discussed, the future of hip hop if commercialization continues to rise within the genre. Commercialization has too many negative aspects to it that outweigh the positive ones, and if hip hop was to remain as creative and a tool for the disfranchised to speak and express their truth/message, the process of commercialization has to disconnect from the genre of hip hop for it to keep its roots and not turn into something else entirely.

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Commercialization of Hip Hop. (2023, April 21). Edubirdie. Retrieved April 23, 2024, from
“Commercialization of Hip Hop.” Edubirdie, 21 Apr. 2023,
Commercialization of Hip Hop. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 23 Apr. 2024].
Commercialization of Hip Hop [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2023 Apr 21 [cited 2024 Apr 23]. Available from:

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