Today’s hip hop is not the hip-hop of yesterday. It is now more widely embraced and its influence is felt and seen throughout the world of media, culture, and even education. But I have an issue with some companies making a mockery of the art of hip hop. Yes, these companies are in business to make a profit but should their pursuit of profit come at the expense of the integrity of our community? In my opinion, the answer is a resounding no.
There seems to be consistency in the way that hip hop is represented in advertisements. These ads target young, black, urban youth and that which is supposedly entertaining is often offensive and counterproductive to the advancement of our communities. Since when does it take someone shaking their ass to sell a soda? And I don’t know about you but I loved McDonald’s before every commercial had a hip hop beat over some sister singing “Da-da-da-da-da I’m lovin’ it”. Do not misunderstand, I know that companies have target markets and they must position their products to appeal to the market (I know all about the 5 P’s of marketing)? But, the target placed on our community is intensifying the dysfunctional environment and mindsets that exist within our communities?
We live in communities plagued with violence, disease, and broken families. Our sons are marked for death, dying at alarming rates, our daughters objectified as merely sexual beings for the entertainment of men, and the support system that once existed between the sisters and brothers is struggling to survive. I wouldn’t be as angry as I am if there was at least a fair distribution of variety of the products being pushed to us but all too often the products that are pitched to us are unhealthy, expensive, and definitely not assisting with the advancement of our community. Many corporations have “initiatives” that supposedly help support the community. However, the help is largely unnoticed because it is not done in proportion to the financial support that we as a people provide. African Americans make up the largest percentage of consumers in America, spending an estimated $600 billion per year; yet we are often the poorest, making up 27.4% of those below the poverty line and we are only 13.1% of the total US population. Add to those numbers the fact that African American men comprise 50% of the prison population and it is not hard to see how we are disenfranchised and not aware of our true power. We endorse and support these corporations but they give little to support to our community. We must begin to stand for what is right and demand that these companies truly give back to our community. If just 30% of the revenues we spend as consumers was placed back into our communities, we could change things significantly. Community and recreational centers could be upgraded and/ or built; families that are struggling to find and maintain decent housing, to feed and clothe their children could be provided assistance; funding could be given to assist social programs that assist in education, drug and gun awareness, etc. There is much that could be done to provide our children a more promising tomorrow.
We as a people are not without blame. We do not have to support these companies; we do not have to use the products. The issue is systemic but we have to begin somewhere. We begin by first coming into the reality of there being an issue. We must admit that there is a problem. Then, we need to begin being more responsible and selective in whom and what we support. Make ourselves accountable as well as the musicians whose music we listen to. Hip hop began as a movement, as a way to express our feelings and frustrations, as well as a way to speak up about the social ills of our hoods. We can cause change, all it takes is well-planned and executed action. And for those companies that are minority-owned and who are doing what they can to affect positive change within our community, we should fully support them. We should go to their events, ask if you can volunteer to help, sell t-shirts, sow seeds; every little help counts. Hip hop as a culture changed the world, we can use the foundation and change our communities little by little, using the same radical thought and power through music. The choice is yours.
–Andre’a D. Contributing Author Levitate Magazine