Rap Commits Suicide
We may be witnessing the death of rap, Tim Shipman reports for the Sunday Telegraph. He notes that sales are “down 33 per cent, double the decline of the CD album market overall.” After years of pop culture ubiquity, “The bad boys of rap are now trailing the cowboys of country and the headbangers of heavy metal.”
The main explanation cited is that the public is finally tired of the genre’s excesses:
Rap has been deserted by many white fans and middle-class blacks, apparently tiring of the “gangsta” attitude to women, racism, violence and bling – the gold rings and medallions that have made hip-hop a byword for vulgarity.
Renewed attention after the Don Imus “nappy headed hos” scandal brought denunciations from the likes of Ebony magazine, rap impresario Russell Simmons, Barack Obama, and even Al Sharpton.
While I’d like to think moral outrage is the main cause of declining sales, I’m skeptical. Former record industry talent evaluator Tom Vickers observes that, “Rap has gradually degenerated from an art form into a ring tone. That’s why we’re seeing this backlash. There’s only so much bling the public can take.”
Shipman uses that to buttress the backlash thesis. My sense, though, is that Vickers is bemoaning the over-saturation and mainstreaming of hip hop culture. When shopping malls and television commercials play rap — and they have been, for years — it loses its shock value as a rebellious teenage refuge. And, indeed, rap has been commercial long enough that the parents of today’s young teens likely listened to it themselves. That doesn’t exactly lend cool points.