Many people think entertainers have power. But their power is virtually non-existent relative to the corporations who finance their products. Fame is manufactured, and black people do not own the factories that create megastars. So, while many people blame artists for the flawed portrayals in commercialized hip hop, the truth is that the solution is far more complicated. The following is an example of the kind of conversation that would occur if hip hop artists suddenly chose to empower themselves and stand up to the corporate pressure to create socially damaging music.
Artist (the rapper "Cash Money"): I have this great idea for something that is going to be even better than "Booties, Hoes and Beyatches" my last album. It's also going to be more positive for the Black community. I am going to call it "Books, Homework and Better Grades".
Mr. Executive: Wow Cash Money, that's a great idea. But "Booties, Hoes and Beyatches" did incredibly well last year, and we were thinking that you could release "More Booties, Extra Hoes and Too Many Beyatches". Now that would be hot and just freakin jiggy!
Artist: Yea, well Oprah said that this kind of music is bad for the community, and I did graduate from college. So, I know the value of making good grades in school. I want to provide inspiration for Black people and do something good with my life.
Mr. Executive: That's nice Cash Money, and I "feel you dawg," really I do. The problem is that Black people aren't the ones buying your records. Our survey data shows that White kids from the suburbs are buying your music, and they see you as the guy who gets it "poppin" (holding two fingers in the air, resembling quotations) in the club. Our projections say that this new idea of yours probably won't sell nearly as well as your last album, so we've got a problem. We gave you your big break and kinda need you to stay focused here. I know you want to save the world, but if you make a style of music that causes you to lose your fan base, there is always going to be another kid from the projects willing to take your spot. So, not only are you not going to make a difference, you are also going to lose your deal, your fame, your money, your bling, your house, your fine-ass women, and all the other things that are near and dear to you.
Artist: Ah-ight man. You right. I'll get to the studio.
Dr Boyce Watkins is a Finance Professor at Syracuse University and author of the forthcoming book, "Black American Money", set to be released on July 15, 2009. For more information, please visit www.BoyceWatkins.com. If you would like Dr. Boyce commentary delivered directly to your email box, please click here.