Hip-Hop grosses 10 billion dollars a year, so it’s no surprise that people who appreciate the art form and love to create would want to work towards using Hip-Hop to provide a living for themselves. However, there are people who not only don’t have a love for the culture, they have no respect for where it comes from, the body of work being poured into it everyday, or the people who embody it’s spirit. Culture vultures prey on the creative energy of all types of artists as they step into our territory to make a profit, usually at the expense of the people who dedicate their lives to HipHop’s different disciplines.
Previously I worked at a club that played HipHop music, and made money promoting the night, but treated the black people who came to the club with disdain, and disrespect. Employee’s would roll their eyes when black people sat down, and followed up by providing them with sub par service, even requesting other employees to watch tables full of black people with extra scrutiny to make sure they didn’t leave without paying, a practice that coincidentally didn’t take place with groups of other races. This is an example of the vultures who portray an image of inclusion, receive proceeds from our work, take our money, while disrespecting us behind our backs, and even to our faces.
To be clear, this is not necessarily a race issue. HipHop is the most diverse culture in the world, so this is a culture appropriation issue. No longer can we sit by as entities misuse our creativity for the purpose of personal & financial gain, while offering nothing in return. Aside from being disrespectful, it often times puts our artists in financial, and even physical harm.
In 1996 at the height of Tupac and Biggie Small’s careers, media outlets sensationalized a disagreement between the two artists and their record labels and turned a personal issue into a feud between the East and West coasts which eventually created real issues within the industry. News outlets are often another example of vultures who don’t understand the culture, or care about the repercussions of their actions, but feed off of our entertainment for short term advertising revenue, while creating long term consequences.
I implore artists entering any industry to keep their guards up against those that wish to exploit them. We work countless hours perfecting and fine tuning our crafts. We skip meals, sacrifice relationships, turn down social gatherings, and endure hardships no normal person would submit to for the love of the art. As we continue to navigate the new era of the social internet, beware of the charlatans who can easily present an image of success via a social media profile.
Continue to connect directly with your fan base, stay true to our culture’s roots of knowledge and well planned action. Remember where HipHop originated from: a group of people so marginalized that they were forced to create their own form of expression with the tools they could afford; their voices, old records, and drum machines. Remember the artists who paved the way for us to make a living when Hip-Hop grossed nothing, remember the artists who were treated unfairly in our court systems because of HipHop. Learn the lessons past generations taught us from their dealings with vultures, and don’t allow history to repeat itself.