In 1986 Run DMC released the song “My Adidas”.  Run DMC had been heavily criticized for wearing shoes with no laces, and for promoting stereotypes. So the rap group wrote a song called “My Adidas”. The wrote this song because as DMC stated “Yeah, we wear Adidas with no laces, we got gold chains, we got Cazals and all of that, but I go to St. John’s University.

The song meant something to them. The song meant something to the masses who followed Run DMC, and rocked the shelltop Adidas to show their connection with the group. It was a way of saying “don’t judge us by what we have on, or by what we look like.” It was a moment when being a rapper, being a b-boy, being poor, being from the streets didn’t mean you had no hope. It meant that you could wear your Adidas on the stage at “Live Aid” and still have people applaud. Run DMC  showed that you could be who you are and sign million dollar contracts. “My Adidas” was a song that debunked stereotypes and inspired people. I have never wore Adidas in my life, but in 1986 ‘My Adidas’ meant something to me.

Adidas partnered with Run DMC to form a clothing line of their own. It was this song and Run-DMC’s attitude that showed that Hip Hop was not just a form of music, or some lyrics put on a page. Run DMC showed that Hip Hop was a lifestyle. Since 1986, many artist and entertainers have followed the model set by Run DMC. Adidas was the first company to reap the benefits of hip-hop marketing, and hip hop expanded by a partnership with corporate America.
The entire history of Run DMC is a series of firsts…

  • The first rap act to chart in the Top 40 of the Billboard Hot 100 more than once
  • The first rap artist with a Top 10 pop charting rap album
  • The first with a R & B charting album
  • The first rap artist with gold, platinum and multi-platinum albums
  • The first rap act to appear on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine
  • The first rap act to receive a  Grammy Award nomination
  • The first rap act to make a video appearance on MTV
  • The first rap act to perform at a major arena

Fast forward to 2012 and Adidas now sponsors a hip hop artist called Two Chainz, another average rapper, with a major contract, who has just released his first album. Unfortunately this sponsorship seems more like pissing all over hip hop and it’s history, and the struggle of those that came before. Business are smart to look at a fan base and seek to capitalize off of it. These corporations don’t care if an artist has talent,or what they are saying, they just want access to the fan base and the rappers oblige them. Rappers as unproven commodities with lyrics devoid of meaning proudly hawk perfumes, clothes, liquor, colognes, headphones, ect…because they were never told where they came from, so they have no idea of where they should be going. They turned on the television, or went to youtube and saw other people had done and they copied that and become just another produced rapper.

Hip Hop is something you live.

Hip Hop is something you live

There is no struggle, no heart, no art, it’s a business. That’s all it means to them, that’s all their fans mean to them. Hip Hop means nothing to them, you can hear their passionless voices clinging to a hook. You can see it in their videos and the issues they do not speak on. They have taken the money, in exchange for the meaning. They have taken promotion over the substance and this is why these partnerships, no matter how much capital is put into them, mean absolutely nothing. They are all in such a rush to be just another rapper that history will forget.

Is it the partnership with corporate America that has caused the meaning to leave hip hop?

Was it Run DMC’s promotion of materialism, Hip Hip’s ultimately ruination?

Does Hip Hop simply not have any meaning left in it?

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Dear Nicki Minaj:

I’m supposed to be mad at you.  Because of the whole Barbie thing.  I don’t know if you know this, but Ruth Handler created Barbie for Mattel about 50 years ago. She was based on Lily, a blond European comic strip character with, shall we say, loose morals.  As a doll, Barbie prostituted herself for the multiple outfits, shoes, cars, houses and other accessories that parents would buy for their daughters.

A woman who compares herself to Barbie is a woman who desires to be purchased.  A black woman who compares herself to Barbie is celebrating white standards of beauty in order to be bought.  It’s objectifying, it supports patriarchy, it’s reminiscent of slavery, it’s problematic, and it’s working for you, ma.

Maybe it’s because no one can make the rumors about you hooking up with Weezy and Drake to get signed actually stick.  Maybe it’s because your glam is hotter than anything designed for Barbie. Maybe it’s because even in your blond wigs, you look black unlike Barbie’s first black friend, Christie. Maybe it’s because you got ass Barbie can only dream of.  Maybe it’s because this Barbie business is your business.

Times are hard. The black unemployment rate is 16%. One in seven Americans live in poverty. Gainful employment that pays a living wage is hard to find. You found it by being a Barbie. Congratulations.  The more complex the package, the more there is to talk about, and people are talking about you, Nicki.  We’ve been checking for your album over a year before it dropped.

Today, November 22, 2010, is your holiday.  You’ve got a lipstick collabo with MAC, a partnership with Susan G. Komen for the Cure, the world’s largest breast cancer .organization, a MTV documentary titled My Time Now, the Pink Friday album, and a pending tour.  You are packaging yourself to be sold because that’s how the game is played.  Men sell themselves all the time. When they’re successful we call them Donald Trump. When women do it, we call them dolls, puppets, pawns.  You’re doing it right, but you’re wrong about one thing. Your time isn’t now.  Your time is in the future. This is the beginning.

Turn hip pop on it’s head. Teach black girls how to be entrepreneurs—how to self promote guerilla style. Share as much as you feel comfortable about your childhood, your immigration, the domestic violence between your parents, your sexuality, your life in the industry with all those boys, and your round-the-way-girl attempts to figure these men out.  How do they do that shit?

Barbie is your business. I understand that. Lil Kim understands that too, and that’s why she’s challenging you. I know you didn’t name any names in “Roman’s Revenge.”  It has some clever lines, but Roman and Shady both hate women so I can’t give you any props on that.  Just don’t go starting any mess. Your Sucka Free cover is Kim. She’s your godmother in the game even if she’s not acting like it. Think of giving everyone who comes at you, an opportunity to eat too. Savvy women parlay hateration into product that profits the major player and all the people on her team.

I listened to your interviews, I heard you rhyme, I read about that 360 deal. I know that your time is coming. What’s next? Your own label, your own school for girls, your own non-profit? I know you can do it, Nicki. The question is will you? I’ll only be mad if you stay a Barbie.

P.S.

By the way Lil Kim’s Pink Friday Mixtape is something you don’t want to mess with, really.

Just don’t pose in any more plastic boxes, okay?

http://twitter.com/#!/mghasspoken

Dr. Ebony Utley

The Woman with Ideas

theutleyexperience.com

Ebony A. Utley, Ph.D. is an expert in hip hop, race, and love relationships. Her forthcoming book, The Gangsta’s God: The Quest for Respectability in Hip Hop (Praeger, forthcoming), blends rap, religion, and urban African American history to reveal how a God-sanctioned gangsta identity empowers young black people facing declining economic opportunities.