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iniquity
07-09-2007, 07:57 PM
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Not long ago, rap dominated album sales charts. Now, the music that has been a driving creative and commercial force in American culture is struggling to get its swagger back.

The music industry is suffering across-the-board drops in CD sales, but rap is in a steeper slide: This year, rap sales are down 33% from 2006, twice the decline for the industry overall, according to Nielsen SoundScan. Five years ago, Eminem's album The Eminem Show was atop the Billboard chart, on its way to becoming the runaway best-selling album that year, with 7.6 million copies. Since then, no rap album has sold as well.

Established rap stars no longer are sure things in sales. During the past nine months, Jay-Z, Ludacris, Snoop Dogg, Diddy and Nas released albums, but only those by Jay-Z and Ludacris have sold at least 1 million copies in the USA, and only Diddy is still on the charts.

Rap's decline can be traced to a range of factors, including marketing strategies that have de-emphasized album sales in favor of selling less-lucrative single songs and short versions of those singles as ring tones for cellphones. But more important to the industry, there are signs that many music-buying Americans particularly the young, largely white audience that can make a difference between modest and blockbuster sales are tiring of rappers' emphasis on "gangsta" attitudes, explicit lyrics and tales of street life and conspicuous consumption.

Within the rap industry, there's a growing debate about whether years of rampant commercialism Snoop Dogg now endorses Pony sneakers; 50 Cent peddles grape-flavored vitamin water have drained credibility and creativity out of a once-vibrant genre of music. And there's concern that rap, also known as hip-hop, has reached an evolutionary plateau: After more than a quarter-century on the charts, it's no longer the radical newcomer.

Rap pioneer KRS-One, who just released Hip Hop Lives with fellow legend Marley Marl, offers a blunt explanation.

"The music is garbage," he says. "What has happened over the past few years is that we have traded art for money, simple and plain, and the public is not stupid."

Chuck Creekmur, co-founder of hip-hop news website Allhiphop.com, says rap once was known for creative storytelling and clever rhymes, but now is being undermined by a lack of both.

"A lot of these albums now are looking to duplicate the success" of whatever is hot at the moment, he says. "There is a lack of variety."



An industry force no more



Whatever's causing consumers to tune out, it's clear that rap no longer dominates the music industry. In 2006, rap sold 59.1 million albums, down 21% from 2005 and 27% from 2004. Sales are trailing those for country albums (75 million) and heavy metal (61.6 million) genres that rap formerly overshadowed.

In 2006, for the first time in five years, no rap albums were among the year's 10 biggest sellers, a list led by the soundtrack to Disney's High School Musical, which sold 3.7 million copies. Compare that with 2003, when 50 Cent's Get Rich or Die Tryin' ranked No. 1 with 6.5 million copies.

This year's top-selling albums thus far are by American Idol rocker Chris Daughtry's band and jazz chanteuse Norah Jones.

The rap industry is pinning hopes on 50 Cent's Curtis, due Sept. 4, and Kanye West's Graduation Day, expected in late August, as well as releases by Eminem and Dr. Dre that could arrive before the end of the year.

But those albums may not be enough to salvage the sales numbers for this year, and it's unclear whether 50 Cent or Eminem can match their past sales.



A genre is born



Hip-hop was born out of DJ-hosted block parties in the Bronx, N.Y., in the early 1970s and evolved with emcees "rapping" over the beats the DJs played.

The genre hit the Top 40 with the Sugar Hill Gang's Rapper's Delight in 1979.

Rap soon became, as Public Enemy's Chuck D described it, "the CNN of black culture," encompassing everything from party tales to political commentaries, especially from the view of poor and disaffected urban youths.

Rap found an audience not only in cities but in mostly white suburbs, as well.

By the 1990s, a harder-edged version of rap that glorified gang life began to dominate music and influence youth culture. Its songs and videos typically depict violence and drug dealers awash in diamonds and platinum jewelry, champagne and scantily clad women.

Rap became a multibillion-dollar-a-year global industry, influencing fashion, lifestyles and language while selling everything from SUVs to personal computers.

Rap's declining sales haven't escaped the attention of its kingpins. Declaring that hip-hop needed saving, Jay-Z ended a three-year retirement in November with his CD Kingdom Come, in which he essentially cast himself as Superman trying to save hip-hop.

A month later, Nas decried rap's lack of originality on his disc Hip HopIs Dead:

"Everybody sound the same, commercialize the game / Reminiscin' when it wasn't all business / They forgot where it started / So we all gather here for the dearly departed."

Rap may not be dead, but it's significantly weakened, in part by its own doing, music analysts say.

The industry's longtime strategy of pushing singles to sell albums has backfired in the digital age, says Felicia Palmer, president of 4Control Media and founder of the hip-hop news website SOHH.com.

Digital sales have outstripped CD sales, but not yet to a degree that compensates for the price difference between a 99-cent download and a $19.99 CD.

A just-released survey by the website found 82% of nearly 700 respondents are purchasing fewer albums than in previous years, and 67% acknowledge that they have illicitly downloaded albums rather than pay for them. One reason: 69% say they're "not inspired by many albums."

"People have gotten smart and know that (record companies) usually put out the two best singles, and the rest of the album is usually garbage," Palmer says.

Labels need to do more to help artists build their fan bases with promotional tours, which help consumers buy into the performer and not just a song, says Michael "Blue" Williams, who manages Outkast and other urban acts.

"People like hot music, but we are still not making artists who matter across the board," Williams says. "So while the labels are screaming that the sky is falling, they are trapped in their own vicious cycle of having to chase each single."

Promoting singles means getting favorable airplay, and that's more difficult now that hip-hop isn't the "only contemporary music that matters," as it was just a few years ago, says Sean Ross of Edison Media Research.

"Three years ago, you wouldn't have wanted to be a Top 40 station playing Bright Lights by (pop/rockers) Matchbox Twenty while your competitor was playing Get Low by (rapper) Lil Jon," Ross says.

"Now, Top 40 has Daughtry and Gwen Stefani, as well as a lot of quasi hip-hop from artists like Fergie and the Pussycat Dolls that, for some listeners, fill the same need as the real thing."

The real thing may no longer be real enough.

Glenn Peoples, founder and editor of music industry blog Coolfer.com, says: "A lot of people who used to listen to rap are now listening to rock. Rock is really strong right now."



'The public has made a choice'



Part of hip-hop's attraction has been the assumed authenticity of its lyrics and artists, but now, many younger listeners "believe that so much of what the mainstream (rap) industry does is orchestrated," says Bakari Kitwana, author of the books The Hip Hop Generation and Why White Kids Love Hip Hop. "I don't think they have a lot of confidence in the music the industry is producing."

For years, increasing sales of rap albums effectively muted protests about some songs' promotion of misogyny, racism and violence. Now, dwindling receipts and fading interest in rap have provided what some in the industry see as an opportunity to rethink content.

"The public has made a choice," KRS-One says. "They're saying, 'We do not want the nonsense that we see and hear on radio, and we are not putting our money there.' Rap music is being boycotted by the American public because of the images that we are putting forward."

The rising angst about rap lyrics was spotlighted this spring during the fallout over radio talk-show host Don Imus' smearing of the Rutgers University women's basketball team. Imus called team members "hos," then later noted in his defense that the word is commonly used in rap songs to describe women.

Soon after, hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons called a meeting of music industry executives. His Hip-Hop Summit Action Network later recommended that the rap industry voluntarily delete or bleep out offensive terms for broadcast.

Such efforts have drawn mixed reactions from rappers.

Master P, who built his multimillion-dollar No Limit Records empire on gangsta rap in the '90s, announced plans to start a new label, Take A Stand Records, with his son Romeo. He says he has been part of the problem and now wants to be part of the solution with clean, positive music.

That idea was derided by 50 Cent, who said he has no intention of cleaning up his lyrics.

"Music is a mirror, and hip-hop is a reflection of the environment we grew up in," he said at a news conference.

"If I ask you to paint a picture of the American flag and not use the color red, you're going to have a difficult time."



A new business model



Content questions aside, rap faces the same challenge that has alarmed much of the music industry: how to adapt to the digital revolution.

"What we have to do is figure out what the new music business is," says Kevin Liles, executive vice president of Warner Music Group, home to artists such as DJ Quik, Lil Scrappy and E-40.

"There was a time when an artist like a Jay-Z or DMX or 50 Cent would sell 4 million or 5 million CDs. But there's a new climate. Artists like Young Jeezy might sell 2 million albums, but 6 million ring tones."

Recent sales by rap star Mims reflect the problems facing the industry. His single This Is Why I'm Hot has done well this year, selling 634,000 downloads and 1.9 million ring tones, the 2007 leader in ring tones so far. But the album that contains This Is Why I'm Hot hasn't been so hot, selling only 231,000 copies. Music Is My Savior is No. 100 on Billboard's albums chart 11 weeks after its release.

Rap's early stars, from Grandmaster Flash to Public Enemy and LL Cool J, "touched on humor, politics, ghetto life and realities they faced," says music consultant Tom Vickers. "Rap has gradually degenerated from an art form into a ring tone. It's a hip catchphrase or a musical riff with a short shelf life. It has a novelty element that captures the listener's imagination, but it's not a song. It won't build a career. That's why we're seeing this backlash."

To rebound, he says, "rap has to look at the bigger issues confronting society. There's only so much bling the public can take."

The upside for rap, Kitwana says, is that so much of it "remains off the mainstream radar. You never know when hip-hop is going to reinvent itself, or when something operating out on the fringe is going to emerge and become the next new thing."

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rubyspirit
07-09-2007, 08:31 PM
Hip Hop fans have become thieves. A lot of them don't buy the product anymore. Hip Hop is still popular, just not profitable.

11th Chamber
07-09-2007, 10:20 PM
interesting read. Well im puting my money into Dre, Em, and Kanyes new albums. Not sure on the new 50 tho...

SHEEPISH LORD OF CHAOS
07-09-2007, 10:38 PM
interesting read. Well im puting my money into Dre, Em, and Kanyes new albums. Not sure on the new 50 tho...
yea same here

diggy
07-09-2007, 10:59 PM
Hip Hop fans have become thieves. A lot of them don't buy the product anymore. Hip Hop is still popular, just not profitable.


Yes. And also, rappers are just in it for the money and fame, not to raise consciousness to issues like Public Enemy did or Rakim.

Now rap is mostly garbage that talks about guns, murder, drugs and constantly use the N-word.. Some rappers' excuse for talking about these subjects are that they rap about what they see and hear, which is a dumb excuse.

The rappers are in it to make a quick buck. They mostly talk about the same stuff that we all heard before and they are not rapping about anything new. It is just stagnant. And why as a consumer should anyone buy rap anymore when u can get it for free and watch their videos on youtube.com?

The music industry should have caught up with internet technology for their advantage, but they missed it.

HarlemDiplomat
07-10-2007, 06:25 AM
Good read. I remember I was going inside Hardees a while back and I seen this front page on USA today. They had 50 Cent next to the High School Musical cover.

Its mainly the music they put out doesn't connect with the fans. I mean with all the money and gun talk, it just doesn't relate to the average man like golden age hip-hop. I don't even think bootleging is much of a problem.

1. Bad music

2. Poor marketing techniques

3. Too much dance music

The market is oversaturated with nobody ass niggaz from nowhere tellin you to stomp your feet and dance like a Jim Crow. Shit...

If rap could regain its crown it'll have to be the South taking a back seat sad to say.

::waits for the pissed off South rap fans::

HarlemDiplomat
07-10-2007, 06:31 AM
Yes. And also, rappers are just in it for the money and fame, not to raise consciousness to issues like Public Enemy did or Rakim.

Now rap is mostly garbage that talks about guns, murder, drugs and constantly use the N-word.. Some rappers' excuse for talking about these subjects are that they rap about what they see and hear, which is a dumb excuse.

The rappers are in it to make a quick buck. They mostly talk about the same stuff that we all heard before and they are not rapping about anything new. It is just stagnant. And why as a consumer should anyone buy rap anymore when u can get it for free and watch their videos on youtube.com?

The music industry should have caught up with internet technology for their advantage, but they missed it.

co-sign

2L8Lit da croatianMC
07-10-2007, 07:20 AM
I dont buy albums lately... i will buy only Wu Tang's 8 Diagrams if I'll have enough loot 4 it.

HarlemDiplomat
07-10-2007, 08:48 AM
I dont buy albums lately... i will buy only Wu Tang's 8 Diagrams if I'll have enough loot 4 it.

Yeah me too... last album I bought was Nas Hip Hop is Dead and that was in January.

rubyspirit
07-10-2007, 09:43 AM
The market is oversaturated with nobody ass niggaz from nowhere tellin you to stomp your feet and dance like a Jim Crow. Shit...

If rap could regain its crown it'll have to be the South taking a back seat sad to say.

So true!

I will support Wu. Every CD is very good.

Let's put Wu-Tang Clan back on the top of the charts with 8 Diagrams to make a point. If you must, save money now.

lips
07-10-2007, 11:48 AM
this article is great because it's showing a positive change for the future where independent artists will be the ones running the industry. i love it. it's like buying a good stock at a low price and watchin' it rise. nah mean?

NY_Mami
07-10-2007, 11:57 AM
I don't think so.... because of new technology (Ipods, Limewire, etc.)..... and most of the popular rap songs out today sound like trash...... Rappers are better off on the mixtape circuit......

Mr.Minster
07-10-2007, 12:46 PM
Problem is everyone is downloadin 4 FREE, just tha SINGLES that they like and that is why noone is SELLIN

Come Honor Face
07-10-2007, 12:54 PM
Hip hop is alive and well. People on the other hand, are not. Great hip hop music is always comin out. Now MTV or BET won't play videos of real hip hop very often. Your local hip hop radio station will basicly never play it. It is out there though. As long as we give a little effort to find it, it will be there. Meanwhile everyone else can "snap their fingaz" and Lean Wit It, Rock Wit It" all they want. HIP HOP WILL SURVIVE!!!!

Severe Punishment
07-10-2007, 01:07 PM
I don't buy much new albums, mostly cd's from years ago .. When new good albums come out i will buy them..

SaqurakiHanamichi
07-10-2007, 01:48 PM
fuk buying shit, Im still gonna buy the classics, and call myself a rap fan ,
if a artist really makes a good cd then afcorse ill buy it.

i still gotta cop some rakim albums and gangstarr\


and im gonna listen well to rip the jacker im gonna hear it , if i like it im gonna buy it

SaqurakiHanamichi
07-10-2007, 01:49 PM
and to the question can rap get back its crown?


no . its done. say bye bye

Longbongcilvaringz
07-10-2007, 02:31 PM
i read a review that called rhianna's new album hip hop and rnb...

having a faggot like jay z on your record does wonders for street cred.

HarlemDiplomat
07-10-2007, 03:54 PM
i read a review that called rhianna's new album hip hop and rnb...

having a faggot like jay z on your record does wonders for street cred.

Man fuck Gay Z... if anything its that shit out of Def Jam. Young Jeezy is whack!

MaXiMus Da MaNtis
07-10-2007, 05:23 PM
"Rap's early stars, from Grandmaster Flash to Public Enemy and LL Cool J, "touched on humor, politics, ghetto life and realities they faced," says music consultant Tom Vickers. "Rap has gradually degenerated from an art form into a ring tone. It's a hip catchphrase or a musical riff with a short shelf life. It has a novelty element that captures the listener's imagination, but it's not a song. It won't build a career. That's why we're seeing this backlash."








So Fuckin True

-IrOnBuLL-
07-11-2007, 11:29 AM
this iz a very good read
im confident that rap will get back itz crown
but the genre need the right emceez to
make that happen

n i agree wit my mami too
when it comez to ppl buyin ipodz or mp3z or limewire or watever
it'll be hard for them true artistz in general to start sellin cdz

harm77
07-11-2007, 07:38 PM
i saw this coming . u know what when corporate america got their hands on hip hop just like everything else they squeeze the life out of it till it no longer becomes irrelavant

Dirty Knowledge
07-11-2007, 07:53 PM
It's like Jada starts off that Hip-Hop Remix:

``Everybody running they mouth bout how they real,
Ringtones blowing the doors off album sales``

tical2000
07-12-2007, 01:53 AM
rap really blows today.....cant remember the last rap album I have bought.....

todays rap does have a short shelf life.....rap is disposable today, dudes are just trying to make the one hit pop song....the music has no substance, and people are realizing this and not buying

tical2000
07-12-2007, 01:55 AM
"Rap's early stars, from Grandmaster Flash to Public Enemy and LL Cool J, "touched on humor, politics, ghetto life and realities they faced," says music consultant Tom Vickers. "Rap has gradually degenerated from an art form into a ring tone. It's a hip catchphrase or a musical riff with a short shelf life. It has a novelty element that captures the listener's imagination, but it's not a song. It won't build a career. That's why we're seeing this backlash."








So Fuckin True

I second this...truth

diggy
07-12-2007, 02:19 AM
Most rappers must think consumers are a bunch of idiots. They rap about bullshit and then wonder why we don't buy it. Nas said it good. "The rap game is like the crack game". That is the problem with these fuckin rappers. They use rap like crack to get rich and they don't care about the creativity side of it.

Rappers have the opportunity to rap to millions if not billions of people. And what is their message? Drugs, violence, sex, hatred, jewlery, and cars with rims.

LORD ZERO
07-12-2007, 04:14 AM
^^WELL SAID, fuck corporate america and most of the ppl brainwashed by all this commercial babble runnin rampant thru da airwaves

it started w/ BET, so shits been pretty downhill since 2000 [the last time i actually bought a album, admittingly]

CharlesJones
07-12-2007, 03:50 PM
That was a good article. Rap music will never go back to the way it was in the 80's and 90's because these wack ass faggot rappers that are out now are only interested in getting paid and the fame. They don't give a damn about the artform and you can tell when you listen to their wack ass shitty songs. The black and white youth that are buying these wack ass rappers cd's need to be shot for supporting these faggots. Nas is right when he said hip hop is dead and it's gonna continue to be dead for a long time until rappers start realizing that lyrics and consciousness are more important than rapping about bullshit. Southern rappers have ruined rap music right now and another thing that's sad is that you got some of the old rap veterans like Too Short, LL Cool J, Redman, Keith Murray, Method Man, Ice Cube, Fat Joe, Snoop Dogg, Dogg Pound jumping on the bandwagon because of what's popular right now. These artists back in the day never cared about what type of music was popular at the moment. They just did that grimey music that made them get fans in the first place.

Bigot Hitman
07-12-2007, 11:29 PM
Fuck hip hop, let the shit die

LORD ZERO
07-13-2007, 12:21 AM
^^^fuck Dat

HarlemDiplomat
07-13-2007, 02:29 AM
everyone here made good point except that kid talkin about let hip hop die.

Visionz
07-13-2007, 03:17 AM
The whole topic is kind uv a double-edged sword.

I agree that the music for a large part, has become lyrically and musically stagnant but on the other hand I've seen artist being punished for taking chances with their albums as well. Seen Andre 3000 & Kanye West both catch alot of hate but when it was happening I just felt like they where doing what an artist should be doing & pushin the envelope. Feel the same way for Common's Electric Circus.

I just feel like you gotta embrace the idea of doin what no one else would have the balls to do, even if the results are mixed. It's definetly alot easier to just play the roll of whatever cliche you happen to be packaged in.

Lyrical content is another. Hard for me to give a shit about some other dudes riches or bitches when I'm married and people are dying by the thousands at the hands of the same goverment regime that's trampling on constitutional rights left and right. There's just not enough artist out there (especially on the radio) who are really speaking on what's goin on in the world.

With that being said I still feel like hip-hop is thriving, just not at the sales counter. There's artist out there who are doing exactly what I feel is lacking, some I know about & others I don't. It's all just a question of whether or not you're willing to go out there and find it.

lips
07-13-2007, 08:29 AM
That was a good article. Rap music will never go back to the way it was in the 80's and 90's because these wack ass faggot rappers that are out now are only interested in getting paid and the fame.


cept, there not getting paid. sales are down big. rap will have to go back to the way it was if the labels want to survive.

beardman
07-13-2007, 09:06 AM
Maybe it's better that rap gets less attention. Some real mc's might stand up and less materialistic rappers.
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