Law professors and hip-hop artists joined forces Tuesday to discuss how corporations and marketing have impacted the hip-hop industry.
Four experts on the hip-hop industry — Hofstra Law School professor Akilah Folami, Earle Mack School of Law professor Bret Asbury, and rappers Jasiri X and Paradise Gray — analyzed how the hip-hop industry has changed over the past decades in front of nearly 35 students and New Haven community members at the Yale Law School. During the discussion, the panelists spoke about how hip-hop music, which began as a genre devoted to exploring social injustices has become dominated by images of violence and misogyny — a development they attributed to the corporatization of the industry.
The hip-hop industry began in the 1970s as a musical movement for addressing social problems and witnessed a “golden age” during the next two decades, said Jasiri X, who is signed by Wandering Worx Entertainment, a Vancouver-based music label. Since then, Jasiri X said large corporate record labels have driven smaller independent labels out of the hip-hop market. He said this trend of corporate domination has been problematic for hip-hip artists who want to produce songs about social change, as corporate labels tend to be more heavily focused on profits, not the social value of their artists’ work.
Jasiri X added that even though hip-hop has become a largely “mainstream” industry, he still feels the genre can address important social issues, such as inner-city violence and political corruption.
“If as an artist I didn’t believe hip-hop can bring social change, I wouldn’t be doing it,” Jasiri X said. “Mainstream hip-hop has been corporatized to sell Nikes, Gatorade and McDonald’s.”
Paradise Gray said when hip-hop emerged in American culture, it immediately created a rift between the R&B artists whose music inspired the movement and those who considered themselves part of a new music genre. R&B artists considered hip-hip a “fad,” Paradise Gray said, not taking the music seriously and allowing corporations to commercialize hip-hop with “drugs, sex and violence.”
Folami said advertisers have contributed to the corporate character of the hip-hop industry. Advertisers aim to attract mainly white male consumers, Folami said, who she said would rather listen to music about violence than songs about politics and injustice.
Though the panelists said misogyny, homophobia and sexism are all found in today’s hip-hop culture, the speakers agreed that the music should not be censored. Instead, older artists should mentor younger artists in the early traditions of hip-hop, Jasiri X said.
Jamelia Morgan LAW ’13, who attended the talk, said she thought the panel discussion showed how hip-hop can inspire social change.
The event was hosted by the Yale Black Law Students Association and designed to accompany Black History Month, said Jamil Jivani LAW ’13, the association’s president.