The mixtape format is becoming increasingly popular as a way of generating hype for hip hop artists. Often each track on a promotional hip hop mixtape will feature the same artist, thus making it more difficult to differentiate from the definition of a standard album. However, these mixtapes will usually have much lower production values than a studio album, and contain numerous collaborations, remixes, freestyles and voice-overs, often not arranged in a specific fashion. It’s also a near universal that mixtapes are homemade, not professionally pressed or printed.
Hip hop mixtapes are usually sold on the street or through independent record dealers or mail order, mainly relying on word of mouth to increase the artist’s street cred. An unsigned artist might release several mixtapes to generate buzz, leading to interest from record labels, while a signed artist may release a mixtape to promote a future studio album.
More Hip Hop History
The late 1990s saw the rise in popularity of the "bling-bling" lifestyle in rap music, focusing on symbols of wealth and status like money, jewelry, cars, and clothing. Although references to wealth have existed since the birth of hip hop, the new, intensified "bling-bling" culture has its immediate roots in the enormously commercially successful mid-to-late nineties work (specifically, music videos) of Puff Daddy and Bad Boy Records as well as Master P’s No Limit Records. However, the term was coined in 1999 (see 1999 in music) by Cash Money Records artist Lil Wayne on B.G.’s hit single "Bling-Bling", and the Cash Money roster was perhaps the epitome of the "bling-bling" lifestyle and attitude. Though many rappers, mostly gangsta rappers, unapologetically pursue and celebrate bling-bling, others, mostly artists outside of the hip hop mainstream, have expressly criticized the idealized pursuit of bling-bling as being materialistic.
Rappers often discuss at length the cars they drive and the drinks they consume and glorify the excess, decadence and luxury. Some critics allege that shilling or product placement takes place in rap music, and that lyrical references to products are actually paid endorsements. In 2005, a proposed plan by McDonalds, which would have paid rappers to advertise McDonalds food in their music, was leaked to the press. After Russell Simmons made a deal with Courvoisier to promote the brand among hip hop fans, Busta Rhymes recorded the song "Pass The Courvoisier". Simmons insists that no money changed hands in the deal.
While some brands welcome the support of the hip-hop community, one brand that did not was champagne maker Cristal A 2006 article from The Economist magazine featured remarks from managing director Frederic Rouzaud about whether the brand’s identification with rap stars could affect their company negatively. His answer was dismissive in tone: "That’s a good question, but what can we do? We can’t forbid people from buying it. I’m sure Dom Pérignon or Krug would be delighted to have their business." In retaliation, many hip hop icons such as Jay-Z and Sean Combs who previous included references to "Cris", ceased all mentions and purchases of the champagne.
Other companies have used the hip-hop community to make their name or to give the credibility. One such beneficiary is Jacob the Jeweler, a diamond merchant from New York, Jacob Arabo’s clientèle included Sean Combs, Lil Kim and Nas. He created one of a kind pieces from precious metals that were heavily loaded with diamond and gemstones. As his name was dropped in more song lyrics, his profile rose. He has expanded his brand to include gem-encrusted watches that retail for hundreds of thousands of dollars. This symbiotic relationship has also stretched to include car manufacturers, clothing designers and sneaker companies.
Hip hop has a creative and distinctive slang. Due to hip hop’s extraordinary commercial success in the late nineties and early 21st century, many of these words have been assimilated into many different dialects across America and the world and even to non-hip hop fans (the word dis for example is remarkably prolific). There are also words like homie which predate hip hop but are often associated with it.
Sometimes, terms like what the dilly, yo are popularized by a single song (in this case, "Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Could See" by Busta Rhymes) and are only used briefly. Of special importance is the rule-based slang of Snoop Dogg and E-40, who add -izz to the middle of words so that shit becomes shizznit (the addition of the n occurs occasionally as well). This practice, with origins in Frankie Smith’s nonsensical language from his 1980 single "Double Dutch Bus", has spread to even non-hip hop fans, who may be unaware of its derivation. As a genre of music popular all over the world, World hip hop, in which African-American English is not the dialect used, is as prevalent as ever.
Hip hop has probably encountered more problems with censorship than any other form of popular music in recent years, due to its excessive use of expletives. It also receives flak for being anti-establishment, and many of its songs depict wars and coup d’ etats that in the end overthrow the government. For example, Public Enemy’s "Gotta Give the Peeps What They Need" was edited without their permission, removing the words "free Mumia".
After the attack on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, Oakland, California group The Coup was under fire for the cover art on their Party Music, which featured the group’s two members holding a detonator as the Twin Towers exploded behind them. Ironically, this art was created months before the actual event. The group, having politically radical and Marxist lyrical content, said the cover meant to symbolize the destruction of capitalism. Their record label pulled the album until a new cover could be designed.
The use of profanity as well as graphic depictions of violence and sex creates challenges in the broadcast of such material both on television stations such as MTV, in music video form, and on radio. As a result, many hip hop recordings are broadcast in censored form, with offending language "bleeped" or blanked out of the soundtrack (though usually leaving the backing music intact), or even replaced with "clean" lyrics. The result – which quite often render the remaining lyrics unintelligible or contradictory to the original recording – has become almost as widely identified with the genre as any other aspect of the music, and has been parodied in films such as Austin Powers in Goldmember, in which a character – performing in a parody of a hip hop music video – performs an entire verse that is blanked out. In 1995 Roger Ebert wrote:
“ Rap has a bad reputation in white circles, where many people believe it consists of obscene and violent anti-white and anti-female guttural. Some of it does. Most does not. Most white listeners don’t care; they hear black voices in a litany of discontent, and tune out. Yet rap plays the same role today as Bob Dylan did in 1960, giving voice to the hopes and angers of a generation, and a lot of rap is powerful writing." ”
In a way to circumvent broadcasting regulations BET has created a late-night segment called "Uncut" to air uncensored videos. Not only has this translated into greater sales for mainstream artists, it has also provided an outlet for undiscovered artists to grab the spotlight with graphic but low production quality videos, often made cheaply by non-professionals. Perhaps the most notorious video aired, which for many came to exemplify BET’s program Uncut, was "Tip Drill" by Nelly. While no more explicit than other videos, its exploitative depiction of women, particularly of a man swiping a credit card between a stripper’s buttocks, was seized upon by many social activists for condemnation. The segment was discontinued in mid 2006.