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No Hate, No Fear: The State of Black Music in the US

Wednesday, 30 July 2014 10:34By Prince Charles Alexander, Truthout | Op-Ed

2014 802 hip swHip Hop session (Image: Rudy Nosile / Flickr)“Something happened to black music in the United States!
In 1979, Sylvia Robinson invested a record that was a copy of another record, with talking over it and no singing; it was a huge success.
In 1980, the first digital drum machine and the first analog drum machine were released to the retail marketplace, successfully and gradually eliminating the need for multiple musicians in record making; the drum machine was a huge success.
Also in 1980, MTV ushered in the video age by turning music into something you watch, as well as listen to; it was a huge success.
In 1981, Ronald Reagan slashed funding to the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), which everyone knew would choke arts and music education in most of the public schools in the United States; he was successful.
In 1983, MIDI entered the marketplace and allowed instrument manufacturers to exploit the protocol by creating relatively inexpensive, push-a-single-button devices that allow a single person to create complete compositions at home without a recording studio; MIDI was so successful that the original protocol is still in use today.
In 1985, “Walk This Way” pushed soul and funk from the popular consciousness by giving a marginalized art form the stamp of economic viability. Hip-hop is unofficially 41 years old, and officially 35 years old; it has been very successful.
In 1987, Public Enemy released a record that contained multiple copies of other records with talking over it and no singing; Public Enemy was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2013.
Also in 1987, NWA released a record using the same samples that Public Enemy used, but with lyrics that were considered disrespectful to women, and glorifying drugs, crime, and the gang culture of Los Angeles. Dr. Dre recently closed a deal with Apple that will make him the first hip-hop billionaire. Ice Cube is a successful actor in family-oriented films, and NWA were 2014 nominees for induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
In 1991, Suge Knight and crew walked into Jerry Heller’s office with lead pipes and baseball bats to demand the release of Dr. Dre, The DOC, and Michel’le from their contracts, so that they could join the Death Row Records roster of acts, thus sending a message to the record industry that the music business was no longer a game, but more of a life and death struggle for the economic equity that mass distribution represents.
In 1992, Sean “Puff Daddy” Combs was given a $6 million investment by Clive Davis to form Bad Boy Records. Sean Combs’ current net worth is north of $700 million.
In 1993, Death Row Records released an album by Snoop Dogg that debuted at No. 1; Snoop Dogg has sold more than 30 million albums worldwide.
In 1995, Tupac Shakur lost his life to the culture of violence, followed in 1997 by the death of the Notorious BIG; both have reached the status of cultural icons; both have had films produced on their lives and both have left lucrative estates. Tupac’s is worth $40 million with a yearly income of $9 million. Notorious BIG’s is worth $160 million, and his 21-year-old daughter, T’yanna, is worth $50 million.
In 1999, Eminem released his second album, which won the Grammy for best rap album in 2000, establishing him as the official Elvis Presley of hip-hop.
And all this happened before the 21st century.
In the 21st century we got Akon, Lil Wayne, Drake, Rihanna and T-Pain’s successful forays into a simple piece of technology called Auto-Tune; even non-singers could now sing.”