What validates you? Is it someone, or something, an action or a specific process of thought? The late Steve Jobs said, "You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life." I worry that those of us who march to the tune of Hip Hop are not reaching our fullest potential. Most people are waiting for an opportunity or a sign that the life that they are pursuing will amount to the time, effort and determination they have put in. But in the world of Hip Hop, it seems you need someone to validate you in order to be successful.
Most of us heard of the controversial Kendrick Lamar 'Control' verse and the hype associated with it. He was validated on so many levels by his peers, by his elders, and by his fans. His ambitious lyrics ignited a fire that was desperately needed and gave him the confidence to claim he is the best rapper alive. Many laughed in amusement, some rushed to the studio to refute his claims and many were honored they were mentioned in his tirade.
More importantly, fellow Compton native, co-owner of Built Frum Scratch and Most Hated Entertainment CEO, B.J. Hill, feels Kendrick Lamar is not as authentic as his new audience thinks. "I don't understand how he can rep Compton if he never came outside and experienced what was going on. I guess when you get money you can be whoever you want to be. People died behind this sh.., there are rules and regulations that govern the hood. Now a n….a comes to the hood and gets validated by throwing some money around and everybody forgets the GOOD Kid was peaking out the window at our MADD City."
I've always wondered with all the aspiring artists in the world, do we hear the greatest lyrics from the greatest rapper? We have to admit the Hip Hop game is lopsided when it comes to choosing who will reach the masses. At this point, it's a needle in a haystack gamble to breaking through, unless you are ushered in by one of the mainstream acts. An industry that used to take so many chances on creativity has flat lined into a one size fits all approach.
My concern is no one has told the millions of loyal Hip Hop followers that you need to connect with one of the influencers, most of whom are not interested in opening the doors for the next best thing. Everybody who has made it seems to be focused on longevity – theirs. And if they introduce someone who is stronger, more lyrical, more authentic than they are, we might hear them reciting a Kendrick Lamar chorus "B…, Don't Kill My Vibe, B….. Don't Kill My Vibe!"
So where does that leave the future generations of Hip Hop? Forbes recently released its Cash Kings list of highest grossing Hip Hop artists of 2013. The top 20 artists made from $6 million to $50 million, which proves there is money to be made in Hip Hop. But the question is: How?
Many of the artist on the list have endorsement deals, products and tour to get the bulk of their money. Many of the artists are also veterans and have connected to the newer members on the roster, essentially helping their protege's boost their brands and sales. What gets lost in translation is how someone who has not attained this type of success gets to that. Is it the luck of the draw? Is it talent? Is it who you know? Is it the Illuminati myth that most of the current Cash Kings throw up in their videos and pictures?
What do we tell our young people who believe in themselves, who believe in their music, who believe in Hip Hop? Do we tell them to do an about face and dream another dream? Vanity Fair's November issue features a cover story on Jay Z. It details how he feels his life as a drug dealer is a catalyst for his ability to become a sports agent. According to Jay selling drugs taught him budgeting and he was able to transfer these skills into his business dynasty of today.
Do we continue to base the Hip Hop community's success mantra on stories of high school drop outs who beat the odds? Former prison inmates who found their way to Hip Hop royalty? While this is all valiant, what percentage of the population is able to attain success at these odds?
Let's begin to focus on the spawn of what Hip Hop has created. Many professors, doctors, lawyers have used the motivational characteristics from Hip Hop to validate their lives. Many artists have learned how to use Hip Hop as a teaching mechanism. Many educators have birthed programs that curb violence using Hip Hop. Isn't that important and newsworthy? Let's tell stories that inspire young people to follow a path that will not lead them to a stale mate.
Jineea Butler, founder of the Social Services of Hip Hop and the Hip Hop Union is a Hip Hop Analyst who investigates the trends and behaviors of the community and delivers programming that solves the Hip Hop Dilemma.