Musicians become social phenomenons

21Sep09

I don’t know if anyone else would be interested in this, but I chanced upon this story whilst listening to National Public Radio during the weekend (they have this interesting media slot on Sunday afternoons between 17:00 and 18:00). Jay-Z: A Master Of Occult Wisdom? What interests me is the way a hip-hop musician is turned into a cultural event by some paradigm he himself did not come up with. Jay-Z has always been good at marketing himself as a businessman (or should I say a business…man!) so when he is described as being some intellectual that he is not, I’m sure that get’s true hip-hop fans to roll their eyes.

Yet the music industry is notorious for creating branded artists. Look at Eminem whose mother claims he made up his difficult childhood story to gain success in rap. Of course no middle class Detroit white kid would even be given the opportunity to shine Dr Dre’s, yet give him some semblance of mental instability and sour mother/son relationship and you’ve struck gold.

What this all boils down to is the societal need for performance with meaning, or media products with mystique. Jay-Z, Biggie Smalls and Eminem all figured this out and I am sure there are cases in other genres of music which I cannot name myself.

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