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Rap: What Is Rap Music Today?

What Is Rap Music Today?
Today, hip-hop music is the second best-selling genre behind country, having racked up close to $2 billion in U.S. sales in 2000. It is one of only two music genres continuing to grow in earnings even as overall industry revenues slip. Hip-hop artists are now outselling many international music icons.

Today already sales of the new releases from rappers have eclipsed those of Michael Jackson. And the music continues to influence other parts of the Hip-Hop Economy. For example, more than 10 years ago, some radio stations refused to play hip-hop on their airwaves - especially the rude and raw gangsta rap tunes. Now, radio stations with hip-hop formats dominate major markets. Moreover, the production of hip-hop music videos, with their bold styling and million-dollar budgets, has created an industry and propelled lucrative movie careers for its' directors. And hip-hop music has given birth to a score of national and local publications, led by The Source, one of the top-selling magazines in the nation.

Sales performance has given this generation of music entrepreneurs more leverage to negotiate favorable deals from major record companies and distributors such as Sony, BMG, Universal, and WEA. For instance, recent reports show that rap moguls now rank among the industry's heavyweights in pay and clout. Dr. Dre, the pioneering gangsta rapper who created the Aftermath label, ranked No. 2 among the top 50 music star earners for 2002.

According to Rolling Stone magazine, Dre's net income - earnings that include touring, recording, and publishing royalties - was $51.9 million, beating out the Beatles and Madonna. Dre reportedly received as much as $35 million from Vivendi Universal SA's Interscope Records to increase its stake in Aftermath.

But in an industry where the costs of producing, distributing, and marketing an album are astronomical, hip-hop labels still deal with the daunting challenge of creating top-selling artists and maintaining control of their work.

Major record companies usually retain ownership of masters because they finance most of the expenses associated with creating the records, and the costs are far from minimal. The average budget for recording a hip-hop album is upwards of $250,000 these days. Factor in pressing, distribution, and marketing, and a major label can easily spend more than $1 million before an album even hits the stores. Holding on to the masters allows a large label to continue making money from its investment by selling songs for use on compilations, in commercials, and other publishing opportunities. Possession of those tapes is key because hit songs are what give any label its value.

Even with their dominant financial might, major label executives are in no position to disregard the growing demands for more control and greater ownership from young hip-hop music executives. As the music and culture become more sophisticated and powerful, so too do its purveyors. A few savvy entrepreneurs have negotiated impressive joint ventures that allow them to maintain ownership of their creative properties even while they receive significant financial backing. They were able to do so primarily because they sold hundreds of thousands of records before they even inked a deal.

Ever since the sexual revolution of the late 20th century, sexual images in the hip-hop mass media have become more widespread and accepted. For many years now, the hip culture has had a love affair with sexual images its female artists portray. Female artists in this industry have graced the pages of magazines with their images of sexuality. The hip-hop community seemingly applauds women who have a sexy image. The hip hop industry has become less interested in issues of personal growth of the music and more interested in the fashion advertisement of their female artists. This new trend of behavior is causing the hip-hop culture to shape an unrealistic and negative image of women, thus creating a devastating their beauty determines their worth.

The hip-hop media's message and techniques should be reevaluated and challenged on an ongoing basis in order to achieve a more accurate representation of women.

Bolstered by the philanthropic efforts of award-winning recording artists, producers and executives, the hip-hop industry is supporting previously underserved communities at unprecedented levels.

Specialists examine how this burgeoning international industry, led by executives such as Def Jam Records Co-Founder Russell Simmons, has created an undeniably personal style of giving.

Reading like a "who's-who" of the hip-hop industry, the growing list of hip-hop philanthropists includes Diddy, Jay-Z, Ludacris, 50 Cent, Kanye West, Nelly, Chingy and Snoop Dogg. Leading the way is Mr. Simmons, whose 11 year-old Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation raised more than $2.5 million over the past two years.

Coming from the streets, these individuals often have a profound insight into the impact their philanthropy can have, and so they return to the streets, devoting their time, as well as money, to urban charities that are often overlooked by traditional philanthropists. Moreover, hip-hop's leaders are wielding their fame to transform little-known, grassroots charities into a causes célèbres and influence legions of young fans to think philanthropically.

These efforts are also intended to change the root causes of poverty and inequality, rather than simply trying to alleviate some of the suffering that is the outgrowth of the problems.
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