January 08, 2004



Professor Jennifer Carroll Lena of Vanderbilt University responds to the American Brandstand list :

"It starts with the idea in bullet (!) #4: "Hip-hop is extremely good at using brands as metaphors in the same way that contemporary society does." I find it extraordinarily naive (particularly for marketers) to view branding or conspicuous consumption in a social vacuum. One very important thing that differs between the mass American market and hip-hop producers is that the latter augurs authenticity, credibility and relevance from their negotiation of the line between commercial success and "the street" (aka, the ghetto, the "real" fans, etc.). It is only by largely rejecting the social domesticity that came with bourgeois consumption in the 1980s (a la Cosby) and the commodificiation of blackness so popular in Spike Lee movies (or even by say, Arrested Development or *gasp* Public Enemy) that we get to a point where hip hop can be "extremely good" at creating a _facade_ that they use brands as metaphors in the same way that contemporary society does.

The problem is exacerbated in bullet #5 (pow, pow): "Hip-hop has always been about defining your status." [and what social activity, pray tell, is not? or does this just work really well with our little white imaginations of the big, powerful, competitive, uncivilized black man?] It continues, "Aligning yourself with brands in lyrics are the best short-cuts to do that..." {pause}. Here's where we really suspend history...sure--branding doesn't have any cost for cultural producers. It's easy--even though some part of us all dies a little bit every time we see a bottle of Crystal drenching a beautiful woman in a gold lamé bikini. And it's not like we're all dying of the same disease either. And then we continue with our bullet: "Gucci is the same whether you're in the USA or anywhere else." Ok, this one's easy to refute: I can prove to you that Gucci means two exactly opposite things to the same woman standing on the corner of Canal and Bdwy--it depends on if the label is sewed on."

Posted by Sasha at January 8, 2004 12:22 AM | TrackBack