Respect Won’t Buy Groceries: Hip-Hop and the Starving Underground Artist. : ThyBlackMan

Friday, June 22, 2018

Respect Won’t Buy Groceries: Hip-Hop and the Starving Underground Artist.

October 9, 2012 by  
Filed under Ent., Music, News, Opinion, Weekly Columns

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( With the same conned and misinformed fans/Want to place the blame on everybody eatin’/Money ain’t the root of evil, fool you need it/It’s just power and the inner-visual and how we choose to treat it.— from “Life Sucks” by Del The Funkee Homosapien and Tame One.

Elitism drives underground hip-hop. The exclusivity connected to a small cadre of fans armed with the power to appoint the genre’s vanguard is greater motivation than any pursuit of quality. Fellow snobs (backpackers) know the thrill of discovering and protecting Little Brother, Immortal Technique, Rashid Hadee, and Jean Grae . We are somehow happier that their attempts at mainstream success seemed foiled by a public too shallow to understand and fully appreciate their unique, complex, and multilayered musical poetry. The underground hip-hop fan loves nothing more than fancying themselves in the role of benefactor of a poor, struggling artist. We must remember however that a benefactor actually provides financial support.  

Rejection by the mainstream loving lambs and the abject poverty that this reaction will surely result in, keeps our favorite artists loyal and obedient to the sound that initially attracted us to them.  Now there’s absolutely nothing wrong with  small intimate club dates done right while superstars are “f*#ckin  with [huge, impersonal] arenas” as immortalized in R. Kelly’s track  “Fiesta.” But if getting rich is the motivation, making “good” lyrically driven hip-hop is probably a poor career choice.

In the last days of North Carolina’s Little Brother, the racial demographic of the fans buying tickets to their shows was probably no different than that of Scotland’s Franz Ferdinand. Too much change and the 30 or so mostly white, middle class university students in that small concert venue might be halved. Although the racial reality of underground hip-hop fandom is disconcerting and disappointing on some level, were it not for those white fans we would probably have an exponentially higher occurrence of Waka Flocka Flame’s than Fashawn’s  drifting through the rap universe. Black art. White money. Old story.

Last year’s brief manufactured beef (publicity stunt)  directed towards Drake by the veteran Common in the lead up to the release of his latest LP was indisputable proof that in the battle purportedly being waged by “hip-hop connoisseurs” against lowly “rap fans” the former stands no chance of victory. Drake fans (rightfully) ignored the “quarrel” and bought his Take Care LP and everything connected to it. Common devotees applauded his “selfless” bravery for sparking the battle, although their support largely ended at those hands joyously a clapping rather than reaching into a wallet or purse to retrieve funds to acquire the latest addition to his catalogue. As a result of this monetarily challenged show of love, support, and respect, Common’s The Dreamer/The Believer LP was certified triple wood. Drake wins in one round by TKO!

It’s not enough to LIKE something. President Obama’s first election was driven by millions of small donations. His whole team is still hitting some of us up for as little as $3 to meet a constant midnight contribution deadline that seems to shift biweekly. Donate to the DNC just once my friend and you and your email account will become intimately familiar with many fine shades of begging aggressively deployed in an effort to completely and totally occupy your inbox through early November. If as little as three dollars has escaped your bank account to support President Obama’s campaign you will know Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Patrick Gaspard  very, very well. I am in no way knocking the approach. I can respect President Obama’s fundraising hustle. Closed mouths don’t get fed. Anyone who has spent two hours in a Baptist church knows that the sanctuary will forever need to be repaired, revamped, remodeled, restored, redone, and refashioned. So we accept this practice in our politics and worship but can’t buy a CD or be bothered to download music (legally) to prove our support for the artists we claim to love?     

Living in the past is not bad if you learn lessons from it. Once upon a time there was a notion called ghetto platinum. 100,000 LPs sold would get you there. In the late 80s and early 90s regional hip-hop artists like RBL Posse produced, composed, and distributed their own music. The greater profits generated from cutting out the middle man was the difference between a day job on the bottom of a major label roster and being owners of a successful small business. More recently, Immortal Technique touches on the benefits of independence in easily one of the harshest music industry critiques ever recorded.

Perhaps underground fans should set the bar a bit lower on the wealth meter. If we can just provide enough support to keep our favorite artists somewhere in the middle class, they’ll at least be able to “provide [their] family with groceries” As Dr. Dre famously stated as a clear motivation for pursuing a music career on the track “Forgot about Dre.”  Dre made $110 million last year. That should go pretty far at Kroger, Harris Teeter, and Winn Dixie.

Del made it clear in the lead quote, and there’s arguably no one more underground than he, that eating is fundamental and you need money in order to do it. I still love hip-hop, but I know that the Golden Age ain’t coming back. To get the situation a little closer to that bygone era, we shouldn’t have a problem supporting a working artist with praise and money.

Individual track downloads are cheap. Less than two dollars. I might just take a break from responding to President Obama’s latest fundraising pitch and give three bucks to Massachusetts own…Edo.G tonight. The President’s latest email had a subject line that just said “hey!” I wish he had been that direct in the first debate. Decision.

Staff Writer; Christopher Keith Johnson



9 Responses to “Respect Won’t Buy Groceries: Hip-Hop and the Starving Underground Artist.”
  1. hoodgirl says:

    Paul, thanks. My husband does business nonstop in Canada. Our clients are worldwide. However, nothing lights my fire more than working one on one with the 99 Percent and helping them to become amongst the One Percent. I’m going to leave the speaking gig to my husband he’s really good at table talking. I think he’s going to write a book eventually. As for me, I’m going to keep tailoring financial plans to my peeps in the streets. I know these plans are priceless because I’ve been approached by IRS, HUD, Realtors, Banks, Mortgage Brokers and so forth but I’ve never been driven by money I just have an entrepreneur spirit that even scares me at times. Now Thomas Sowell is a black economist that gets no play time but is probably the best in the business. In my opinion, Mr. Sowell runs circles around the Federal Reserve’s research team but mainstream media won’t give him airtime. Peace and Love.

  2. Paul says:


    I took a look on about the two books you named and it is unbelievable to see the number of positive comments I saw. This is rare and these books must be something. I will definitely read them. Thanks for sharing this with us. You should have a website address for your seminars. That way, we could register online. I am in Canada. So, you have the possibility to expand this. You should think about this. I am sure that people elsewhere in the world would be interested. You should try also to be among these speakers: and/or

    Good luck!

  3. hoodgirl says:

    Paul you sound just like my husband. As a manager he was given a book to read called Seven Habits of Highly Effective People of which I have never read. After reading that book in its entirety, my husband told his colleagues that he was living with one of those people. He then told me that all his life he wanted to become a millionaire but realized early on in our marriage that I was going to become a millionaire and he was just along for the ride. Before my husband and I turned 40 we were financially secure and he was on me to share all my wealth building strategies by teaching business seminars.

    Well I know my husband can deliver a punch line second to none, not me. So it took me to the age of 43 to stumble on to a book written by Dave Ramsey called the ” Total Money Makover” that teaches 7 Baby Steps to building wealth in laymen terms.

    This was the only book that captured my attention because the wealth building tools were a blueprint of my life. I knew I had to expose the hood to these basic concepts of wealth building but realized that while I was more than capable of creating a lesson plan for this type of seminar I needed a salesperson to close the deal.

    So I convinced my husband to teach the seminars to my income tax and real estate clients. We both agreed that anyone interested in Baby Step 4, investing 15 percent of their gross income towards retirement, would have to receive one on one analysis of their financial condition from me before he could make investment recommendations to them.

    The seminars spread like wild flowers. The business is now registered as an Investment Advisor of which I am the sole owner and Chief Compliance Officer and my husband is the Investment Adviser Representative. The niche is that I create financial plans that assist low to moderate income families to attain financial security which is unheard of in the financial arena. Because I have a large existing clientele from my tax practice and real estate brokerage, I have not had to solicit business from the general public.

  4. Paul says:


    You should create business seminars to enlighten our people. You have a lot of knowledge. 70% of athletes from the NFL become bankrupt or unemployed when their career is over. I am reading right now a biography on Dr. Dre and my jaw dropped when I discovered that he has 30 cars and it must be the same thing for many other rappers. Who needs 30 cars! This is a stupid investment! They don’t think about how this money could be used wisely for the community. They could create for instance scholarships. Can you imagine how many kids would be able to enroll to universities with the money of these expensive cars??? In addition, we have been brainwashed that we don’t have money. We are the biggest consumers in America and we are the group who invest the less in our community. We have a buying power of almost 1 trillion but only 2% stays in our community. This must stop!!!

  5. Ulo says:

    Great article! Unfortuntely – in this dy and time – its Allll about the Money.

  6. hoodgirl says:

    While I get the gist of this article, the artists named can more than afford to buy groceries and are now in a position to build and protect wealth for generations to come. Love me some hip hop especially ole school. Mainstream or underground, these artists should focus on growing and protecting their income for true financial security.

    There is an old saying that rings true throughout the test of time, it’s not what you have but what you do with what you have. As a Financial Advisor, I know first hand that there is Not a direct correlation between the money you make and wealth building. For example, All my millionaire clients attained millionaire status by earning an average income, living below their means, saving consistently, buying assets not liabilities, and using little to no credit for purchases.

    Anyone can achieve financial security regardless of income but it requires truck loads of discipline which is rare in today’s society but was prevalent in my grandparents’ generation who were the children of sharecroppers.

    I have been the primary caregiver of my grandparents for more than 15 years and have never heard them complain about the mental confines of slavery or how unfair life is. My granddad is now 91 with dementia and still says a man who doesn’t work shouldn’t eat, early to bed early to rise makes one healthy wealthy and wise and money will always say GOODBYE to a fool!

  7. Brian says:

    As a hip-hop head, I must admit that I haven’t supported underground artists like I should. I do see brothers on the street hustling, trying to sell their cd’s and I have bought a few in my time. As someone who actually attempted to become a hip-hop artist in the early 90’s, it’s a huge struggle to get yourself known. Underground rappers are definitely protecting and uplifting hip-hop lyrically but I wonder if they are trying to come up for air. I, like DL worked in a college radio station so there was plenty of access to free music. I remember a group that came out in the mid 90’s called iNi and had a track called “Fakin Jax” that was produced by Pete Rock. In any event, we should support our artists with our dollars and not just our ears, although I did buy all of Kool G Rap’s albums back in the day. I was mesmerized by his flow. I found out 20+ years ago that it’s not what you know or how well you can flow but who you know…

  8. DL says:

    OH NO! You are calling me out personally. I am one of those individiuals guilty of praising the underground artists and past artists of substance but I have failed to put my money where my mouth is. In my defense managing a student radio station gives me so much access to free music its hard for me to value it enough to spend my hard earned dollars on. Still the point you make is taken and it is valid, if we truly love and respect an artist we have to financially support the work of the artist. Yeah, underground artists are doing it for love, but like my co-workers father says, “$h!T, let me see you go down to the car dealership and buy a car with love”. I think most of us can agree we would like to get paid and artists are no different.

  9. Deeann D. Mathews says:

    VERY well and timely said… I shall be quoting you in my next article! Kudos, Mr. Johnson; we do need to put our money where our mouth is in terms of supporting our artists!

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