Bikinis cause rap sales to suffer

Does hip hop hate women? Most would say no, but agree that male rappers do not mind putting their female counterparts on the chopping block in order to increase record sales, a method of marketing that may have recently backfired on the rap industry, as evident in the recent drastic decline in its sales.

After about 30 years of growing popularity, rap music is now struggling to keep its supporters and suffering criticism from some of its once biggest fans.

Music sales are down overall, but rap sales dropped 21 percent from 2005 to 2006, according to the Associated Press. Additionally, for the first time in 12 years, no rap album was among the top 10 sellers of the year.

Arianna Scott, sophomore, vocal performance and psychology major from New Orleans, La., said, “It has a lot to do with the format of videos; every girl is in a bikini. A lot of people aren’t buying rap music because people want something new and fresh. People are beginning to realize that there can be more to videos than booty and breasts.”

However, not everyone agrees. Michael Byrd, sophomore business management major from Decatur, Ga., said he doubts it will ever get old. “Sex is what sells. It rules the world,” he said.

Byrd also has his own theory for why rap sales have declined. “There are a multitude of reasons; cds cost too much, it’s free to download, and nobody has any real talent outside of Jay Z, Nas, T.I and other people of their caliber,” he said. Rappers Jay Z, Nas, and T.I. have all been praised for their lyrical ability and selling success.

But Byrd said he doubts that even the most successful rappers, such as these, could make a difference. “Nobody is willing to put money behind an artist who is not talking about sex because they don’t want to risk losing money…For the most part, rappers do what they are told. They have no influence; all they do is perform. Most don’t even write their own songs or get paid much,” he said.

Furthermore, Byrd said the artists that do not make sexually explicit videos have a less chance of being seen. “There are a lot of people who make good videos but they get banned from BET (Black Entertainment Television) because they have been deemed too intelligent for their target audience of 11 to 19-year-old females,” he said.

Some students feel that videos are not supposed to be intellectually stimulating, but purely entertaining. Also, because they are not personally in the video, they have no problem watching it. Tiffany Tempton, freshman, computer science major from Dallas, Texas, said “We are going to buy or burn cds, listen to them, and watch videos either way it goes because it’s her and not us.”

This is partially true for Scott also, who said she does not discriminate when it comes to watching videos, but she does when it comes to buying cds. “I watch videos because it’s free entertainment, I don’t buy cds because of the profanity. At least on TV, the profanity is blurted out,” she said.

Whether it is video vixens draped in little to no clothing or sexually explicit lyrics, women are often exploited for profit. In fact, Byrd said, “there are rappers who say outright that they are in it to make money, but then, there is Common, Mos Def and Talib Kweli, who stay true to the art form.” Common, Mos Def and Talib Kwali are three of a few successful alternative hip hop artists.

Also, Byrd said that whether or not artists stay true to the art form or conform to industry standards is what separates hip hop artists from rap artists. Therefore, “hip hop doesn’t hate women; rap music does, or is, at least, negative towards them,” he said.

However, the blame does not lie solely with the rapper, according to Byrd and other students. “It’s everybody’s fault. It’s the girls’ because nobody is forcing them to be naked and the rappers, directors, the media and consumers are at fault for supporting and glorifying the girls, he said. “The media has turned video vixens into celebrities. You can’t blame one person for a whole culture.”

While students like Byrd argue that everyone is at fault, some students, like Demarcus Hall, freshman, physical therapy major from Mobile, Ala., said the women are solely to blame. “A woman puts herself in a position to be talked about…and if she feels she deserves respect, then she shouldn’t go to the video shoot,” Hall said. He also said that rappers are unfairly targeted. “Rappers are not the only people who treat women like that; they are just seen more often. They do the same thing in strip clubs,” he said.

Scott merely said, “Everyone has a choice.” This choice includes that of the consumer to refuse to buy cds that they deem offensive or plain distasteful, a choice they appear to be exercising.