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Immortal Technique quite rightly says that the developed world looks down on the third world as being 'backward' because economic aristocracies argue that they lack freedom of speech. However, if we view the music industry in the developed world, the concept of artists being signed to the major labels is extremely hypocritical- especially in 'the land of the free'. Why? Because whatever comes out of the artist's mouth is restricted and manipulated. As an artist you are owned by those major labels, which are corporations run by people who simply view the artist as an asset, the music as a product and us, as mere consumers. Therefore the major labels' central aim is PROFIT. To me, if profit is the goal of corporations of the music industry, they are in complete contradiction to hip-hop. Let us not forget that hip-hop came into existence because it was the only mechanism for an oppressed coloured man to hold a mic and say whatever he wanted. Hip-hop was the platform for free speech- essentially it was the voice of the voiceless. Besides just being 'party music', the music and the lyrics held a spiritual and intellectual weight. It gave the people an opportunity to speak about what they thought could be possible. Thus hip-hop encouraged the achievement of values derivable from life, it recognised independence, individuality and most importantly- it had the people's interest at heart. This is the true soul of hip-hop.
However, as soon as a corporation's executive is the one defining the rules on that oval table in the office, the music is no longer real and meaningful. The aim of hip-hop music has shifted from caring about people, to profit maximisation. This has disrupted the very foundations of hip-hop and is exactly why we currently see a lot of empty music being produced. Corporations will not invest in artists who have something meaningful or true to say, mainly because they will not be profitable from a sales point of view since they only cater to the needs of the deceived mass market. Even marketing strategies have catalysed an incorrect perception of what hip-hop is. Many artists become so blinded by the flashing lights and profitability that they become oblivious to the fact that to be a hip-hop artist, a level of responsibility exists to preserve and build on the foundations of hip-hop.
The instant an artist becomes commercialised, their music, their lyrics and even they themselves, become compromised. I am in no way implying that all artists who are signed to the majors have lost the true meaning of hip-hop. No doubt a few great artists exist, but they have been in the game for a very long time. These are the artists who realise the significance of the very origins of hip-hop and are not motivated by making a dollar. Their music and objectives are parallel to the true soul and culture of hip-hop. It is very rare for a new emerging artist in the commercial music industry to hold those same values. I believe that there is definitely a great deal of potential currently out there, but it is outweighed by the strength of corporations to mould hip-hop potential into meaningless money-making crap. Indeed, making money is the objective of every artist (including independent artists) and I would be lying if I said otherwise. But there is a big difference between an aim and an objective. The central aim of a true hip-hop artist, is to entertain and educate the people. Multiple layers within entertainment exist. It can inspire people, it can alter perceptions and it can make people relate to something they are going through in their lives. But entertainment can also deceive, delude and 'dumb down' people- corporations have taken full advantage of the latter.
'Open your eyes' reflects the two-fold meaning of The 3rd World album. While corporations are enjoying increasing sales, the profits generated supports imperialism. Why would corporations prevent artists to speak about things like government cover-ups, the demolition of towers and the illegal occupation of Palestine (despite the fact that hip-hop's foundations was strongly Islamically influenced from the onset)? It is because these censored things fuel their existence. It is the same money, along with our tax, that pays for illegal wars, robbing third world countries of their resources and taking advantage of cheap labour which adds to the uneven distribution of wealth and prevents the poor countries from economically advancing. This concept of taking advantage of the third world also occurs in the rap industry, whereby the underground can be viewed as 'the 3rd world' and artists are exploited for monetary gains.
I commend independent artists who find mechanisms to circumvent corporations because they prefer lyrical independence over being commercialised. So if your goal is to be Mr. successful platinum artist, you are motivated by money and not by the love of hip-hop.