A Labyrinth, A Maze (4): Cipher Complete
Perhaps you haven’t gotten the memo, RAP FANS, but gangster rap is dead. This, the greatest interview with hip hop’s leading thinker explains:
PyroRadio.com: So is the writing on the wall for Gangsta rap in your opinion?
Asher Roth: I think it’s about that time. It will be around, but if you look at The Game for example who was the last person to really come out talking that kinda stuff. Was he successful? Yes, but were people relating to it? No. You go to Los Angeles and Mexico that stuff gangs and stuff still exist but is that what we should be glorifying, no. People can disagree with me because there is a struggle in this country but rather than glorify gangs and make kids wanna join gangs I think we should concentrate on building and teaching rather than destroying shit.
“Gangs and stuff” are out. Modern mainstream rap will soon be a cornucopia of white boys who don’t identify with the culture, middle class skateboarders in three hundred dollar sneakers and dudes who would rather get on a vlog than a stage.  But why has the industry chosen this moment to embrace a new rap image? Since we’ve firmly established that no human being that isn’t attached to a computer monitor knows or cares about Charles Hamilton, we can definitely skip the chicken and egg deliberations. Nobody is playing catch up here. The labels have abandoned the traditional model of finding the underground hits and breaking them, the model that has produced almost every significant rap act of the past twenty years. They are suddenly so arrogant to think they can create hip hop stars in a petri dish. But why this moment? After a decade or so of selling
A theory: in the era of the 360 Deal labels now have a vested interest in the success of an artist well beyond soundscan and BDS. Popularized in recent years, 360 deals sign artists to all inclusive contracts that give the label a cut of all their incoming finances – tour money, merchandise, ad deals, etc. I’m pretty sure they’ll still be taking a cut when the artist is working at the Checkers drive thru ten years from now.  (Bol has produced some great speculative journalism of his own on the subject of 360 Deals, with regards to The Knux in particular) Now I’m not privy as to whether or not the BOBs and Wales and Chamiltons are signed to these sorts of deals, hence the speculation. But the labels seem to be moving towards signing more mainstream marketable whole packages, artists who can seem just cool enough to a hip advertising firm but not fuck it (or a tour) up by getting caught with guns or beating a promoter with a pool cue. Gangster rappers are liabilities in this landscape.
It’s a lot easier to convince that ad team or film musical director that a record is cool than it is to convince a nation of fickle fifteen year olds to buy it. To those interlopers concrete blog hits are more tangible than street hits (the barber shop can’t translate to a powerpoint presentation the way click thrus can) and a presentable, playful Charles Hamilton type who raps about girls and video games is more resonant with the 20 something college graduates that inhabits these firms. The Knux album was a commercial flop, but that probably doesn’t matter because their entire promotional budget amounted to little more than the metrocard for the intern who writes emails to eskay. Their label is working under the assumption that their
At the same time the majors have their bets hedged on street/gangsta/ignorant rap thanks to indie distribution subsidiaries like Asylum. There, if an OJ The Juiceman or Z-Ro overcomes the odds and produces a significant hit without major label marketing they can be up-streamed to parent label Warner, who makes some free money after all. Or consider Atlantic, who will surely be reaping the benefits of Gucci’s post prison buzz even after they dropped the ball with Back To The Trap House last year, probably because some higher up feared the very loose canon pool cue social devience that sparked that buzz.
 The impoverished still have no voice in a post-racial utopia. That’s why it’s called post race, not post class.
 Except maybe his cousin, MC Lyte. Remember when we talked about nepotism last time?
 All us crackers have one. Sorry.
 This is an entirely image driven distinction and has very little to do with music. Gorilla Zoe is teetering on the edge of post-rap but still wears baggy clothes and doesn’t know how to use a computer so he’s not a priority at his label. The new model doesn’t need good music.
 One commenter at an unfortunately unlinkable overseas record collector site I frequent even went so far as to suggest that acts like Lupe and Kanye were planted preemptively, possibly by lizard people, in a global conspiracy to better prep young voters for a liberal black and skinny Chicagoan presidential candidate.
 “Maybe you remember me from the cover of XXL? No? Well would you like curly fries with that?”