Wendy Day on “The Culture of Hip Hop VS The Urban Music Industry”

As I joined the urban music industry, I noticed that the industry folks rarely, if ever, attended any of the events within the culture. I remember being confused (and annoyed) in my early years of embracing the industry that the folks whom I looked up to in the industry (the Chris Lightys and Jessica Rosenblums) never went to the “underground” hip hop events. I rarely saw them at the Zulu Nation Anniversaries, or the Rock Steady Anniversaries, or the Lyricist Lounge events. They went to their own industry events, and supported the industry side (like the New Music Seminars, etc), but I didn’t understand why they never did the Hip Hop cultural events. I hadn’t yet realized that the two things were separate.

By the mid-90s, I was full blown immersed into the culture of Hip Hop and the music industry. The culture still embraced me because I wasn’t making any money from hip hop (therefore I wasn’t a “sell out”), and was fighting for hip hop on the industry side. The industry embraced me, but didn’t understand me, because they saw me fighting for something they could care less about (artists’ rights and a culture of people). The industry tolerated me only because they saw I had a direct pipeline and influence with most of the newer and up and coming artists. The labels no longer wanted the older hip hop artists such as Public Enemy and X-Clan, or the artists who created the early music in the culture (Grandmaster Flash, T-La Rock, Whodini, Run DMC, etc), they wanted the new generation that spoke to the profitable masses (Master P, Biggie Smalls, Twista, Ice Cube, Too Short, E-40, Tupac, etc). And the labels were solely about the money, not the culture. They invested heavily in artists with strong street buzzes and large pre-orders at retail stores, ignoring the artists who did not. They always claimed to be putting their money towards the projects that the fans would buy most.