6.19.2006

Hip-Hop Hoopla

Prior to this week I had never heard of Cristal champagne. Call me sheltered, or out of touch with current trends, but I know one thing: my income is not high enough to splurge on outrageously expensive alcoholic beverages. I also acknowledge that I am not a fan of hip-hop music. But does that make me a racist? In the eyes of rap star Jay Z it apparently does.

Jay-Z, who gained fame as a rap singer and is now president and CEO of Def Jam Records, has announced a boycott of Cristal champagne after reading what he perceived as “racist comments” by Frederic Rouzaud, managing director of Louis Roederer, the company that makes Cristal.

In a recent issue of The Economist magazine, Rouzaud said his company viewed Cristal’s popularity in the hip-hop world with “curiosity and serenity.” The gist of the article seemed to be that the company wasn’t overly enthusiastic about Cristal being associated with hip-hop music and its fans. The writer of the article, Gideon Rachman, was also asked by Rachman if the association between Cristal and the “bling” lifestyle could eventually be detrimental to sales of the expensive drink. “That's a good question,” Rouzaud replied. “But what can we do? We can't forbid people from buying it.” The writer - but not Rouzaud himself - later used the phrase “unwelcome attention” when summarizing the general feeling that high-end champagne makers had with having their product touted by hip-hop stars.

Those comments were apparently enough to anger Jay Z. “It has come to my attention that the managing director of Cristal, Frederic Rouzaud views the hip-hop culture as ‘unwelcome attention,’” Jay-Z said in a statement. “I view his comments as racist and will no longer support any of his products through any of my various brands nor in my personal life.”

From my perspective the comments in the article certainly don’t paint the Cristal folks as racists. You can call them out of touch, over the hill, or old fashioned, but to accuse them of being racist simply because they aren’t giddy about their product being associated with a style of music that frequently glorifies violence, stupidity, and misogyny, is not fair. I love music, especially jazz, funk, and soul made by Black - or African-American - musicians in the 1960s and 1970s. But what passes for popular black music nowadays leaves me cold. Just because someone isn’t a fan of current rap or hip-hop music, that by no means makes them racist. Jay Z and his ilk need to grow up.

2 comments:

obifromsouthlondon said...

you summary is wrong. what passes for popular black music nowadays is music controlled by white music execs. these execs seem only interested in green lighting the bullshit side of hip hop. the type of music that will turn them a quick buck - gun talk and booty shaking. the music in style of the 60s and 70s still exist but you wouldn't be hearing it on any radio. do the math. there is more to this than "violent, stupid and misogynistic" rappers.

remember tommy hilfiger? turn off the radio.

Bangkok Bertha said...

Yes, white music executives do control a large part of the market and influence consumer behavior, but with labels such as Def Jam it's not just a white thing anymore. And even the labels are held hostage by marketing companies, video channels, radio "consultants" and other factors. No, I certainly don't expect to hear music from the 60s of 70s on commerical radio, or even quality music (of any genre) that is being made nowadays. Math is not involved in that equation. Most of the music that the general public is exposed to these days is nothing but big label mediocrity. Gotta appeal to the lowest common denominator, right? But somehow all of that misses that point of the original post. I think Jay Z's comment about the champagne company being racists was not fair based on what I read in the original news article.