This is your hip-hop nation in their ride of choice: a minivan.
On this special edition of Culturetopia, we explore the post-rebellion phase of hip-hop, in the form of Eminem's new hit single, "I'm Not Afraid." It's a feel-good anthem, with such a feel-good chorus it comes off as a pastiche of every other bland feel-good anthem of the last 30 years. Check it:
I'm not afraid to take a stand
Everybody come take my hand
We'll walk this road together, through the storm
It's not his typical bad-boy dis of his wife (or ex-wife, I can't keep track at this point) or mocking of other musicians. On the podcast, our Pop Off team — Jay Smooth of illdoctrine.dom and pop music writer Maura Johnston, who is hanging out at theawl.com — talks about how Eminem is part of a trend in hip-hop, toward introspection and away from misanthropic rebelliousness. Jay points to July 2007 as the beginning, when Kanye West's more introspective Graduation outsold 50 Cent's more rebellious The Massacre.
The apex (or nadir, take your pick) of this trend is the huge popularity of Jay-Z and Alicia Keys' "Empire State of Mind." It's all over the new Sex and the City movie. "That's hip-hop in a nutshell," laughs Jay. "We've gone from the voice of the scary counterculture to product placement in Sex and the City 2."
The market for hip-hop hasn't been exclusively one or the other for many years. We were passing around a video in the office recently, a commercial for a minivan that featured a white mom and dad rapping badly about playdates and cul-de-sacs. (I am going to resist embedding it because it is a commercial, but you can Google "swagger wagon" if you are really curious.)
For many of my colleagues, it was making fun of people who are so uncool as to buy minivans. To me, it symbolized a demographic tipping point: right now, the primary consumers of minivans are also native consumers of rap music.
The kids who listened to Dr. Dre, Salt-N-Pepa and The Beastie Boys in their dorm rooms are now parents of young children. My thirty-something younger brother is shopping for a brand-new minivan. He's about to have three kids in diapers at the same time. He also has Tupac on his iPod. His wife is trying to decide if she wants to see this Sex And The City movie. They are the hip-hop generation, just as much as any inner-city kid. If some corporation is going to sell to them, hip-hop product placement is the most logical way to go.
Enjoy the podcast - I laughed out loud at least twice - and then subscribe to it here, because we have so much more good stuff coming.