NEW YORK, New York—Music and news media can be competitive arenas where the winners are determined by public approval.
Contestants with more money than others tend to receive more thumbs up.
Though, there are contestants attempting to change the criteria for approval, focusing on their talent and independent thought, rather than the profit their talent and thought may bring to them and to others they work for.
New York City (NYC) based hip hop artist and activist, Mr. Felipe Andres Coronel, whose stage name is Immortal Technique, is one such contestant.
Immortal Technique uses his music to passionately critique various social inequalities resulting from corporate greed worldwide, especially within the music industry.
He emphasizes that record companies, as well as artists’ managers and promoters, rather than the musical artists that work for them, make the most profit from the mass-produced and marketed music.
“A lot of these promoters are doing showcases, throwing events, and not even paying the workhorses[artists],” he raps on the song, “The Message and the Money,” off his 2003 album Revolutionary, Vol. 2. “You want me to go shopping, cook the food, and put it in front of you, but you won't let me sit down and eat with you?”
Immortal Technique adds that he refuses to “feed the machine,” or fuel an oppressive system.
“The more that mc's [hip hop artists], producers, dj's, and independent labels start to grasp the conceptuality of what their contribution to the business of hip hop is, rather than just the music, the more the industry will be forced to change,” he raps.
Changing in a different direction
As hip hop arguably started among people from low-income, minority, NYC neighborhoods during the 1970s, another NYC hip hop artist, record producer, entrepreneur, and actor Mr. Shawn Corey Carter has contributed to a change in the origins of hip hop by consistently rapping about the money and success he has.
However, Mr. Carter, whose stage name is Jay-Z, started his career at the bottom, growing up in an impoverished neighborhood and struggling as an artist.
He is now considered successful with numerous business accomplishments, including owning his own record labels and co-owning a sports bar in NYC.
In his song, “Mo’ Money,” from his 2004 album, Unfinished Business, Jay-Z mentions that he grew up disadvantaged and thinks of his struggle as motivation for making as much money as possible.
“Gettin’ this money, switchin’ my whips [cars] and my kicks [shoes] like I’m just addicted to difference,” he raps. “Get all the eyes when you gettin’ that money.”
Though, Jay-Z has gone beyond talking about just money in his commercial music and has used his influence, gained through success, to affect political change in the mainstream.
For example, in 2008 he was among artists who publically supported President Barack Obama for the 2008 Presidential election, performing shows financed by President Obama’s campaign.
Jay-Z is considered a leader in hip hop, a multi-millionaire who came from having no voice to being a voice.
Hearing the voice, the sound
Ms. Amy Goodman is an NYC based broadcast journalist, syndicated columnist, investigative reporter, and author who advocates for non-corporate, independent media that give voices to the voiceless.
“It is the responsibility of journalists to go where the silence is, to seek out news and people who are ignored, to accurately and clearly report on the issues-issues that the corporate, for profit media often distort, if they cover them at all,” she wrote in her book, Breaking the Sound Barrier.
To allow for the unheard voices to be heard, Goodman co-founded Democracy Now! The War and Peace Report, an independent program featuring global news, which broadcasts on radio, television, and internet.
Goodman believes the success Democracy Now! has independently achieved is due to the mainstream media not covering what people really want to know about, hence sending them to alternative outlets.
“What is typically presented as news analysis is, for the most part, a small circle of pundits who know so little about so much, explaining the world to us and getting it so wrong,” she wrote. “My goal as a journalist is to break the sound barrier, to expand the debate, to cut through the static and bring forth voices that are shut out.”