Broads & Bullets

...Where your mouth is.

I'm into the practice of New Year's resolutions.

I recognize that, as much as I love myself, I'm a flawed human being who's prone to bad habits and obnoxious behaviors.

And vices.

Oh the vices.

My life is a constant battle, as I struggle to understand who I am while trying to visualize who I want to be. I believe the journey in between is what life's all about. The New Year is a time to reflect, re-evaluate and move in new directions. It's also a time to reconsider your relationships with the people and things you love, and how you can help them.

And hip-hop needs my help. And yours.

I've taken to following the sales numbers in recent months, and the picture is bleak. The top-tier names - Jay-Z, T.I., Curtis, Kanye - can move enough units to satisfy their record labels and turn a profit. But the second-tier artists, names that have built hip-hop into what it is today and provide the creative foundation of the art form, are simply not selling enough records. Look at some of the critically acclaimed releases of 2007. Desire did 12,000 its first week. Getback did 9600. Eardrum has done 150,000 since its release...and considered a success in an industry where you need to move 500,000 units in order to profit. Even Wu-Tang, one of the greatest hip-hop acts ever, releasing its first album in six years, only manged 68,000.

If this trend continues, record labels will start dropping these artists. We can debate the merits of mega record labels' interaction with hip-hop, but as constructed, they provide the infrastructure. As with any industry, there has to be a means for distribution and promotion of product. Now maybe album sales are archaic as a measurement of success; lord knows there are other means of getting an album to your listeners. But fundamentally, money has to change hands from the consumers to the producer. Otherwise the market is unsustainable.

And as a consumer & supporter of hip-hop, I have not been doing my part in ensuring rap's survival. It's easy to explain why: I'm not exactly rolling in disposable income, CDs are overpriced (Eardrum was 19$ at Barnes and Nobles...fucking ridiculous,) and I know that when I buy an album, my dollars end up doing more to help the head of Universal build a pool at his third summer house than paying for Talib's studio time. Plus, there's the matter of convenience - what's easier than hopping on the web and downloading? The entire shape and scope of the industry is fucked up, it doesn't reward creativity and doesn't reward taking chances. It rewards impeccable, formulaic, image maintenance, (best encapsulated in 50's career), and disposable nonsense (Soulja Boy.) That's what sells to mainstream America.

But the great thing about the world in 2008 is, if you shop smartly, you can control where your money goes. Consumers have never had more choice. It's time for the hip-hop lovers to utilize this power.

Thus, I have resolved for 2008 to support the hip-hop industry not just with my keyboard, but my wallet. Every month I am hereby required to support an in-need hip-hop act through purchasing an album or attending their concert (the preferred method since more money will go to the artist...and I can get the albums anyways.) It may not seem like much, but over 2008, it'll add up. It will also act as a vote, a message to the pockets at headquarters that hip-hop artists are worth their investment and quality music is what the fans want. Until the TSS-led revolution changes the way business is done in hip-hop (and the world,) we are dependent on their support.

I urge other fans to do the same, although I won't hate if you choose otherwise. But to quote Jay-z, a man whose albums I will gladly never buy, "we can't leave rap alone, the game needs us."

The Smoking Section recaps the some of the year's funnies, straight misses...and then the hits. Grab a drink & clear some hard drive space.