It’s fair to say that hip-hop is thriving. Just this summer records indicated that it passed rock as the most popular genre in the U.S., and it only seems to be gaining steam. Part of this is probably due to the fact that rappers, in general, are pretty good at marketing themselves. They’re often more social media-savvy than other musical artists, not just in rock but in most genres, and they tend to max out their creativity more effectively. Even so, though, there are a few marketing opportunities that hip-hop stars seem to be missing, and with which other musicians, young and old, are thriving.
Album Creation Films
To be clear, this isn’t referring to the idea of a “making of” documentary chronicling the process of a real album being made. Rather, it’s about a subtly effective mini-genre of modern musicals. Specifically, director John Carney has made something of the idea, through 2007’s Once (a shock indie hit that won an Oscar), 2013’s Begin Again, and in a slightly different manner, 2016’s Sing Street. These movies surround artists setting out to dedicate themselves to their material, and particularly the first two are almost like fictional documentaries of inspiration and album creation. They’re very effective films for music lovers, though they mostly concern singer-songwriter types.
The closest example to a hip-hop film successfully using this model is probably Hustle & Flow (8 Mile comes to mind, but it was more of a general drama that happened to involve a lot of rap). This movie was a smash hit, and it’s a little bit surprising it didn’t inspire more imitation. It seems that this mini-genre is just sitting there for a creative filmmaker and a talented young artist to take advantage of.
Rappers have done a generally okay job of appearing now and then in video games across different media. But there’s a budding genre of games that are essentially sponsored by musicians that hip-hop artists with some brand clout should probably take note of. These games appear as arcade versions of casino slots, and thus far there have been several based on classic and heavy metal rock groups. The Guns N’ Roses game is probably the most famous, and features several of the band’s hits as background music, with “stabs of music and guitar shredding” interspersed with gameplay.
It may not seem it, but these types of games reach a huge number of online players, and the publicity goes both ways. Fans of the gaming genre are exposed to music, and fans of the music are drawn to the gaming genre; it’s a win-win. Best of all, these games are fundamentally very similar, with the relevant artists only changing background music, a few special features, and the aesthetic. It’s a genre ripe for fresh influence from hip-hop stars and for that matter any other popular musicians.
While hip-hop has produced its own reality shows from time to time, the big music competitions have largely resisted hip-hop influence. Of over a dozen American Idol judges we’ve seen over the years, only Nicki Minaj has a real hip-hop affiliation. There really hasn’t been a hip-hop judge for The X Factor, and for The Voice Pharrell Williams is the only judge we’ve seen with any connection to rap (unless you count Adam Levine having collaborated with Wiz Khalifa).
This is mostly due to the fact that these are singing competitions, and rap is a different art form. However, most of the judging and instruction that takes place on these shows has as much to do with production and advice about how to perform as it does the actual vocals. A big hip-hop star could fit right in on any of these shows’ panels, and would offer valuable insight (and become known to a massive TV audience including a lot of fans of other genres).