From Advertising to Civics: Hip Hop Culture Grows Up Alongside Millennials

One of the first mergers of hip hop music and advertising involved a 30-second spot performed by the Wu-Tang Clan in 1994 for St. Ides, a malt liquor previously lacking in notoriety. While millennials (those born between 1980 and 2001) were not part of the St. Ides consumer base, they grew up alongside hip hop.

Like millennials, hip hop music is a child of the 80s and 90s: it’s what was played at school dances, and it’s something they can relate to. Now, brands including McDonald’s, The Gap, Reebok, and Sprite have dabbled in hip hop advertising. Even the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has released its own hip hop anti-smoking campaign to reach younger audiences.

To prove how much the hip hop/advertising combination has matured, consider this: in 2013, Shawn “Diddy” Combs pulled in over $50 million dollars through his record label, clothing line, and business partnerships. It would be hard for anyone interested in profit-making and advertising not to look for clues in Diddy’s strategy toward success.

Hip hop is also taking its place in politics and civic affairs, another sign of its maturity. Conscious hip hop gained momentum during the Obama era. It became a soundboard to speak out about social issues, predominantly surrounding race. According to the American Studies Journal, “conscious rap also functions in ways that are highly responsive to contemporary socio-political contexts and conditions, aligning it with various community interests and artistic strategies now.” President Barack Obama and Republican State Senator Marco Rubio have both spoken out in support and respect for some of the most famous hip hop artists and included them at exclusive political events.

The Hip Hop Future

Culture and the environment we grow up in shapes what attracts us and what stands out in our minds. Hip hop has been in the lives of millennials for as long as they can remember and has played an increasing role over the years. Hip hop offers another medium for political discourse, marketing and advertising, and addressing social issues.

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