Black men in the music industry have never been hard to find.
In today’s musical climate, there are very few genres of music that haven’t been touched by the black male, from Jay Z and Lil Wayne in the world of Hip Hop, to British boy band JLS in the realms of Pop.
For years, the issue of how black men are portrayed in the music industry has remained a well discussed one.
With even the likes of Rapper Game airing his thoughts on why many of his own contemporaries are presented in a light contrary to their actual realities , this is one hot topic very few have little to say about.
Now we here at That Grape Juice HQ want you to weigh in…
Do Record Labels Endorse Negative Stereotypes Of Black Men To Help Boost Sales?
In 2005, R&B staple Trey Songz debuted with the LP ‘I Gotta Make It‘.
Greeted with a luke warm reception on the charts upon its release, the project had varied lyrical content, touching on a number of subject matters.
Failing to live up to the notoriety achieved by the releases of many a crooner before him, many (and with good reason) wrote Mr. ‘Gotta Go‘s career’s off.
Fast forward four years to his album ‘Ready‘ and fans of the one time military brat were introduced to revamped Trey.
The hypersexual black man.
Coupled with Chris Brown‘s blacklisting in the media around the same, Mr. Songz watched his popularity and sales rise.
Whilst his 2005 single ‘Gotta Make It‘ had peaked at #87 on Billboard’s Hot 100, his ‘baby making’ 2009 release ‘I Invented Sex‘ charted at #1 on the US R&B Charts and #42 on the Hot 100.
Likewise, whilst his first two albums failed to peak in the Top ten of any charts they were released in, his latter-more explicit releases peaked at #3 and #2 respectively.
It would seem to many that Trey Songz and his label, like so many before , were being rewarded for ‘sexing it up’ to appeal to a buying public who in the last ten to fifteen years developed a clear idea of what their black male performers should be like.
If not a hyper masculine thug with a violent past (see 50 Cent and the glamorization of the ‘shot nine times’ story), a hyper masculine vocalist with an insatiable sexual appetite.
Of course there are exceptions to every rule.
Take ‘Thank Me Later‘ performer Drake, whose ‘sensitive and soulful’ image has helped him differentiate himself from many of his peers.
Allowing him to walk the thin line between Hip Hop code and convention and R&B sensibility with ease, this image has made him one Rap’s highest selling stars.
Meanwhile, the likes of Ne-Yo and Omarion remain at the receiving end of many a ‘he must be gay‘ joke for not confirming to the mold many say record labels habitually endorse.
Are record executives and marketing managers helping to enforce and endorse archaic and detrimental stereotypes of the black male to sell records?
Or are they just catering to a gender construct obsessed society? Who can’t help but to gravitate to the artists that fit their idea of what is means to be an authentic black male performing in an ever changing music business.
What do you think?