Title page for ETD etd-11092009-135327

Type of Document Master's Thesis
Author Tully, Stuart Lucas
Author's Email Address stully1@tigers.lsu.edu
URN etd-11092009-135327
Title Selling the Ghetto: Rap Music and Entrepreneurialism
Degree Master of Arts (M.A.)
Department History
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Shindo, Charles Committee Chair
Foster, Gaines Committee Member
Thompson, Mark Committee Member
  • Sean Combs
  • Shawn Carter
  • Russell Simmons
Date of Defense 2009-10-21
Availability unrestricted
By focusing on incidents during the careers of rap moguls Russell Simmons, Sean Combs, and Shawn Carter, it becomes evident rap music has become more conservative and affirmative of traditional American entrepreneurialism than believed by prior scholarship, which regarded rap music primarily as radical and counter-cultural black expression.

For Russell Simmons and Run-DMC, the Madison Square Garden concert and its effect on the perception of a subsequent endorsement deal with Adidas demonstrate the emergence of rap music unto the mainstream consumer culture. Though the parties involved would later claim singularity in the event, the process was not just a spur of the moment occurrence, but the calculated effort of Russell Simmons to entice the shoemaker.

Sean Combs’ attempt to rebrand himself from “Puff Daddy” to “P. Diddy” following the negative publicity from his weapons possession trial also exemplifies this principle. Combs underwent the maneuver in an attempt to rebuild his economic viability after much bad press. By changing his moniker, Combs sought to continue his high esteem within the white mainstream as a purveyor of the ghetto culture.

Shawn Carter’s return to rap music following a well-publicized retirement and ascension to CEO of Def Jam Records highlights the continued merger between black expression and the market. Though Carter had become perceived as a businessman despite not legitimately engaging in such activities through his music and public persona, he left the corporate sphere, preferring the perception of moguldom to its actual practice.

Based on these actions of these moguls, it is evident rap music is not inherently radical or counter-cultural, but instead represents the merger of traditional African-American expression with the entrepreneurial drive of the American Dream. This desire to gain wealth is not counter-cultural, but rather represents the emergence of African-American expression into a mainstream market.

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