Looking at hip-hop and its primary targets these days, you might have noticed that it's becoming increasingly more -- well, white.
Going to a hip-hop show means that you're destined to see a crowd of white kids mouthing the words to popular songs while wearing the latest in hip-hop fashions. You can overhear them conversing with one another about past attendance to other hip-hop shows and how the current one measures up. They seem to know who's in and who's not, at least within the mainstream well, and to some extent a growing knowledge of what's in with the underground crowd. They're the ones who drive up iTunes and Bandcamp sales and own vinyl copies of classic albums -- if only to say they have them.
Even the artists themselves have noticed that the white kids are the ones who seem to care the most. I recently attended a video shoot for an up and coming young rapper, who upon the compliment of his song said "The black kids really don't like me. It seems like it's only the white kids who buy my music". On the surface, it seems as if white kids are the primary targets for hip-hop these days, based on sheer purchasing power.
So what about the black kids?
Because of the shift of hip-hop consumerism, it would seem as if black kids just aren't listening to the genre as much as they used to. The recent shift is a part of the age old story of consumerism, racial privilege and media representation. It's a widely known fact that years of racial discrimination and a system that promotes the success of whites over people of color enables whites to have more purchasing power. Hip-hop is not immune to this effect. Without the ability to put disposable income to things like albums, concert tickets and merchandise, it would seem as if black kids aren't interested in the genre anymore.
The average black kid would probably tell you a different story. Behind the scenes, they're the ones who actively and genuinely care about the genre from a vastly personal level. Despite not being able to support artists from a financial standpoint, they're often downloading music through free sources, offering support through sheer fandom and appreciation for the music. Some would say that this is less important, since one of the main factors for an artist's success is album sales.
But fan support is also an important part of an artist's success, and this is where black kids are a hidden driving force. This is where an artist can receive love and support on a deeper level, through knowing that their music reached someone from circumstances like their own. Although it may not always show through album sales or concert attendance, black kids are often the biggest supporters of an artist on an emotional level. Unfortunately, black kids may not always be able to attend a show or buy an album, but they're often the ones who are avid supporters of artists throughout their careers, even when the initial hype has long subsided.
White kids may be the catalyst that launches an artist into mainstream success, but black kids are the ones that drive them to do what they do.