I recently read the Flamingo International piece ” Hip Hop: Subculture or Super Brand?” by Chris Arning and Ednyfed Tappy. I had been working on a piece on Sneakerheads and had encountered the Flamingo International piece The New Mainstream (which I think is epic and one of those pieces I wish I had written).
By the time I reached the conclusion of the hip hop piece I read the sentence:
“Failing to understand hip-hop can lead at best to missed opportunities, and at worst to damaged credibility and lack of relevance.”
I read that phrase and realized that with the work I do, the same could be said for YouTube. Swap “hip-hop” for “YouTube” and it is the current statement that might best describe the business I am in.
“Failing to understand YouTube can lead at best to missed opportunities, and at worst to damaged credibility and lack of relevance.”
I then immediately rethought the arguments behind the piece on Hip-Hop culture and saw the incredible connections between the findings about the allure of Hip-Hop and the allure of YouTube.
Both have managed to incorporate brands in such a seamless way. Arning and Tappy liken brands in hip hop to furniture. It is just part of the room. Nice furniture and pieces that fit a room reflect on the owner and the brand. Brands are integrated as part of the scenery of YouTube just as they are part of the verbiage of Hip-Hop.
Hip-Hop is conversational and confessional in tone. It is expert at first person singular. These are the characteristics of vlogging. They are YouTubers talking to cameras about the real issues of their lives. YouTube is AMAZING at the first person singular.
The piece sites Hip-Hop as being both a collage and an intertextual genre, with the conversation amongst the artists fueling creativity. This too is true of YouTube because communities of creators form and they proliferate style, tone and innovation within YouTubers, whilst referencing past works of other artists. Because much of the conversation, in both of these super-brands, is about the goings on in the lives of the artists and the world around them, both Hip-Hop and YouTube maintain this sense of immediacy, simultaneously being relevant and archiving what life was like for future reference.
Brands have only recently started to try and capitalize on YouTube en masse. This is done in one of two ways, through integrations with YouTubers or through becoming media production houses on their own and trying to make content for the space.
Both of these tactics were articulated by Arning and Tappy in mentioning how Brands try to capitalize on Hip-Hop culture.
YouTube is the second largest search engine in existence, the runner up to its parent company, google. The popularity of YouTube parallels the same reasons why Hip-Hop is popular in Youth Culture. It is the most recent mass iteration of communication that privileges conversation rather than broadcast, and grassroots movement rather than corporate interests (although YouTube is going increasingly in a pro-Brand direction).
I am sure I will write more to this topic. The original piece on Hip-Hop can be downloaded here.