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To sell out or gentrify: Are rappers pricing out their real audience?

A recent and ongoing discussion about the gentrification of rap concerts is simmering on Twitter. With several fans and artists expressing despair at the consistent white takeover of their concerts.

Artists of color explain that the music they make for fellow fans of color is not accessible to them in one of the most engaging and sacred fan activities: concerts.

As artists become more and more successful, the mainstream and largely white audience begins to engage with their music. This is not a terrible thing on its own, but it does cause a dilemma.

What is an artist to do when the crowds no longer reflect the audience the art is meant for? Let’s consider the initial reasoning behind why this happens.

Pricing out your original fanbase and audiences.

Some say artists’ goals are to be successful. Those critics believe with success comes white money and white engagement. But for artists who care for more than the money, this reality is difficult.

NoName recently vowed to stop rapping altogether. This decision was because the audiences that came to her shows and concerts were overwhelmingly white. She states she does not want to “dance on a stage for white people.”

She also explains that she’s tired of “consistently creating content that is primarily consumed by a white audience who would rather shit on me than challenge their liberalism because somehow liking Lizzo’s music absolves them of racist tendencies.”

We know those white audiences at rap concerts for performers like Kendrick Lamar often rap along to the lyrics of popular songs proudly saying the N-word.

They also blatantly disregard and reject songs that are less mainstream hits and part of the larger conscious discography of artists like Lamar, J. Cole and Vic Mensa.

Like NoName aptly pointed out, these audiences are not interested in the unique and powerful Black perspective on the Black experience.

They’re culture vultures, here to take what white people have taken before; Black products, in this case, culture in the form of music, fashion, and space.

A space that originally was and is very difficult to create. As the documentary, Backstage (2000) reveals, going on tour with several successful rap artists was a feat many did not believe was financially possible, let alone as a solo rap artist.

The doc featured huge artists including Jay-Z, DMX, Method Man, Redman, Ja Rule, Beanie Sigel, and Amil.

So some may argue that national and worldwide earthshattering success on tour is only a recent phenomenon for rap artists.

Jay-Z specifically has been accused of pricing out his audience. While his worth is obviously deserving of the high price tag of seeing him live, the concert attendees that can afford to pay that price tag are not the people from his origin story.

The sad thing is that many argue having white audiences at your shows is a sign of that success. They claim those white crowds are bags at the end of the day.

But personal comfort, dignity, and overall respect go beyond money. Nobody really enjoys being the entertainment for a racially disrespectful crowd. You already know Noname spoke on it via Twitter:

“What’s funny is most black artist are just as uncomfortable performing for majority white crowds but would never publicly say that out of fear and allegiance to [money]. Which isnt a bad thing necessarily cause niggas gotta eat but yall wouldnt be up and arms if I quit workn at McDonalds.”

— Noname (@noname) November 30, 2019

So what’s the solution?

For Noname, it’s quitting rap altogether. For others? It’s unclear. How many checks does it take to finally do something about the gentrification of Rap? Or is selling out the wave?