Social media = the new ‘hip hop / rap’

The same way people scrambled to understand what the hell rap was in the late 70’s (and even today), reminds me of how the world is scrambling to comprehend the world of social media. Just like hip hop, social media is becoming more ubiquitous than any other modern piece of society, but the difference with social is that it is being played out on an accelerated global stage – the Internet. Both forms of communication (rap and social) were disruptive to the status quo and piggy backed on the previous realities (disco/rock and internet/mobile). I’m reminded of a funny yet insightful quote by Kurt Elling when he said that “Jazz singing is like pornography. You can’t say what it is, but you know it when you see it.” Jazz evolved from the tensions of the times and was passed off to the underworld of music because of the influence it was having on people and culture. Similarly, rap music has been subjugated to that type of reality, but has managed to be so disruptive and loud that it could do nothing more than infiltrate the broader culture – influencing art, film, entertainment, classrooms, advertising, products, sports, language, fashion, and technology. Rap and it’s broader hip hop culture exploded onto the scene and resonated with people of all different languages, ages, races, and sex. Those who got struck by it couldn’t exactly explain what it was, but they knew it was infectious enough to stay apart of – they couldn’t shake it. Everywhere they looked, there was some other hip hop influenced item. I liken this same history to what is occurring right now in social. Everybody has heard of it, not sure what to think about it, but figuring they need to get on or get left behind. Look at the early artists of any new genre, they are typically younger folks…look at the founders of all these social media and webs technologies…younger yet! That’s because just like rap, these founders saw an opportunity, had the ability articulate a story or vision, and created it (code/business,etc). The same youthful energy that has always emblazed hip hop is what is driving the exuberance behind social. The opportunity for mass commercialization, the displaying of talents, and the opportunity to be bigger than oneself…not to mention the over saturation of people trying to play along. Just as any musical genre can get flooded by everybody thinking they can rap/sing/dance, social and web technology is getting flooded by everybody bold enough to think they can stake their own claims on the world. Think about it, why do we need 100 free flashlight apps in the App Store anyways? I mean, yes that is the concept of capitalism and free choice, but the economic model has changed in both worlds. Musicians and labels are battling piracy while the web world has said, ‘screw profits and pricing structures, build it, get a few million users, and determine a monetization strategy later”. Web world gives stuff way for free to get a user base. Rappers used to battle for free to get notoriety, and the opportunity to figure out their own monetization model later…Even look at the influences. Hip hop has global influences, and even regional tastes that are easy to discern to the trained ear. Even web companies/technologies are susceptible to being tied to where they are founded at. Denver has a style, Silicon Valley another, Seattle its own, and Boston something even different – all influenced by their local cultures for startups, developing, and risk taking. These regions have their own leaders just like everybody knows who the dominant force or camp in the East, West, or South is as far as music goes. Just like we see hip hop as a mindset (independence, participatory, diverse, edgy, and raw), we are seeing how social media is evolving very hip hop esque. Literally, just as a kid could pick up a mic and influence an entire culture, users, by the very nature of being users on these platforms and tools, are influencing how the tools we use work. At an individual level and a 500 million + (Facebook community) level, we are participating in and creating our own reality…Businesses are scrambling to understand both in order to properly communicate with their target markets. Rappers are creating their own marketing and advertising agencies, and even large corporations are soliciting advice from leaders to help them properly connect with their foundations. If that isn’t powerful, I don’t know what is. It’s ad lib, ad hoc, and it’s improvinizational. Just like Jazz. Just like freestyling. Only the improv in this socially connected tech world is that as soon as a tech savvy user sees a flaw or an unmet need, they jump on it to solve if for not just themselves, but for everybody…and they can either do this for free (open source) or for a nominal price to users (apps). Anything that has the power to transform business, economics, and culture is clearly a force that many will struggle to ever fully understand. If this makes any sense at all to you, consider yourself ahead of the curve. (That’s a wrap!)

~ by Adam Maikkula on November 18, 2010.

2 Responses to “Social media = the new ‘hip hop / rap’”

  1. […] Social media = the new 'hip hop / rap'. The same way people scrambled to understand what the hell rap was in the late 70′s (and even today), reminds me of how the world is scrambling to comprehend the world of social media. … new hip hop – Google Blog Search […]

  2. “Over 80 million records sold and I ain’t got to do it with ten or eleven year olds.” – Dr. Dre

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