Loading ...
Sorry, an error occurred while loading the content.

clip: Hip-Hop's Crossover to the Adult Aisle

Expand Messages
  • Dave Purcell
    From the NY Times.... March 7, 2004 Hip-Hop s Crossover to the Adult Aisle By MARTIN EDLUND or the boisterous Atlanta-based rappers Lil John and the East Side
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 7, 2004
    • 0 Attachment
      From the NY Times....

      March 7, 2004
      Hip-Hop's Crossover to the Adult Aisle

      or the boisterous Atlanta-based rappers Lil John and the East Side Boyz,
      Dec. 10 was the crowning night of what had already been a triumphant
      year. Their album "Kings of Crunk" had been certified platinum; their
      song "Get Low" was in heavy rotation on MTV and commercial radio. That
      evening, at the MGM Grand hotel in Las Vegas, they collected three
      Billboard Music Awards, including one for R&B/hip-hop group of the year.

      But the rappers didn't linger over their victory. Instead, they skipped
      the after-parties and rushed upstairs to their suite to film a graphic
      girl-on-girl sex scene for their new porn video, "Lil Jon and the East
      Side Boyz American Sex Series," which was released last month through
      adult video stores and the Internet. "It's not softcore porn," Lil Jon
      said by telephone from Atlanta. "It's some real XXX."

      Hip-hop has lately taken a turn toward the bourgeois, with prominent
      rappers renouncing violence, embracing philanthropy and donning
      pinstripe suits. But in deliberate defiance of this newfound
      respectability, some top acts have begun to pursue a less-than-wholesome
      sideline: commercial pornography. Pop music has always pushed sexual
      boundaries, of course, and rap has never shied away from gleefully
      smutty lyrics. But now, some stars are moving beyond raunchy rhetoric
      into actual pornographic matter, with graphic videos, explicit cable TV
      shows and hip-hop-themed girlie magazines.

      50 Cent, whose "Get Rich or Die Tryin' " was the best-selling album of
      2003, was at the Adult Entertainment Expo in Las Vegas in January to
      promote a deal with a company called Digital Sin. The result, to be
      released later this year, will be an "interactive sex DVD," titled
      "Groupie Luv," featuring 50 Cent and the rap group G-Unit that will
      allow the viewer to select partners, sexual positions, camera angles,
      even the dispositions of the women ("naughty" or "nice"). The newly
      launched music-meets-porn magazine Fish 'n' Grits gives rappers and and
      porn stars equal play in its pages. (The rapper Method Man shares the
      inaugural cover with the adult film star Solveig.) And in January,
      Playboy TV introduced a new hip-hop-themed series — the first of several
      planned for this year — called "Buckwild." The show features mainstream
      stars like OutKast, Snoop Dogg, Nelly and Busta Rhymes cavorting with a
      frisky troupe of women called the Buckwild Girls, who seem to fall out
      of their clothes whenever a camera approaches.

      "It was inevitable," said Ken (Buckwild) Francis, the creator, producer
      and host of the series. "Hip-hop is a billion-dollar-a-year industry. If
      you don't do it, you're going to miss the boat."

      The first mainstream rapper to do a feature-length commercial porn video
      was Snoop Dogg, whose "Snoop Dogg's Doggystyle" was distributed through
      Hustler Video in 2001. Set in his Los Angeles home, it featured sex
      scenes interspersed with lip-synched performances of 11 previously
      unreleased songs. (Like other rappers who dabble in porn, Snoop Dogg
      does not actually have sex on camera; instead, he plays master of
      ceremonies, presiding over the festivities.) In an industry where a
      video that sells 4,000 copies is considered a runaway hit, "Snoop Dogg's
      Doggystyle" sold somewhere "in the hundreds of thousands," according to
      Larry Flynt, president of Larry Flynt Publications, which owns Hustler
      Video. It was named the top-selling tape of 2001 by the porn trade
      publication Adult Video News and was the first hardcore video ever
      listed on the Billboard music video sales chart. "It's been very
      lucrative for Snoop and us," said Mr. Flynt. The sequel, "Snoop Dogg's
      Hustlaz: Diary of a Pimp," was named top-selling tape of 2003.

      For the porn industry, hip-hop fans are an attractive new market. "The
      fresh music brings people who are primarily fans of hip-hop to the adult
      genre," said Christian Mann, president of Video Team, the company which
      co-produced and distributed the Lil Jon video. "We get a lot of
      customers that we might not otherwise get."

      Camille Evans, a publisher and editor of Fish 'n' Grits, said: "We've
      been using sex to sell music for years. Now we're just flipping it to
      have music sell sex."

      The economics of porn make it a lucrative prospect for rappers. A video
      like Lil Jon's can be done "on a very meager production budget of maybe
      $50,000," Mr. Mann said. Marquee rappers tend to undertake these
      projects as partners, rather than hired help, so if the video does well
      they get paid twice: once as talent (about $1 for every copy sold in the
      case of Lil Jon and the East Side Boyz), and then again as investors.
      (Lil Jon is a major stakeholder in Legacy DVD Works, which was
      co-producer of the video and will receive 50 percent of the profits from
      it.) The video retails for just over $20; if it sells 100,000 copies,
      that's a million-dollar profit, according to Mr. Mann. Sales of cable,
      Internet and foreign distribution rights can contribute 20 percent more,
      he said.

      Even if a video doesn't set sales records, it can add a helpful dash of
      danger and erotic adventurism to a rapper's image. One common scenario
      is to depict the rapper as a pimp presiding over a stable of beautiful
      women. The pimp is a stock figure in hip-hop iconography, an attractive
      rebel, full of street savvy and sexual charm. When it comes to hip-hop
      porn, he also solves a vexing casting issue: how to give rappers the
      appearance of sexual prowess without actually showing them having sex.

      In "Snoop Dogg's Hustlaz: Diary of a Pimp," Snoop peacocks in outrageous
      outfits and seduces a prudish journalist into his employ. But when it
      comes time for sex, Snoop passes the honors off to someone else — or,
      more often, to several other people. Ice-T's 2003 porn video, "Pimpin'
      101," takes a similar tack. As the host, Ice-T leads the viewer through
      a step-by-step mock lesson in how to be a pimp, including primers on
      various kinds of women. (Oddly, Ice-T is a regular on the highly rated
      NBC television series "Law and Order: S.V.U.," on which he plays a
      detective who investigates sex crimes.)

      Another common conceit for these videos is a behind-the-scenes look at
      the "real" life of a rap superstar. Lil Jon's "American Sex Series" lets
      fans follow him to the strip club and into the hotel suite. "Your fans
      want to hang out with you," said Lil Jon. "When you watch this movie, if
      you're a guy, you feel like you're hanging out with us and wilding out
      with some girls."

      According to Brian Leach, vice president in the urban music division of
      Lil Jon's label, TVT Records, the porn video appeals particularly to Lil
      Jon's core audience of "hard, aggressive, crunk, edgy youth," as Mr.
      Leach puts it. These are fans who might feel alienated by Lil Jon's
      recent Top 40 success. (He produced and appears in four songs in the top
      50 on last week's Billboard Hot 100 Singles Chart, including Usher's
      "Yeah!," which has been No. 1 for two weeks running.) "You have this
      audience that's wondering if he's still theirs," Mr. Leach said. "These
      videos say, `I still belong to you.' "

      However, they may distance him from everyone else. In mainstream pop
      music, it's hard to know where titillation ends and smut begins (often,
      it's just a few inches of cloth that separate a Rolling Stone magazine
      photo from a Playboy-type one). As Janet Jackson's recent Super Bowl
      misstep proved, even mock sexuality can be difficult to reconcile with
      commercial standards and tastes. In the past, rappers like Luther
      Campbell of 2 Live Crew and Too Short have dabbled in porn. But these
      acts never appealed to a particularly broad audience. Today, some of the
      biggest names in the business are involved. Artists like Snoop Dogg, 50
      Cent and Lil Jon are fixtures on MTV; in fact, the network is even
      developing a Lil Jon cartoon.

      Of course, many of these acts' fans are teenagers. Mr. Mann, of Video
      Team, recalls hearing Lil Jon's "Get Low" played over the loudspeakers
      during halftime at his 10-year-old son's football game. "The little
      cheerleaders had actually made up cheers to the tune," he said. Mr. Mann
      and Lil Jon both insist that their video won't be marketed to underage
      consumers. But that attitude may be willfully naïve. In an age when
      teenagers scour search engines and file-sharing networks, snapping up
      anything they can find by their favorite rap stars, the wall between
      adult and youth entertainment is irreparably porous.

      Mr. Leach of TVT Records, Lil Jon's label, recognizes that the majority
      of Lil Jon fans are "kids who come from homes that are a little more
      conservative." But far from discouraging Lil Jon's porn venture, TVT is
      planning to put out its own racy Lil Jon DVD, titled "Too Crunk for TV,"
      which will feature nude girls in the style of the enormously successful
      "Girls Gone Wild" video series.

      Another issue for these rappers is whether their porn projects will
      jeopardize their even-more-lucrative corporate endorsement deals. Snoop
      Dogg has recently appeared in television commercials for Nokia and AOL,
      and in November, Reebok released an enormously successful 50 Cent
      sneaker called the G6.

      In 2002, Pepsi pulled ads featuring the rapper Ludacris after Fox News's
      Bill O'Reilly chastised the company for promoting a "thug rapper" whose
      songs contain sexually explicit lyrics. Now Mr. O'Reilly has criticized
      Reebok for partnering with 50 Cent: "They don't care what he says on his
      records, and they don't care that he's marketing porn and drugs and all
      that other stuff," Mr. O'Reilly said on a recent episode of his show
      "The O'Reilly Factor." "They're liking his selling shoes."

      Since then, 50 Cent has quietly distanced himself from the porn project.
      The original press release announcing the deal characterized it as a
      partnership between Digital Sin and 50 Cent. A revised release, put out
      by 50 Cent's management after the "O'Reilly Factor" broadcast, billed it
      instead as a collaboration between Digital Sin and Lloyd Banks, one of
      50 Cent's partners in the rap group G-Unit. 50 Cent's name appears only
      in the final sentence of the release, which states that he and G-Unit
      "won't be engaged in any sexual behavior but may make general

      For rappers who want to be involved in pornography, the decision may
      come down, in the end, to a simple matter of opportunity cost. "Our core
      consumers are minors, so we're not driving it that way," said 50 Cent's
      manager, Chris Lighty. "We're in the business of selling clothing and
      sneakers. We're going to have a $100 million business by the end of this
      year. This isn't something we're jeopardizing."

      Martin Edlund is the pop music critic for the New York Sun.
    Your message has been successfully submitted and would be delivered to recipients shortly.