Journalist Dan Charnas discusses his new book The Big Payback: The History of the Business of Hip-Hop.
It’s no secret that Hip-hop is now a multi-billion dollar industry and the predominant popular culture of global youth.
It’s birthed CEO’s such as Sean Carter, Damon Dash, Lyor Cohen, Steve Stout, Chris Lighty, Sean Combs and early pioneers like Charlie Stettler and Russel Simmons.
Although Hip-hop’s cultural influence has been documented twice over, there has never been a comprehensive look into the economic machine behind hip-hop from it’s earlier humble beginnings to its present day status as a musical juggernaut.
The Atlanta Post sat down with Dan Charnas, author of The Big Payback: The History of the Business of Hip-Hop to discuss corporate America’s early flirtations with hip-hop, the evolution of the record deal, corporate appropriation of rap music, and hip-hop’s influence on corporate marketing.
Why did you think it was so important to chronicle the business acumen of rappers and the evolution of the rap industry?
The real reason is that nobody’s ever told that story of the people who work behind the scenes. For decades what was a street culture nobody even knew about and what is now the world’s predominant pop culture.
Part of it comes from me having been part of the industry for about 15 years working for a record company and working with the Source [Magazine]. Another part comes from being a journalist and being really fond of the great writing that’s been done by hip-hop by writers like Jeff Chang, who wrote the best book ever on HipHop, focusing primarily on its cultural history.
Brian Coleman wrote a great musical history. But neither of them, except for ones that deal specifically with record companies like Ronin Ro’s book on DeathRow Records, “Have Gun Will Travel” and Stacey Gueraseva’s book “Def Jam, Inc.”, deal on the linear manner with which the evolution of the industry took place.
I can tell you from personal experience that without the hard work of the people that worked at the record companies, the DJ’s at the radio stations, those who worked at the agencies, and worked in management, the artists couldn’t have broken through without the help of these people and that was the inspiration to tell the story. I just think it’s an important story to tell.