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Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Get Your Mogul On

posted by on November 7 at 0:01 AM


From this month’s Rolling Stone interview with Chris Rock:

Chris Rock: Music kind of sucks. Nobody’s into being a musician. Everybody’s getting their mogul on. You’ve been so infiltrated by this corporate mentality that all the time you’d spend getting great songs together, you’re busy doing nine other things that have nothing to do with art. You know how shitty Stevie Wonder’s songs would have been if he had to run a fuckin’ clothing company and a cologne line?

Rolling Stone: Plenty of rappers say, “I’m not a rapper, I’m a businessman.”

Chris Rock: That’s why rap sucks, for the most part. Not all rap, but as an art form it’s just not at its best moment. Sammy the Bull would have made a shitty album. And I don’t really have a desire to hear Warren Buffett’s album—or the new CD by Paul Allen. That’s what everybody’s aspiring to be.

We live in a weird time. No one knows who’s smart—we just know who makes money. “Hey, somebody invented Viagra! We don’t know their name, but we know Pfizer, because they make the money.” That guy made a pill that keeps your dick hard, and nobody knows who the fuck he is. The pharmaceutical companies are like fuckin’ record companies. There’s literally the Bo Diddley of medicine walking around, not getting his royalties. He signed all his fucking pill publishing away.

Couldn’t help but think of that quote while watching American Gangster tonight. Playing secondary roles in the film—which was pretty damn entertaining—was a trio of high-profile hiphop stars. I’ve read several reviews of the movie and none made mention of its rapper-turned-actor count.

There’s RZA, sporting a ‘Fro and a Wu tattoo (um, the film is set in the early ’70s) in the role of a streetwise narc. And hey, isn’t that T.I. as a young athelete tempted by crime’s easy money? Not much of a stretch, but the kid does an admirable job. And there’s Lonnie Lynn—you know him as Common—sporting the same paperboy hat and collared shirt as in that old Reebok ad. Weird.

Especially spot-on was RZA’s imitation of a junkie—limping, mumbling “hey man, it’s me, Boogaloo!”—during a climactic bust scene. You can’t mistake that voice.

Seems you could apply Rock’s mogul theory to acting, too. Did anybody hear the last Common album? Did anybody care? Maybe acting is different—at least it’s an artistic pursuit—but these days, the roles Common chooses are more interesting than the albums he makes.

Hat tip to the Lefsetz Letter.

RSS icon Comments


god damn, denzel looks good.

Posted by kerri harrop | November 7, 2007 12:21 AM
Posted by Levislade | November 7, 2007 8:48 AM

I did think it was weird that they casted so many hip-hop artists and not full-time actors. Regardless, I thought the movie as a whole was fairly good.

Posted by TJ | November 7, 2007 10:12 AM

Chris Rock, as usual, hits the nail squarely on the head.

Posted by Ryan | November 7, 2007 10:15 AM

This is great, JZ.

This Chris Rock interview should make it into the 2008 Best Music Writing -- along with Sasha Frere-Jones' recent article.

Posted by Chris Estey | November 7, 2007 10:28 AM

Re: the recent musical output of Common: For what it's worth, Finding Forever kicks Be's butt, in all ways except cover art...

Posted by David Schmader | November 7, 2007 10:51 AM

We wouldn't have had labels like Def Jam if it wasn't for people "getting their mogul on".

Posted by Brandon | November 7, 2007 11:15 AM

RZA in Derailed (yes, I saw it) was horrible. I was appalled at the role he chose to play.

I will give Mos Def a high-five as far as the rapper-turned-actor gig goes, though. Black Star was a definitive 90's hip hop record, Black on Both Sides was a decent solo follow up, and "Universal Magnetic" has to be one of the more recognizable hip-hop jams. Flip side- Hitchiker's Guide and, although I haven't seen it yet, the upcoming Gondry project Be Kind Rewind (with Jack Black). Well done, Uncle Mos.

Posted by bailee. | November 7, 2007 11:40 AM

I just really hate P. Diddy. Duddy.

Posted by trent moorman | November 7, 2007 11:46 AM

@6--really? thats the first time ive heard that. "be" was pretty damn good. i caught the video for the first single off "finding forever" and was put off by the whole "8 mile" conceptual ripoff. plus that album title is in contention for megans most-offensive-of-all-time list. but ill give it another shot.

@7--russell simmons and rick rubin never aspired to be rappers. maybe youre thinking of jay-z's roc-a-fella?

Posted by jz | November 7, 2007 12:50 PM

jz - that's taking it a bit literally in the case of Def Jam.

I don't think anyone can argue that the word "hustle" hasn't been a part of hip-hop since day one. And yeah, Jay-Z may have made it more visible/acceptable/whatever, but it certainly didn't start with him.

for further proof, look at Eric B!

Posted by Brandon | November 7, 2007 1:28 PM

@11: just to pour more gasoline on this fire burning out of control(now barely having to do anything with the original post); it's a not-so-secret secret that eric b never really did anything for eric b and rakim. rakim produced all of the eric b and rakim albums himself; eric b was more of a money man that also held down the decks during live shows (which, if you re-watch the video for 'microphone fiend', he doesn't do very well - he looks like a deer caught in the headlights behind the turntables).

Posted by cosby | November 7, 2007 1:46 PM

the mogul-ization of hiphop is taking hustle to the xxxtreme. and i think youre wrong about hustle being inherent to hiphop. the best of the best avoid the hustle altogether: public enemy, de la, run dmc, etc.

Posted by jz | November 7, 2007 2:00 PM

Re: Common: A Finding Forever song just came up via shuffle on my iPod, with lyrics featuring Common countering a lady's claim that she "doesn't date rappers" by producing his SAG card to prove he's an actor. Make of that what you will.

Re: Eric B: Is this true?!? Never scared, indeed.

Posted by David Schmader | November 7, 2007 2:43 PM

jz - none of the artists you listed avoid hustle altogether. I think you're pinning the definition of the word down on dudes installing gold toilet bowls in their restaurants when it should also include shit like getting Aerosmith to play on a track.

furthermore, rappers don't exist in a vacuum. HUSTLE is a part of hiphop; there would be no De La Soul without Eric B or Bambaataa.

Posted by Brandon | November 7, 2007 3:07 PM

rappers putting business before music is indeed resulting in a lot of garbage ass music.
most of it has to do with rappers emulating jay-z, which has been all the rage since the late 90's.

getting your business right is a totally necessary drive to have in a world dominated by cracka-ass crackas out to rip off and subjugate the righteous original black man, but somewhere along the way, overcharging them for what they did to the Cold Crush gets in the way of making soulful timeless music...for yet more cracka-ass crackas to rip off down the line. let's keep our eyes on the prize my people.

Posted by lar | November 7, 2007 3:44 PM

that pretty much wraps that up.

Posted by jz | November 7, 2007 4:05 PM


Posted by trent moorman | November 7, 2007 4:21 PM

i'm seeing this movie tonight

and finding forever is a good album. not even a not-bad album. it is good. beat-wise, better than graduation.

Posted by ndrwmtsn | November 7, 2007 5:23 PM

real quick:
Chris Rock would totally love Jay-Z's American Gangster.

Posted by lar | November 7, 2007 7:45 PM

hustlin is a part of being a professional musician. Talent is talent and will shine through (or not). There's also good hustlin & bad hustlin.

Posted by dc | November 8, 2007 4:32 PM

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