In November, CNBC ran a think-piece with Morgan Stanley economist Stephen Roach. He said, â€œI think we are coming to a critical point in the global business cycle, where an unbalanced world needs to get rebalanced and I think the key mechanism of that rebalancing will be a slower rate of consumption by the US consumer.â€ According to Roach, American consumption is at 70 per cent of the US GDP, which is not supported by a healthy American income â€“ mad debt! In fact, the debt service ratios and negative saving rates are Depression Era-gloomy!
As a 24-year-old with zero-credit or credit worries, I should not care that America is consuming itself (visualize that part in Spaceballs when the obese pizza-alien-shylock, Pizza The Hutt, eats itself â€“ America, that is you!), but the calculated nagging of super consumerism happens to be the staple of everything I love. Hip hop is a tool, but not the forward-thinking and revolutionizing tool that I once thought it was.
In 1994, Commonâ€™s hip-hop-centric rhymes preached of a holier-than-thou rap game on â€œI Used To Love H.E.R.â€ But excuse me, Mr. Common Sense, whatâ€™s the deal with a generic Gap commercial using a tan-on-white color scheme with break-dancers and DJs floating over a gigantic gold peace symbol? Perhaps whitewashing the once-underground rapper de jour through a commercial is corporate Americaâ€™s way of saying, â€œYeah, we bought you, too,â€ but for a man who prides his career as a conscious rapper, this Gap faux pas shows Commonâ€™s true undercoating. And the commercial would not be problematic if 50 Cent were rapping about peace and love â€“ get it straight, Gap clothing has nothing to do with peace or love â€“ but a muscular black man with tattoos and gun-shot scars does not have the same appeal to suburban North America as a man dressed in a hooded zip-up and tie with a caramel complexion I shudder.
The people that call rap music â€œhip hopâ€ are the target market for Commonâ€™s Gap commercial. Perhaps if The Cosby Show were still running, this Gap commercial could find a permanent ad slot â€“ someplace between Popeyeâ€™s Fried Chicken and US Armed Forces commercials.
To make sure Iâ€™ve not flipped my lid, I found out what the average person thought of Commonâ€™s new gig via the comments found under YouTubeâ€™s clip of the Common Gap commercial.
â€œI like him, I like his music, I like this commercial. Gap has its sophisticated look and its high prices, whatever, so what if he’s rapped for them? I don’t care that he’s “sold out,” as long as his music is still brilliant. If he changed his music style for better records, then there’s a problem; but he put on a tie and all that other stuff and got on a commercial. Big fucking deal.â€
â€œWhat black people you know go shopping at the motha fuckin’ Gap?!!? He’s been against corporate America for years. I mean have any of you ever even listened to a Common album??â€
Although the YouTube comments I showed are two extremes, the feeling of shock and awe cannot escape me; who in their right mind believes Gap clothing is sophisticated and high-priced, and who in good taste, regardless of skin color, shops at Gap?
The problems with consumerism are the choices people make. The over-saturation of options can make people stupid. No, everyone does not have to shop at Alife or Commonwealth to be smart, but purchasing cookie-cutter clothing lines that are sold by a bullshit commercial â€“ a commercial produced to make a 45-year-old mother feel hip for buying their 20-something crumb-snatcher a Gap sweater â€“ is the anti-cool.
I am praying for a recession, because the choices made by the North American consumer are leaning heavy on â€œPeace, love and Gap.â€