Peace, Love, But Not Rap

In November, CNBC ran a think-piece with Morgan Stanley economist Stephen Roach. He said, “I 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.” According to Roach, American consumption is at 70 per cent of the US GDP, which is not supported by a healthy American income – 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 – 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, Common’s hip-hop-centric rhymes preached of a holier-than-thou rap game on “I Used To Love H.E.R.” But excuse me, Mr. Common Sense, what’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 America’s way of saying, “Yeah, we bought you, too,” but for a man who prides his career as a conscious rapper, this Gap faux pas shows Common’s true undercoating. And the commercial would not be problematic if 50 Cent were rapping about peace and love – get it straight, Gap clothing has nothing to do with peace or love – 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 “hip hop” are the target market for Common’s Gap commercial. Perhaps if The Cosby Show were still running, this Gap commercial could find a permanent ad slot – someplace between Popeye’s Fried Chicken and US Armed Forces commercials.

To make sure I’ve not flipped my lid, I found out what the average person thought of Common’s new gig via the comments found under YouTube’s clip of the Common Gap commercial.

Dee3BoobTube writes:

“I 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.”

Dustygeo writes:

“What 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??”

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 – a commercial produced to make a 45-year-old mother feel hip for buying their 20-something crumb-snatcher a Gap sweater – is the anti-cool.

I am praying for a recession, because the choices made by the North American consumer are leaning heavy on “Peace, love and Gap.”

Jordan Chalifoux

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  1. i was surprised because he looks more like the edgiest banana republic dresser in town on most occasions, gap seems down market for common. there is no trickle down these days. corporate america is doing better than ever, but it’s not reaching the hands of the employees and everyone owes way too much. our government has some serious cash issues and keeps borrowing while everyone else does, too.

    in fact, you’re likely the antithesis of people our age these days with your financials out of serious debt and the consumerism is what fuels everyone living outside of their means.

  2. i hate gap, my mom always used to buy it for me when i was a kid and i was known as “gap girl” lol. no for real though, the only thing that i did when i saw common in the gap ad what drop my mouth in shock, nod my head in shame, and then laugh- the amount of hypocrisy in the meshing of hip hop and corperate america is mind boggling. now i’ve never lived in a poor neighbourhood, and i certainly am not trying to knock at anyone who has. i have never had to face REAL adversity. i have always viewed hip hop as a way to escape my stable, predictable reality into a controlled chaos. hip hop can be very theraputic (for the people who are expressing their message for the sake of expressing themselves) or very, very toxic. you can’t forget the cruel irony that is EMBEDDED in the hip hop art form itself. The components that support the lifestyle, everything from fast food to running shoes- was made possible by the poverty and struggle of the REAL POOR PEOPLE IN THE WORLD WHO HAVE NOTHING. being “REAL” is perhaps, the most hypocritical statment of our generation.
    i will always have a soft spot for hip hop (h.e.r. lol), the music of my youth. but lately it makes me feel so jaded: a chapter of my life that was nothing more than an artificial, neon coloured, pipe dream with primo scratching in the background. FAT JOE AND JADAKISS DID A SONG WITH PARIS HILTON FOR FUCKSAKE (called “fighting over me”- scott storch did a hot beat). selling out is not a matter of if, but when. (i want to write for your magazine by the way (let me know if you think i’m too depressing lol)- holla at your girl _ ‘ )

  3. I believe the theme song for Old Navy would be my favorite sellout jingle to date: “Lights, Camera, Action. It’s time for some fashion. Go tell your cousins because we gon get our fashion” and the young girl singing proceeds to rap about Old Navy clothing. Whoever wrote that must have really needed the money.

    At least Common is being recognized as a artist worthy of endorsements. 50 cent is more marketable to suburban America, just look at his record sales and the percentage that come from White kids in suburbia ( Soundscan says 70-80%). Common, regardless of his superb work, doesn’t get the sales he deserves and hey, “a dude gotta eat.” Many say he isn’t selling out because the commercial by no means changed what he was all about, if anything it spread awareness about the possibility of there being rap past the gangster persona.

    Also, I would like to point out the biggest mistake critics make when discussing artists of the Native Tongues caliber, they are not conscious. In too many songs and interviews have artists denounced the title. They just rap about things that go on in their life, but like ?uestlove once explained to me, “does that necessarily make them conscious?,” you wouldn’t call an artist like Pimp C or Bun B conscious but they rap about what they’ve been through as well. I feel artists who are often clumped together with Common are just real, period. Not every song they make has a political or activist slant so why pidgeon hole them as “soap box” rappers.

    Do we necessarily need to wear a certain brand “to be Hip Hop?” We are Hip Hop so wearing a certain brand doesn’t certify one as authentic. What we happen to wear and how we wear it becomes Hip Hop because in essence we are the culture. I vaguely remember years ago when the navy and black zip up hoodie by Old Navy and Gap was the thing to wear among youth so I wouldn’t say “no one shops at Gap,” it’s probably their prices that serve as a deterent.

    And is the avergae person a Youtube advocate? Anyone with a Youtube account has seen their share of videos and can by some standards consider themselves a critic, thus seperating themsevles from the mundane and ordinary.

  4. I always felt that Hip Hop didn’t get the love/respect it deserved when I wuz comin’ up (late ’80s, early ’90s) — you couldn’t find baggy jeans in the malls, f’r instance….

    So whut happens? Puff, Dre, & Snoop blow rap the fuck up, and now “gangstas” such as 50 can make millions and sell sneakers in FLs across the world.

    If Common wants a slice, why be mad at him? Obviously ain’t enuff peeps buying his album, so the man made a commercial. The Gap drove a pile of money to his crib and left it there — and I woulda taken it, too.

    Bottom line — Common will never go platinum — his shit just don’t got that mass appeal, and that’s not a dis.

    I work a 9 to 5, Common does Gap ads. Who’s a bigger ho?

  5. Okay,
    I was walking around Brookline, MA the other day and I saw this GAP window. Some background on Brookline is that its not quite a suburb because its too close to Boston, but most of it is pretty money. So this window says “GAP, in your hood,” and has a flick of like generic clean cut urban youth in a GAP hoodie. I almost died. This Common nonesense is well… nonesense. Howeeeeever, I would probably do it for that kinda paper.


    Ive been listening to common since i first heard his great late producer, RIP Dilla, and to be honest this commercial is well suited and fitting for him… Don’t misunderstand me, when i first saw it I was a bit disgusted, so I did some research on Gap (Gap Inc). They seem pretty legit with the environment, the RED Campaign and all that other liberal bullshit, hell it was started as a little hippie store on Ocean Ave in San Fran. So to sum up Common’s zip up hoody and physically tight blazer “rapping” for the gap, there both gay, but hey? i thought that was ok now.

  7. Wow, it’s interesting the things you find by searching your usernames. I know it’s over three years later, but I still feel the need to express myself:

    I’m sorry I thought Gap was sophisticated; I guess I thought it was like a casual-sophisticated look compared to the tight and skimpy or gaudy and baggy clothes of other stores. I also don’t think any type of clothing is worth more than $50, so Gap is high-priced to me. And I hope you don’t think I shop at Gap because a rapper I like rapped for them. Commercials rarely persuade me to do/purchase anything. Especially celebrity endorsements. I said I like the commercial, not the product.

    The point of the comment you quoted from me is that I don’t care what a musician does outside the studio; I care solely about his music. I don’t decide not to buy food from Kroger because they hired an ex-convict; I would not shop there if he contaminated the food or was disorderly while on the clock. What you do outside your job doesn’t concern me. And I don’t consider commercials are part of a musician’s job.

    If Will Smith was discovered molesting lil’ Jaden, I would STILL probably watch his movies because 1) it’s a good movie, and 2) he did a good ass job portraying his character, and 3) I wouldn’t hear about it until somebody told me… while I was walking out of the movie theatre or something. That is just how much I don’t care. I apologize for my apathy toward artists’ and other famous people’s lives if it’s a problem.

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