With Drake recently hosting the ESPY’s I think it’s a fair question to ask, just how big a rap artist can get? Rappers have come a long way from being just young street dudes, making music that many people thought wouldn’t last long when Hip-Hop first burst onto the scene. But now the most popular artist in music can arguably be a rapper.
So how did we get to a rap star hosting a awards show? Well first lets look at the history of rappers branching out. Back in the late 80’s when Hip-Hop was just blowing up in the mainstream, rappers weren’t seen as something company’s wanted to associate themselves with. But with the rise and popularity of Hip-Hop culture influenced movies such as “Do The Right Thing” and others, rap artist started to get more exposure. Then in the early 90’s rappers start to pop up in urban films, and black sitcoms. You have Will Smith getting his own popular TV series, while Tupac, Ice Cube, and Ice T star in major black motion pictures of the time. Flip to the mid 90’s and the same aforementioned artist plus more are not only still acting, but acting in larger roles and bigger films. Will Smith becomes one of America’s biggest box office attractions of the time, and a Golden Boy of sorts. During this time the same company’s that wanted nothing to do with rappers just 5 years earlier were using those same artist to sell their products. From liquor to clothing company’s like Tommy Hilfiger and FUBU, rappers were being used as the face of the brand. Easy E even made it to the White House once, how crazy is that?
As we moved into the late 90’s and 00’s seems like Hip-Hop culture was taking over, every rapper had or was the face of a clothing line, was a lead role in a movie, or was the star in a TV show. Coolio created the theme song for the Nickelodeon show “Kenan and Kel”, and Destiny's Child did the same for the Disney show “The Proud Family”. Ice T, Ice Cube, LL Cool J, and Will Smith (just to name a few) turned a life of rapping into becoming beloved movie stars and top actors on top shows on network TV. I heard someone once say “who would’ve thought a guy who use to have a jerry curl and said f*ck the police would be the next Bill Cosby” joking as they were talking about Ice Cube and his “Are We There Yet” movie series and TV show.
Now it seems Hip-Hop artists are the face of everything from Nike, to Vitamin Water, to headphones. Rappers own the labels now, create their own movies, are getting into high fashion, and hosting award shows. Jay Z is a sports agent and P Diddy owns a cable network, who would’ve thought this day would come. So how big can a rap star be? Rappers have already become the biggest box office stars, had their TV series dominate network TV, and branched out into other venues. How big can an artist as marketable to the mainstream as Drake get? Can he become the face of modern American music, like Elvis was in the 50’s or Michael Jackson in the 80’s? Can a rapper dominate the Grammy’s and turn Hip-Hop into the most popular American music genre? I mean Hip-Hop culture influences everything else, and judging how far Hip-Hop has come I wouldn’t bet against rap. Who thought a corner boy would meet Obama? Biggie “made the change from a common thief to up close and personal with Robin Leach”, so anything is possible.