An Unlikely Advocate for the Underground

960439401858.gifToday’s edition of Marketplace (on NPR) profiled Wendy Day, the unlikely founder of the hip-hop advocacy organization Rap Coalition. She works to educate young MCs and producers about the often insidious rules that govern the hip-hop business, shops promising young talent to major labels, makes sure they get fair deals if and when they get signed, and does all of it for free. She’s been running the organization since ’92 and has worked with a wide-ranging assortment of hip-hop notables throughout her career, including Chuck D, Lil’ Jon, Eminem, and Keith Murray (am I the only one who remembers that guy??). You may scoff at her rather humble appearance but it seems she’s the real deal, as her Myspace photo gallery amply attests.

My first reaction to this piece was . . . shame, really, that a good number of the hip-hop community’s future luminaries should have to venture so far afield for basic advice about publishing, royalties, and negotiating non-wack deals with labels. And though my opinion in no way disparages Day, whose efforts have no doubt enabled many of our favorite artists to avoid financial ruin at the hands of amoral record executives, I still kinda find myself wishing that it could have been one of us. Part of the problem is economic, I think, in that it’s a bit unreasonable to expect would-be ghetto superstars to know the vicissitudes of copyright and contract law, but still the disappointment remains. Those who manage to reach the lofty plateaus of financial success (in any industry, really) and then fail to lower the ladder back down for their successors are merely carrying the American dream of every-man-for-himself to its unfortunate logical conclusion. It’s been said many times before, but that mind-set just doesn’t work for us: whether we like it or not, we’re all in it together as African-Americans and the sooner we all start acting like it, the better.

Hm, bit of a digression there. Anyway, if you’re an up-and-coming MC or producer, Wendy might be able to hook you up.

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Published on July 19, 2006 at 10:56 pm. 4 Comments.
Filed under black culture,mainstream culture.