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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, April 14, 2002

Hip-hop musicians rap about love

By Derek R. Kravitz
Gannett News Service

The chorus of reggae artist Rayvon's recent hit single, "2-Way," plays like an advertisement for a two-way messenger rather than a title track for the artist's new album.

Motorola's hip two-way device.

Advertiser library photo

On the track, which has been transformed into an equally successful music video, Rayvon sings, "Hit me up and let me know, maybe we can gel, if you don't reach me on my cell, holla at you later honey, you can feel it baby, I can tell, later I'll be ringing on your bell. Hit me on my two-way..."

The product Rayvon sings about is Motorola's Talkabout T-900 Two-Way, which has become a popular choice in two-way messaging with the help of national Internet service provider Earthlink (earthlink.com). Two-way messaging appears to be the latest trend in wireless technology that has invaded America's hip-hop generation in a molding of today's biggest trendsetters — technology and music.

Technology has long been a friend to hip-hop, which is undergoing a massive surge in popularity, especially among youth.

Through music and music videos, artists have merged technology into mainstream America in an attempt to score the latest and greatest musical hit while appearing en vogue with the newest techno gadget.

Companies such as Compaq and AOL view the hip-hop generation as a group that "has grown up with computers and wireless technology," said industry analyst Keith Parker, of Cloverdale, Calif.-based Infotech Trends Inc.

"They see these kids as potential clients, and with the beginning of the 802.11 bandwidth, which is going to make wireless technology faster, the marketing towards them is only going to increase," Parker said.

Once an emerging product appears on MTV's "Total Request Live" or on BET's "106th & Park," two popular TV shows, young consumers across the country set out to see what all of the hype is about.

Knowing this, wireless communication giants such as Motorola and AOL have made wireless appeal to a young crowd with features ranging from different color designs for cell phones and pagers to an assortment of hip-hop infused ring tones.

According to Emerging Adult Research, or EAR, today's hip-hop generation spends an estimated $150 billion a year on clothing, music and technology, and by 2006 the U.S. 16-to-25 market will approach 50 million consumers, the nation's largest consumer group.

As a result, companies are trying to lure the hip-hop culture to telecommunications through innovative and nontraditional advertising that they believe will elevate their brands. Evidence of their success can be easily seen in high schools all across the country with teens carrying cell phones, pagers, two-way messengers and other technological hip items that weren't in most homes let alone school backpacks a mere three years ago.

Ari Bloomekats, a junior at Hillsboro High School in Nashville, Tenn., sees the telecommunications industry as hungry for the profitable urban youth culture market.

"They want us. They're trying to think 'what do they like' — we like music. 'Well, what type of music do they like' — a lot of teenagers really like hip-hop. 'Well, a lot of music videos have mobile phones and technology like that in them, and it's perfect' — it's the easiest marketing tool ever," Bloomekats said.

Not everyone in hip-hop believes that technology marketing is influencing its target.

The marketing trend toward hip-hop culture is "falling flat to people who truly have an understanding for what hip-hop culture truly is," urban youth expert Yvonne Bynoe said.

"Companies are just identifying hip-hop culture as a fad, even though hip-hop has been around for 25 years, in order to exploit youth culture as they have done previously," said Bynoe, president and co-founder of Urban Think Tank Inc. in New York City and author of "Doula: The Journal of Rap Music and Hip Hop Culture."

"I view marketing by companies as an awkward tool for reaching young people or the so called hip-hop generation because they tend to be behind the times when releasing something that's supposed to appeal to them," she said.

On the other hand, George Martinez of the City University of New York, a former emcee rapper, said Madison Avenue scores big with the hip-hop generation.

"Once hip-hop culture crossed into mainstream, telecommunication companies saw that 70 percent of kids who buy hip-hop related items are white teens. Now, music videos and mass media are crucial in advertising the newest gear and it has trickled down to the youth market," Martinez said.

Although wireless technology is in its infancy, many industry observers believe that games, downloadable ring tones and other aesthetics will propel the wireless age into profit. While slick marketing techniques and hip-hop infused advertising has helped the sale of wireless technology, the fate of many wireless features eventually falls into the hands of teens and the ability of the product to maintain word-of-mouth exposure.