Exploring the Trump/Hip-Hop Conundrum at Viacom HQ

“How can the country that elected Donald Trump president be the same country that rates hip-hop as the number one mainstream genre?”

This is the question that opened Viacom’s Hype & Influence panel, moderated by Marketing Strategy’s Brooke Ozaydinli and featuring MTV’s Wanda Coriano, BET Music & Talent’s Bianca Edwards, and rapper Maliibu Miitch. The exploration of the state of Hip-Hop in today’s culture was a Black History Month event organized at the company’s Times Square headquarters by The BEAT (Viacom’s employee resource group devoted to the African-American experience), the Marketing Strategy team, and the BET Music Meeting.

“It’s not surprising,” Edwards said to Ozaydinli’s opening question, “because hip-hop thrives in environments with oppression and adversity.”

The Hype & Influence panel built on a video series of the same name, created by Viacom’s V By Viacom platform to explore cultural trends. The first edition, featuring BET’s Connie Orlando, 300 Entertainment co-founder Kevin Liles, and Miitch explored the same themes as the panel, which opened with a viewing:

Here are a few other highlights from the afternoon, from thoughts on the authenticity of Cardi B to the power and potential perils of hip-hop:

“People are used to everything being cookie-cutter”

Miitch addressed why she thought people connected with Cardi B, whose Bodak Yellow video has been viewed nearly a half billion times on YouTube. “People are used to everything being cookie-cutter,” she said, “but with an artist like Cardi, who doesn’t filter herself, people connect with her because she says out loud the things that people are thinking.”

Sparking a love of music

Coriano grew up in The Bronx hearing hip-hop on the streets, forming the foundation of her love for music across genres. “Living in the Bronx, hip-hop was my music and it was the music of that time.”

Maliibu Miitch and members of her Atlantic Records management team at the Hype & Influence panel, held at Viacom’s Times Square headquarters in honor of Black History Month. Photo by Pound & Grain.

Should children listen to hip-hop?

During the event’s question-and-answer portion, I sparked an extended debate when I asked about the relationship between kids and hip-hop. Miitch argued that parents do a lot of things in front of their kids that could be deemed worse than what artists rap about. “People rap about their truth and it’s not something to hide from children,” she said.

Coriano made the point that kids don’t always understand what is being said, and sometimes just like a song because they can dance to it or it has a nice beat. You can keep kids away from that sort of music, or give them a censored version, since many elements of hip-hop can be educational – she pointed to Logic’s 1-800-273-8255 or Kendrick Lamar’s songs about Injustice.

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Eminem Drops Exclamation Point on Thrilling BET Hip Hop Awards

The BET Hip Hop Awards splashed down to the Sunshine State for its 2017 ceremony, taking advantage of South Florida’s tropical vibes, frenetic energy and vibrant music scene to honor hip-hop’s hustle. The show attracted a who’s who of hip-hop royalty, including Gucci Mane, Luke Campbell, Playboi Carti and Flo Rida, while transforming Miami’s Jackie Gleason Theater into a trendy South Beach nightclub with bursts of pyrotechnics, fog, and flashing lights.

Migos performs “Too Hotty” at the 2017 BET Hip Hop Awards. (Photo courtesy of Getty Images)

Hosted by Miami native and modern renaissance man DJ Khaled, the Hip-Hop Awards paid homage to both industry veterans like Eminem (who went viral with a politically-charged freestyle) and spunky newcomers like Hustler of the Year, Cardi B.

Check out these highlights from the hottest night in hip-hop:

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My Mic Sounds Nice: Viacom and The BEAT Recognize Hip-Hop’s Innovative Women

My Mic Sounds Nice, a panel organized by the BEAT (Viacom’s employee resource group devoted to the African American experience) gave a shout out to the women fundamental to hip-hop’s success. Trell Thomas, VH1 Save the Music Foundation’s director of communication and talent relations, moderated the event at Viacom’s Times Square Headquarters.

The panel featured women who contribute to hip-hop in major ways: Jana Fleishman, EVP of Communication at Roc Nation; LaTrice Burnette, SVP of Marketing at Epic Records; Nadeska Alexis, Senior Editorial Producer at Complex; and hip-hop artist Roxanne Shante.

View the slideshow:

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Martha Stewart and Snoop Dogg Have a Dinner Party Invitation You Will Not Be Able to Ignore

When I think of celebrity besties, Snoop Dogg and Martha Stewart aren’t the first duo that comes to mind. But VH1’s upcoming show, Martha and Snoop’s Dinner Party, will give viewers a rare peek at the innovative rapper’s bond with the home décor renegade.


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LL COOL J on How He Chose His Name, What He Fears, the Three Things Everybody Needs, and More

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

He’s not just the host of Spike’s incredible Lip Sync Battle and the 2,571st star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and a critical character on NCIS: Los Angeles and a two-time Grammy Award winner (and five-time host!). And he’s not just the thousand other adjectives so easily plucked from the bromide bin to describe him, from elder statesman of hip-hop to movie star, author and philanthropist.

No, LL COOL J is so much more than that.

As a group of Viacom employees found out when the man who laughingly estimates that he is booked “20 years out” sliced a bit of time from his schedule to visit our offices in Times Square on a recent Wednesday. In a nearly hour-long conversation with Spike President Kevin Kay, the man who launched off the New York streets more than three decades ago by tracking Rick Rubin to his NYU dorm room with a demo tape riffed in an incisive, passionate, often hilarious and always genuine manner. Watching him banter with Kay and the audience, it’s not hard to imagine how the man who dubbed himself “Ladies Love Cool J” out of “wishful thinking” willed his way to success in so many ways.

Here, just a couple highlights from his conversation. Watch the video to see the rest. It’s well worth your time.

On early hip-hop’s influence on him: “There was something about hearing these young men that was so empowering… It attracted me to the music, it attracted me to the culture. Hip-hop is a funny art form, because to me, what I learned being raised at home, is all of the cockiness, all of the arrogance, all of the showmanship is for the song. So tomorrow, if I made an album, it would be probably the cockiest, most arrogant, craziest thing you’ve ever heard in your life, but then, when you get away from that, my mother taught me how to be human and to be normal, and to respect people and to have manners, wipe my feet on the mat before I walk in and say hello to somebody’s mother like I have some sense. I fell in love with the whole idea of being strong. When you grow up in somewhere like Queens, you just want to matter. I just wanted to matter.”

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