The Justin Bieber Lovefest Is a Rapper's Delight
By Jason Newman Posted Sep 4th 2010 06:00PM
With the appearance of Miley Cyrus and Boyz II Men at Justin Bieber's Madison Square Garden show earlier this week, the 16-year old superstar's special guests may have surprised the crowd, but weren't exactly sonically incongruous shock appearances. But for those not familiar with Bieber's recorded output, the emergence of rapper Ludacris, who appears on on "Baby" off Bieber's 'My World 2.0' album, may have left some wondering if he had the right building. The relationship further solidifies the relatively recent BFF relationship between hip-hop and teen pop.
For most of the 1980s and early 1990s, the intersection of the two genres was virtually nonexistent. In 1989, you weren't exactly finding a lot of fans of both New Kids on the Block's 'Hangin' Tough' and Eric B. and Rakim's 'Follow the Leader.' This wave of teen pop was displaced, in part, by the proliferation and commercial acceptance of gangsta rap in the early '90s. When the boy band explosion of 'N Sync, Backstreet Boys and the like erupted a decade later, rappers understandably kept their distance. Fanbases couldn't be alienated or compromised and syrupy teen pop music was worlds away from the bravado and chest-thumping that characterized many hip-hop artists.
But while emcees were averse to work with boy bands, in the mid- to late-1990s, commercially minded rappers like Sean Combs and Jay-Z laid the groundwork for future partnerships, always ensuring rough, grimy tracks were balanced with radio- and hook-friendly pop-rap. Now, for every "Ten Crack Commandments," there was a "Hypnotize"; for every "Coming of Age (Da Sequel)" there was a "Can I Get A..."
And then came Eminem.
For the first time, the industry had a rapper who combined intricate, mesmerizing flows that earned the respect of hip-hop fans with a good-looking, blond-haired, blue-eyed white kid who could pass as the badass older brother of any boy band member. Teenagers, especially teenage girls, that never listened to hip-hop (and most likely wouldn't listen to a black emcee rhyme about killing his ex-wife and hiding her body), flocked to Eminem, driving his 1999 'Slim Shady' LP to #2 and largely contributing to its 4 million albums sold.
A master provocateur, the rapper's next album, 2000's 'Marshall Mathers' LP, contained multiple barbs and jabs at Christina Aguilera, Britney Spears, and 'N Sync -- Sample lyric: "And by the way, 'N Sync, why do they sing?/Am I the only one who realizes they stink?" -- yet at the same time, proved he was as big as any of them and fully bridged the hip-hop, rock and rap worlds (ironically, Justin Timberlake would go on to work with numerous rappers in his post-'N Sync solo career.)
Still, it wasn't as if Eminem was exulting at the prospect of working with Timberlake. In 2001, saccharine pop group LFO entered the studio with the aggressive hip-hop duo M.O.P., presumably in a mutual effort to increase their fanbases. The result, 'Life is Good,' was recently featured on Complex Magazine's "50 Worst Hip-Hop Fails of All Time." Enough said.
With about 10 years in between teen pop cycles, no one has challenged the late 90s boy band reign until King Bieber arrived and became a global phenomenon. How times have changed. Early last month, Kanye West went on a Tweet-a-thon lovefest about Justin Bieber and the singer's Michael Jackson-esque "Runaway Love."
The Tweetversation between West and Bieber (who has the privilege of being the only person West follows on the service) led West to release a remix of the song with himself and Wu-Tang's Raekwon (who probably still has no idea why he is involved in this).
It's just the latest in increased credibility from certain members of the hip-hop community. Earlier this year, the singer was nominated in the Best New Artist category at the BET Awards, a first for a white, teen pop artist. The nomination was derided by some, but Bieber had some powerful defenders as Combs publicly came to his aid, stating that "the beauty of BET is, if Justin Bieber's hot, then he deserves to be on that stage. Sometimes, at other award shows, the color of your skin or the type of music you make takes away from getting the accolade you deserve."
In April, when asked about his embracing by the community, the singer responded, ""I like hop-hop a lot. I'm really glad they've taken a liking to me...I think it's because I didn't go through the Disney route. I didn't go corny, but, like, at the same time, I've been cool and collected."
With JB getting the exclamation-laden seal of approval from West, arguably the most influential person in music across all genres, and others, and Drake blurring the line between teen pop idol and Lil Wayne-approved rap superstar, how far are we from seeing the next teen idol on the cover of XXL?
Justin Bieber performs at the Bank Atlantic Center on August 5, 2010 in Sunrise, Florida. Justin Bieber - The My World Tour With Special Guest Sean Kingston BankAtlantic Center Sunrise, FL United States August 5, 2010 Photo by Larry Marano/FilmMagic.com To license this image (61241101), contact FilmMagic.com
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