Concluding its four-night run, Vh1 aired the fourth episode of the book-turned-documentary The Tanning of America: How Hip-Hop Created a Culture That Rewrote the New Rules of the Economy, which chronicles the movement of hip-hop culture into the mainstream. Here, 5 things you should've learned from Part Four. —Andrew Asare
1. Hip-Hop maintained mainstream staying power when Eminem both carried the torch and stirred racial controversy.
Whereas Vanilla Ice tarnished the image of white rappers, Eminem (widely considered the Larry Bird of hip-hop) revitalized it, becoming the top-selling hip-hop artist of the 2000s. Discovered at a music industry event in 1997, Marshall Mathers had a flow and impressive, brash delivery. But under the mentorship of Dr. Dre, Em’s wildly popular and magnetic talent earned him gramophones and Oscar success when “Lose Yourself” became the first rap song to get an Academy Award. Of course, with his success also came backlash from the black and gay community.
2. Diddy elevated street fashion into haute couture with the launch of Sean John.
Where Russell Simmons opened the door for hip-hop fashion with Phat Farm, Diddy tore down walls with Sean John. As if taking over the record industry wasn’t enough, his mission to elevate style from the block to the boardroom was a success when his line not only landed him in the stores of Macy's, but also had him sitting pretty at fashion shows next to Vogue editor Anna Wintour.
Diddy’s charisma and sartorial sense left such an impression that in October 1999 he landed in the pages of Vogue for a shoot titled “Puffy In Paris,” along with Kate Moss, Alek Wek and Jean Paul Gaultier, photographed by Annie Leibovitz. Five years later, he nabbed the trophy for top menswear designer of the year from the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA).
3. The power of hip-hop opened the doors for more profitable, unconventional brand partnerships.
Though hip-hop became more bankable through fashion and liquor, the magnitude of the culture became even more lucrative as artists partnered with everyday brands. While Diddy soared into liquor gold with Ciroc Vodka, 50 Cent gained a great deal of green partnering up with VitaminWater.
“It didn’t make sense to anyone but 50 Cent,” said Mona Scott Young, founder of Monami Entertainment. “Fast forward here we are years later, millions and millions of dollars made and this guy is a prime example of what the power of hip hop can do for you.” Dr. Dre also utilized his sound expertise in what would be the biggest source of revenue for his career-making Beats By Dre. He was first approached by Adidas to sell sneakers, but record executive and friend Jimmy Iovine urged him to look into curating an innovative sound system. Dre turned his knack for audio into a billion dollar business.
4. Political figures had to answer to underrepresented youth as hip-hop took a stand in politics.
Stiff-necked suit and tie politicians like Marco Rubio and Dean Cannon tried to make an impression with young people, quoting rap lyrics in their speeches, but it only backfired as hip-hop figures themselves took reign in politics. Russell Simmons and Diddy merged politics and hip-hop—educating and empowering young voters to take a stand at the polls. With the provocative campaign, Vote or Die, the 2004 presidential campaign garnered the largest surge of young voters.