The Fine Print: The Rise & Fall of Rap Crews

hyperadmin | The Fine Print | Tuesday, January 11th, 2011


By: Jonathon “Bizz” Brown

“There’s always somebody or some team that runs the airways,” said Angie Martinez in a discussion with Drake on HOT97. “There was a time when it was nothing but Bad Boy. And there was a time it was nothing but Roca-fella. And now there’s a time where you’re on every two songs. Either you or Nicki.”

Most of us have witnessed one crew or another dominate popular sensibilities over the years. When the crew’s brand is hot, it seems like everything they touch is becomes popular. The radio flurries listeners with their singles, club DJs lean on their hits to incite crowds and their reign seems like it will last forever. But history shows us, it rarely does. And The Fine Print shows there is a pattern with every rap crew’s rise and fall.

The head of the crew becomes a commercial success (think Jay-z, 50 Cent, Lil Wayne). Their success catapults their brand into popular discussions which draws more attention than before. With increased attention brings more eyes on the artists around them. Typically, once established as a solo superstar, they’re secure enough to introduce the pop audience to their crews (think Banks, Memphis Bleek, Drake). Carrying such a major co-sign and recognizable brand, the labels have no problem backing the secondary wave of artists. The releases come one after the other to capitalize on the public’s infatuation with their style, rhetoric and branding experience. In roll the magazine covers, the music talk show “takeovers,” the constant crew-repping and maybe some clothing or merchandise to let the fans feel like their part of the crew too.

Next, the expansion comes. The crew in charge aims at pushing its reign even further, signing several acts outside the core group (think State Property, Diplomats, MOP, Bow Wow, DJ Khaled, Olivia, Mobb Deep). This is usually the beginning of the end. Not meaning the entire train falls off the tracks. The decline isn’t necessarily drastic, but it does come. What happens next is the crew is spread too thin, whether in terms of resources or in the public’s appetite for all things Roc/G-Unit/Young Money, for instance.


The brand that the public grew to trust, becomes an amalgamated version of itself, drawing concentration away from the entities that made it popular (solo superstar and secondary wave). So instead of the public identifying G-Unit with 50 Cent, they start to understand it as involving someone like Olivia. Instead of The Roc equaling Jay-z, the public soon includes the other, less popular acts in their understanding of the brand. Would Young Money be hot if Gudda Gudda started it? You can’t seriously say yes. Actually, Joe Budden recently commented on that saying “They could go pick up a bum off the street and make him say ‘Young Money’ and he’ll be hot to all the sheep.” He’s right, but that’s because Young Money is still at its peak. There’s no equation to determine how long the peak of popularity lasts. Sometimes it is a two years, sometimes its five.

“It’s Young Money time,” said Drake in response to the aforementioned comments from Angie Martinez.

When the brand can’t be stretched any further, the crew’s numbers recede. The fringe members with lesser followings are either shelved, dropped, disappear from the spotlight or move on while the crew refocuses on the heavy-hitters. G-Unit is a prime example of this, but even Roca-fella had to shed dead weight like MOP and eventually State Property. Bad Boy has made a habit of creating as big a crew of ex-Bad Boy artists as it has current-Bad Boy artists. But in that situation, it’s always been more “Diddy & Company” anyway. In whichever case you’re looking at, the same thing happens. The public’s hyper-interest in the crew wanes and they pull back a bit to preserve the integrity and concentrate the brand imaging.

The Fine Print isn’t that one crew is better or that Young Money is destined to fail, but what goes up – especially way up carrying lots of passengers – inevitably comes down. And today’s Fine Print just explained why.

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  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Jonathon Bizz Brown. Jonathon Bizz Brown said: RT @Cityonmyback: [Blog] The Fine Print: The Rise & Fall of Rap Crews […]

    Pingback by Tweets that mention ยป The Fine Print: The Rise & Fall of Rap Crews -- — January 11, 2011 @ 10:01 am

  2. “The Fine Print” Bigger, Better, & “Different” comes along. Other wise we’d all be jammin to Beethoven. Good Read Bizz. It’s inevitable, in order to grow, music must continually change.

    Comment by Nki-Louise — January 11, 2011 @ 10:22 am

  3. Bizz, you stole the words right out of my mouth. Great article bro!

    I would say Dipset had their own movement and weren’t really relegated to backseat behind Roc-A-fella. Sure, the Roc-A-fella exposusre and money helped but they grew out by themselves. Like, they “pioneered” guys wearing pink, the whole Ballin’ saga and people saying “dipset” as a verb. It was ridiculous.

    Aside from them, I would of mentioned Ruff Ryders, Murder I.N.C. and Wu-Tang as examples of rap dynasties.

    Comment by Andrew — January 11, 2011 @ 10:29 am

  4. You could almost argue that Dipset went through a similar pattern WITHIN dipset…. dipset was really really strong at one point (not that they aren’t formidable now), and then they started adding all these other guys to the crew (JR Writer, Hell Rell, and all the other sub crews – byrd gang n whatever else). The crew eventually fell apart with the whole Cam thing and now, although those other guys are i guess still technically dipset – we as fans have gone back to understanding them as their original entity – cam, freaky, jimmy and juelz….

    i think you’re right, they didn’t necessarily weaken the Roc’s brand, but they did change it. After Dipset, the Roc began to fall apart…. to which I’m sure Cam smirks about deep inside.

    Comment by bizz (author) — January 11, 2011 @ 11:21 am

  5. This dude is Toronto’s top Hip Hop writer easy. i would put him up against the world. Speaking the truth, i needed a dictionary to finish the article. felt smarter after every line. Proper Bizz Proper!!!
    i wonder if there is a formula for longevity? what about Wu-Tang?

    Comment by Bils The Promoter — January 11, 2011 @ 5:30 pm

  6. dope dope article u wrote exactly what i was thinking and have thought all along crews like a ym or rocafella or whatever almost always fail and almost in the exact same pattern first one artist gets hot then they start a label then they sign a bunch of artist and one or two of the new signees have a hit record establish them self and then the crew falls the head of the crews maintain there already established success i.e. jay 50 and the rest of the crew come out complaing about there former situation usually calming they thought they were “like family” and they felt betrayed, which is the first mistake cause it is a buisness before anything, and with a group like ym which basically runs on three artist i think it is only a matter of time before the castle falls male ego/pride can only take so much. anyways good article bizz keep up the good work and i look foward to your next article

    Comment by makoya illa g — January 12, 2011 @ 1:02 am

  7. I like this one a lot. The Fine Print before this was good too, about the Skillz Rap Up songs… great points. I didn’t know Skillz did it for so long.

    This one is cool just how you broke it down. I guess it doesn’t work for thing like Wu Tang though, since they’re still Wu Tang. Then again, that was always a different energy then any of these crews.These are business oriented, Wu Tang always felt more like a squad to start with. I donno…

    anyway good read. you obviously got us talkin

    Comment by mack — January 13, 2011 @ 8:15 am

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