Who the F are the Joneses? Consumerism in Hip hop

On this blog, I’ve often reiterated my love for the Hip Hop Culture, and how it influenced the awesome creation I am today.  Today however, I want to dive into one of the ideologies that stems from society in general, but as it relates to Hip hop…consumerism. Let me take you back to my life almost 20 years ago.

By the time I was in Junior high, I was influenced heavily by the Hip Hop Culture. I used to write rhymes with my friends and freestyle in the cafeteria. I would listen to the radio faithfully to hear what my favorite artists were rapping about. Unbeknownst to me at the time, what they were rapping about would pretty much shape the world around me as I became enlightened. Money, clothes, and hoes (all a n*gga knows)! I remember kids getting poked fun at and for not having the latest in fashion. As a result, I always begged my parents to get me the newest, freshest clothes/shoes out. My parents would always laugh and ask “why, are you trying to keep up with the Joneses?” This brings me to the titled post, who the fuck are the Joneses, and why do we constantly feel the need to keep up with them?

I did a little research and found the suggested origin of said Joneses. To quote Wikipedia, which can be a valuable source of information, states that

Keeping up with the Joneses” is an idiom in many parts of the English-speaking world referring to the comparison to one’s neighbor as a benchmark for social class or the accumulation of material goods. To fail to “keep up with the Joneses” is perceived as demonstrating socio-economic or cultural inferiority.

Arthur Momand, a cartoonist created the Jones family as neighbors to the main characters on the comic strip who were often talked about but never seen. The phrase became popular in the early 1900’s and the rest is history.

In any event, as I paid attention to different ethnicities in the U.S., I noticed that people of all races attempted to “keep up with the Joneses” so to speak. The issue is that I’m African American, so what many of my peers relate to is the Hip hop culture. A culture that has not evolved from consumerism as of yet, and I always wondered why. I was reading Rich Dad, Poor Dad and the author spoke about why consumers will never be rich. Who are the biggest consumers in the United States of America? Take your time with that question.

African Americans are some of the biggest consumers in the country. With that in mind, it would behoove us to rethink why we are spending so much money on materialistic things. Who are we trying to impress? I look at smart phones and with ALL of the features they offer, how many of those features will we really use? Are these features adding additional revenue to your bank accounts? How many computers do you actually need? Does your tablet do the same thing as your laptop?

Taking a closer look into Hip hop, it’s an understatement to say that it is a ‘flashy’ way of life. Artists promote different brands and are constantly competing with others. As a result, listeners feel a sense of prestige by breaking their pockets to keep up on whatever is trending in the culture at that specific time. I know that Air Jordans (Michael Jordan’s brand) is STILL one of the top selling tennis shoes of all time, and is highly regarded in the Hip hop culture. Hell, tennis shoes in general are making a killing with Hip hoppers and sometimes reach prices up to $400. I can literally go on and on about the alcohol industry, different clothing brands, cars, jewelry etc.  A reoccurring them in the culture is the dream of big rich…Didn’t I just say that consumers will never be rich? So then why…nevermind

Without getting in-depth with the psychology surrounding consumerism in this country,  it was easy to see that the Hip hop music directly affected my peers and programmed us to buy what we bought…like what we liked. And the tradition continues…

Wake Up.


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