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Trend Surfing: A Comprehensive Breakdown

Submitted by on December 18, 2009 – 3:31 pm20 Comments

Trend Surfing!

Everybody does it, but it never had a term until my man Austin from Vinyl Meltdown dropped it on me during an iChat conversation at an ungodly hour.

While I jumped on the ’09 bandwagon for Jigga, praising The Blueprint 3’s genius like every other person who listened to his latest effort, Austin respectfully disagreed with my claims. I don’t remember his exact words, but they were something along the lines of, “I didn’t really like the album. Jay stopped being a trendsetter a long time ago; now he’s just trend surfing.”

I began to piece together a legitimate argument to combat his claims when I realized that he was right.

Mainstream music survives off of this phenomenon. Look at Gucci Mane. The current jailbird was virtually a laughingstock in the industry a couple of years ago. If his management tried to holler at Mariah Carey for a collabo, they would have given him the cold shoulder (Brrr). Today, people would probably kill somebody (literally) to get Gucci Gucci to spit 8 bars somewhere on their track.

I’ve said it here before, but Gucci and Drake are like what Wayne was to ’07 / ’08. “Back then, hoes didn’t want me. Now I’m hot, they all on me.” You probably remember Mike Jones saying those famous words, about four times. As ridiculously entertaining as that line is, it’s also insanely accurate.

I just listened to that new Snoop album, and long gone are the days of “Gin & Juice”. Soulja Boy Tell ‘Em is on the album. The song’s probably my favorite on the album, too. But isn’t that a little strange to anybody else? He’s near 40, and Soulja Boy isn’t even 20. One could argue that the thing they have in common is music, but wasn’t it more of a strategic move to keep Snoop relevant to the young folks? Why else would he sprinkle his rhymes with references to the jerk movement?

Yep, I’m talking about the dancing phenomenon that had everybody on the Left Coast in skinny jeans hitting b-boy-esque dance moves that resembled seizures. No shots, either – I love it. Matter fact, this is me jerking out in Cali.

Okay, that’s not me. But I digress. He’s trying to make sure that the kids want to jam him in their iPods. Snoop’s not the only veteran who tries his hand at this strategy. Bun B’s been doing it for a while, too. The Port Arthur Prince has been handing out solid verses like pamphlets, both proving his abilities to the non-believers and exposing himself to an audience that didn’t grow up on UGK.

So is it a good thing? You be the judge. It’s kinda like how Jay said on that “Moment Of Clarity” verse: “Truthfully, I wanna rhyme like Common Sense (but I did 5 mil) / I Ain’t been rappin’ like Common since.” It’s a business, after all. Stay true to what you believe in, or do it for the dollars.

What do you think about trend surfing? Is it a helpful marketing strategy? Does it hurt music and dilute the arts potency? Can you be successful (meaning profitable) by not trend surfing? Any other notable trend surfers you can think of? Let us know. Leave it in the comment section.

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