(CNN) — Gold teeth, luxury cars and diamond chains heavy enough to slump a bodybuilder’s shoulders have been ubiquitous symbols in hip-hop music for years, if not decades.
But — as you may have noticed at the Grammys on Sunday — there are signs that the genre’s high-dollar bling may not survive the economic recession.
Many rappers came to the annual music awards show wearing sleek suits; their famous jewels were conspicuously absent. Artist Lil Wayne, who accepted two of rap’s biggest awards — Grammys for best solo rap performance and best rap album — performed wearing a T-shirt. Only a modest necklace dangled from his neck.
Like everyone these days, rappers are feeling the effects of the country’s economic meltdown. But industry commentators are split on whether they think financial woes will cause rappers to give up their hefty jewels.
Some experts contacted by CNN said the bling era soon will come crashing down.
We just came out of the ‘bling era,’ where everything was about wealth and what you could attain, and I’m starting to see artists being more socially conscious,” said Amy Andrieux, a senior editor at The Source magazine, which covers hip-hop.
President Obama’s election has inspired some of the change, Andrieux said, but rappers also “just can’t afford what they used to” because of the recession.
Top artists such as Lil Jon, who once made about $80,000 per track, now are grappling with the fact that they may get half that sum if they’re lucky, said Bryan Leach, senior vice president of urban music for RCA Music Group.
And while most Americans may not weep over the fact that famous rappers may make only $35,000 per song, the price cuts — and layoffs — are sending shocks through the recording industry, Leach said.
“Every major label has been laying people off,” he said. Continue reading