Social media has dramatically changed the hip hop game. The record label model has been on life support for several years now, and the technological advances of ProTools and social media have not only made the hip hop genre more accessible but is changing the music industry in radical ways. Take Wiz Khalifa as an example. Born in North Dakota; Lived in Europe as a child; Wears skinny jeans; Became best friends with a goofy white guy; Is generally positive in outlook; and is now a hip hop superstar. How did this happen? Wiz Khalifa is a master of social media sites on the Web. Rappers, like the oddball Khalifa, are using Twitter, YouTube, and MySpace in order to generate an enormous following, and then are taking their music and following to the record labels with a leveraged position heretofore unknown.
When these rappers (and other musicians) finally sign with a record label, their fans are already locked in. Curren$y has a virtual community that follows him. Lil B drops dozens of songs and videos on MySpace. Khalifa’s hit song, Black and Yellow, is used as a rallying cry for the Pittsburgh Steelers (and any sports team with similar colors). In particular, Khalifa’s scheduled performances are a testament to the power of the viral world. When rappers combine their talents with the internet, it is easy to understanding how the internet is democratizing rap.