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Posted by Robert
Rap News Network
10/13/2004 4:12:14 AM

Tags and topics realted to this article include Various Artists.

 

Two guys. An argument over shoes. A bloodbath.

"To us it seems absurd," says Det. Sgt Gary Keys, head of Toronto's guns and gangs task force.

"Sometimes it is just one guy looking at the other guy's girlfriend the wrong way.

"It is the gang culture. Disrespecting someone is a major deal."

In the world of gangsta rap, straight from the streets of black gangs, respect is measured by the brand and protected by the gun -- the exact ingredients that came together in a deadly mix along London's downtown Dundas Street in April 2003

On a Saturday night in London's crowded DV8 nightclub, Olutobi (Tobi) Johnson squeezed through some people to talk to a girl and bumped into Michael Dwight Allen.

Johnson accidentally stepped on Allen's black running shoes.

"Hey, those aren't Nikes, they're Pradas," Allen said indignantly.

Two days later, on April 22, they were blasting away at each other in the washroom at the Scots Corner, less than a block away.

It was hip-hop night in the bar.

Hip-hop is pretty much related to status. Hip- hop is about where you grew up and what you achieved and what you have around you," says Lucian James, head of marketing consultants Agenda Inc.

James helps corporations understand how to use and enhance their popularity among young buyers.

He's set up a website called American Brandstand, devoted to tracking the brands named in the Billboard Top 20 singles chart.

The more times a brand gets mentioned in a Top 20 song, the more points it gets.

In 2003, there were 84 brands mentioned in the Billboard Top 20.

Only one song with brands was not hip-hop or R and B.

No. 6 on the list?

Prada shoes, thanks largely to notorious rapper 50 Cent's song P.I.M.P and Genuwine's Hell Yeah.

"Now shorty, she in the club, she dancing for dollars

She got a thing for that Gucci, that Fendi, that Prada."

50 Cent

Prada started a long way from high fashion and hip-hop. In 1913, Mario Prada began selling shoes, leather handbags and trunks and opened a couple of boutiques in Milan.

The company declined in the 1970s, until his granddaughter, a rebellious 27-year-old named Miuccia, took over.

She expanded the business into luxury goods and in the 1980s, to shoes and ready-to-wear clothing.

In the 1990s, as rap exploded across North America, so did Prada's fame.

Miucca Prada won a designer-of- the-year award in 1995.

Supermodels Linda Evangelista and Naomi Campbell sang her praises. Actor Uma Thurman wore a custom Prada ensemble at the 1995 Oscars. Sigourney Weaver and Nicole Kidman followed suit at later awards ceremonies. Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt and Madonna all flashed Prada wear.

Such brand names as Prada are used as a shortcut in hip-hop, a way to communicate globally, James says.

When a rapper drops a name like Prada, you know exactly what they mean: power and money.

Ma, you worry none,

the minks come with the guns

Prada, the Gucci,

it's all in Bird fun

Genuwine

American Brandstand also keeps track of the gun brands named in the top-selling hip- hop songs.

In 2003, AK assault rifles, Beretta -- a gun manufacturer-- and magnums -- a style of gun -- all made the top 60. This year, high-end gun manufacturer Glock is sitting at 33.

Violence in hip-hop is almost as pervasive as branding, especially in the form known as gangsta rap.

Hundreds and hundreds of lyrics brag about shooting, cutting and slashing male rivals and female betrayers.

The violence has spilled over into the lives of the rap stars. In the late 1990s, two of the biggest, Tupac Shakur and The Notorious B.I.G. (Christopher Wallace) were gunned down during a war of words between New York-based Bad

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