Hip-Hop Economics 101: Sponsors and Other Such Tom Foolery

Teairra Marí is back with a new single “Sponsor“.   If the title alone makes you in incredulous, hold on to your hats. 

Do you Remember Teairra Marí?  No.  Well if not, I’m not terribly surprised.  If the name is vaguely familiar, she first appeared on the Hip-Hop/R&B radar back in 2004.  Formerly signed to Roc-A-Fella, her most successful hit was the single “Make Her Feel Good”, followed up with such gems, as “No Daddy” and “MVP”.  Additionally, her resume includes leading lady cameos in music videos and “hosting” gigs at The Park at Fourteenth (a Washington DC night club).   Mari is not an overwhelming talent in terms of her vocal prowess and dance skills, however, her songs our rather catchy and she is a cute girl in a kewpie doll sort of way—two qualities that have skyrocketed many a pop career. 

Absent from the music scene for the last several years, Teairra Mari was as much a victim of questionable talent, as she was unfortunate timing.  She hit the scene around the same time as future powerhouses Ciara and Rihanna.  The latter of which was also a Roca-a-Fella artist and thus  Ms. Mari was unceremoniously dropped from the label.  However, now signed to Warner Records, her new single is a nod to materialism, ignorance, and possibly some weak form of prostitution. 

According to Wikipedia, “Sponsor” is the second single from Teairra Mari’s second album At That Point.    Written by Balewa Muhammad and Ezekiel Lewis of The Clutch and produced by LRoc, Ezekiel Lewis, and Balewa Muhammad, the song features largely talentless—but nonetheless infectious and ubiquitous—rappers  of the moment Gucci Mane and Soulja Boy Tell ‘Em.    The song is Mari’s ode to her boyfriend, boo-thang, significant other, or quite possibly pimp who pays for the things she wants, including but not limited to: gas, manicures and pedicures, Dominican blow-outs, and Italian shoes.  Now, Hip-Hop’s material culture is well documented and references to ice and designer labels are common fare.  However, the psychology of this song troubles me. 

In light of 50’s recent hit “Baby by Me” and most recent single “Do You Think about Me” as well as songs like Ne-Yo’s “Miss Independent” and Mario’s “Break Up”, intersections of finance and interpersonal relationships are again peaking in this hip-hop cultural moment. Accordingly, I believe “Sponsors” goal—however misguided—was to be a girl anthem in the style of TLC’s “No Scrubs” or Destiny’s Childs “Bills, Bills, Bills”.  However, the song misses the bar of these earlier hits because its lyrical content is not nearly as developed and it is does not celebrate girl power in any measurable way.  Unlike these hits of yester year, “Sponsor” does not critique a particular incarnation of manhood (term used loosely), it simply suggests that this man buys me things—presumably in return for my affection—and that is enough.  The most disturbing lyrics state:

Every weekend I see Dominicans in the chair just to bring out the features in my hair. Add a couple of tracks for flair my sponsor he go and buy buy buy. He must be a rapper, baller, doctor, dentist, corner boy, cook/chef  chemist(yeah). I don’t even care just as long as he don’t say bye bye bye.”

So conceivably, as long as she is getting material items of her desire this man’s occupation is of little to no importance.  Nor apparently, is his moral thermometer, intelligence, emotional stability, or any other measure of manhood.  Under this premise, Mari accepts anyone from the successful rapper to the local drug dealer, as long as he can “put the Louis” in her lap.   Granted she has not worked for a while, but why not buy your own Louis, Teairra?  You don’t need a sponsor when you’re Miss Independent.   

I am not naïve. I know a lot of women operate this way.  Hence, why in one single 50 is encouraging a woman to upgrade her lifestyle by having a child with him, and in the next song berating another woman for only thinking of him as a paycheck—a sponsor

I am not sure why the song “Sponsor” bothers me so much.  In the long scheme of things, Teairra Marí is not at the center or even measurably on the radar of cultural relevancy. However, I wonder do songs like this have real life consequences or are they just reflecting what is actually happening in our real relationships. 

Recently, a guy at a bar—during a feeble attempt to finagle my number—asked me something like, “You do make him pay for it, right?”  Supposedly, suggesting that any man I was seeing or would see in the future should be sponsoring me.  How this man was in the position to do so—with four kids and blue collar employment—is questionable.  Nevertheless, when I responded that I was perfectly able to purchase anything that I needed or wanted and was neither intrigued by nor attracted to such an arrangement; he left.  Go figure. What happen to “I love her ‘cause she got her own”?

Nevertheless, “Sponsor” raises the cultural question—should women require men to buy them things as a means to obtaining their affection?  Morally, the answer is clearly no.   However, with men increasingly suspicious of women’s intentions and chicken heads like LisaRaye (you will always be Diamond to me), now owning the term gold digger; I believe this pay for play dynamic is ruining the conversation between Black men and women.   Many men are willing to spend money to attract the arm candy of their desire.  An equal number of women are perfectly content with such an arrangement, despite the superficial fraudulence of it all.

I wonder is this dynamic hurting men and women seeking real connections in the dating scene?  Ladies are sponsors something we aspire to or is independence the true route to happiness?   Gentlemen, have you experienced a woman wanting the sponsor treatment?  If so, how did you respond?  



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