Published on September 3rd, 2013


Ralf Mangual: Hip-Hop Illustrates the Benefits of Free-Market Competition

Recent developments in hip-hop news have provided an illustration of exactly the kind of good the free-market can bring when players are able to uninhibitedly compete. I am of course referring to Kendrick Lamar’s much talked-about verse on the recently released song, “Control” alongside fellow-rappers Big Sean and Jay Electronica.

I recently wrote that economic liberty gives society seemingly innumerable choices of ideas, products, services, and everything else which compete with one another in their respective categories (in this case, rap music) for the endorsements of as many individuals as they can earn. Naturally, the mot preferable choices in each category receive the most endorsements; and, as a result, the givers of those choices benefit more than those of the less popular ones.

This concept is quite nicely illustrated by Mr. Lamar’s recent actions, and, more importantly, their effects.

A couple of weeks ago, while browsing my Facebook and Twitter news feeds, I came to notice quite a bit of chatter about how Kendrick Lamar “killed it,” “OD’d,” and “went bananas” on his verse. As a hip-hop fan, I listened to it and thought: “This is going to be way better than the famous Cosby Show tap dance ‘Challenge!’”

Lamar’s rap was explosive, and provocative. Some called it a declaration of war on fellow rappers. Others said it was just what hip-hop needed. Even rapper Jay Electronica, whose verse cam after Kendrick’s said “I like the song and the stir it’s causing. It’s good for rap music.”

Lamar was quite clear in his intentions when he indicated that the competition that is rap music must come before all else, saying “I got love for you all, but I’m tryin’ to murder you n***as.” If he were a corporation, Lamar’s verse would have likely been demonized as just another example of a merciless capitalist’s attempt to fatten his own pockets at the expense of all others. However, this label would have been misplaced. Why? Because that kind of analysis doesn’t go deep enough. As Gordon Gekko said, “Greed is good;” and the proof is in the proverbial pudding.

You see, it’s not just Kendrick Lamar who benefited from his verse. His desire to win the competition gave hip-hop fans something to talk about. What’s more, is that his competitively-motivated verse led his fellow competitors to respond, giving hip-hop fans freestyle after freestyle to enjoy. Rappers who responded included Lupe Fiasco (who’s metaphor-filled rap also went viral); Joel Ortiz (who responded, “you raised the bar high? I set the bar higher.”); B.o.B. (who quite innovatively incorporated a guitar riff into his response); Cassidy (who professed that “even a deer could run the jungle ‘till the lion come”); Papoose (who dropped a gritty 4-minute response); and Joe Budden (who admitted that Lamar’s verse inspired him to enter the competition).

Kendrick Lamar has just shown hip-hop fans everywhere exactly why competition is good… for everybody. His verse was not only entertaining in and of itself, but the challenge that was embodied in his self-proclaimed attempt to eliminate the competition by raising the bar too high for them to overcome, brought hip-hop fans a much-needed influx of low-cost, high-quality music that would not have otherwise come about had it not been for the unforgiving, ultra-competitive nature of the hip-hop industry. Think about it. Only competitive forces can explain how Lamar’s 3-minute verse directly led to the release of hours of musical responses within a matter of days. Lamar’s verse is a prime example of the production that would not occur without the motivation brought about by the free-market. This is something that Republicans need to help the public understand if the party is going to succeed in future elections.

Lamar’s effect on hip-hop shows that while the Left has succeeded in demonizing the inequality that results from a Laissez-faire approach to economic policy, they have failed to consider the possibility that the benefits of free-market competition for consumers and society as a whole outweigh the so-called “costs.”


Ralf Mangual is a second-year law student at DePaul University’s College of Law and a contributor to The Heartland Institute’s blog, Somewhat Reasonable. Ralf’s commentary has also appeared in The Daily Caller,  Human Events, and The American Thinker.

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