how 2007 changed the production and consumption of black culture in the united states
The purpose of this project is to position the year 2007 as a landmark year for the production and consumption of black culture in the United States. It was produced through a Digital Humanities lens with an intention to combine pop culture and public scholarship to re-imagine the digital storytelling experience.
Through an interactive timeline of the year, this project highlights the moments that laid the groundwork for Internet culture as we know it today. It also depicts the beginnings of the Internet's impact on cultural industries and what has become known as the digital economy. Overall, 2007 exemplifies the process Austrian economist Joseph Schumpeter (1942) referred to as "creative destruction." The year was destructive because of its substantial impact on cultural industries such as the music and television industries. All of the cultural moments that follow happened against the backdrop of economic downturn which I argue shattered the trust black content creators and consumers had in traditional institutions inspiring them to explore entrepreneurship through digital media.
Despite the economic turmoil, 2007 also promoted creativity because of the economic vitality it provided to digital entrepreneurs and artists, most notably Soulja Boy, whose 2007 rise to fame served as the original inspiration for this project.
Note: This website is best viewed on desktop. The mobile experience will not do it justice.
Tiffany “New York” Pollard was undoubtably the breakout star of the hit 2006 VH1 show “Flavor of Love.” To capitalize on the popularity of its breakout start, VH1 gives Pollard her own spin-off show “I Love New York” which premiered on January 8, 2007. In the years to follow “New York” is credited for inventing the Internet, or at least Internet culture, as a “meme queen” as well as forever altering the landscape of reality television for black women.
Barack Obama Formally Enters the Presidential Race
Sen. Barack Obama addresses a cheering crowd of thousands in Springfield, Illinois to announcement that he will be seeking the 2008 Democratic nomination for president. Obama tells the crowd that his priorities as president will be to tackle problems like poor schools, economic hardships and oil dependence.
First Signs of Major Financial Trouble for the U.S.
More than twenty-five subprime lending firms declare bankruptcy in February and March 2007. The U.S. sees the largest single-year drop in home sales in more than two decades as the housing bubble bursts. It becomes clear that the country’s financial problems extend beyond the subprime loan industry in July 2007 when Bear Stearns, one of the largest U.S. investment banks, announces plans to file for bankruptcy.
microblogging picks up steam
Although Tumblr is in financial trouble today, its influence on teen culture and activism will always remain a part of the company’s cultural legacy. For example, art curator and writer Kimberly Drew’s Tumblr “Black Contemporary Art” (est. 2011) started as a creative outlet but eventually became her calling card in the art industry. The microblogging platform was founded in February 2007 to make it easy for users to post multimedia content into short-form blogs.
Although Twitter launched in 2006, the updates that created what we now consider as integral to interacting on the microblogging platform were released in 2007. These updates included defining friends as “followers,” tracking hashtags, and Dell joining Twitter which paved the way for other businesses to incorporate the platform into their business and communications strategy.
The Golden Age of YouTube is Boosted by “Chocolate Rain”
YouTube, a video-based social media platform founded in 2005, experienced what has since become considered as its “Golden Age” in 2007 in which videos that are considered as the first viral videos of the social media age were uploaded to the platform. These videos included the now iconic video for the song “Chocolate Rain” which launched the career of YouTube personality Tay Zonday after he posted the video for the song on April 22, 2007. The song “Chocolate Rain” is a metaphor for systemic racism against Black people and home-produced video for this seemingly light-hearted song (its catchiness and Tay Zonday’s voice distracted people from the lyrical content) earned more than a hundred million views which catapulted Zonday into international fame making him one of the first black digital content creators to make money from the Internet through views and branded partnerships. It can also be argued that “Chocolate Rain” set the stage for Donald Glover’s viral song “This Is America” which earned more than five hundred million views and also discussed system racism against Black people through a seemingly light-hearted song (without viewing the video people could be distracted by its catchy hook and uptempo sound).
the iphone changes the game
The iPhone received a lot of media attention when Steve Jobs introduced the world to the device at the Macworld convention on January 9, 2007. When the iPhone was released on June 29, 2007, it revolutionized the computer, personal music player, and phone category with one game-changing device. The iPhone forever changed how, where, and when we consume and produce content to anyway, anywhere, and anytime.
“Crank That” Becomes a Rap Crossover Viral Success
DeAndre Cortez Way uploads the official music video for his debut single “Crank That (Soulja Boy)” onto YouTube. An earlier homemade version of the “Crank That” video is first published in April 2007, but it is the official music video, supported by Interscope Records, that propels the song and its accompanying dance steps into a full-blown culture shifting movement. The 17-year-old rapper’s natural knack for brand building helps the record reach the critical mass it needs to go viral. “Crank That” peaks at number one on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 by September 2007 establishing Soulja Boy as the first of many viral crossover rap success stories of the digital era.
Soundcloud Disrupts Music Distribution
Soundcloud launches in August 2007 to provide a platform for homegrown studios and unsigned artists to enter the music industry. The company launches during the advent of “360” or “multiple rights” deals in the music industry. In these deals, record labels commit to functioning as pseudo managers for artists by giving artists more money up front in exchange for a percentage of revenue that may have traditionally been off limits to record labels. Things such as digital sales, merchandise sales, endorsement deals, or anything else an artist could produce income from outside of record sales fall under the “360 deal” purview. Many young rappers whose careers were launched in the digital age are believed to be in these arrangements. Over the years, Soundcloud has helped young artists grow a fanbase and independent brands outside of the traditional music label structure. The platform launched the careers of now popular rappers like Chance the Rapper as well as a new subgenre of rap known colloquially as “Mumble Rap” or “Soundcloud Rap” which is now led by young artists such as Juice WRLD and the controversial, now-deceased rapper, XXXTentacion.
America Is Asked to Keep Up With the Kardashians
The “E!” network airs the first episode of “Keeping Up With The Kardashians” on October 14, 2007, introducing the country, and eventually the world, to the Kardashian-Jenner family. The family has grown to have an outsized influence on American culture over the years influencing everything from how we eat to how we shop. The Kardashian’s influence in how American consume black culture cannot be underestimated. There are many well-documented accusations towards various Kardashian-Jenners (most notably Kim, Khloe, and Kylie) of culturally appropriating black culture for profit.
Black celebrity blogs and gossip sites rise in popularity
Unsatisfied with the lack of coverage given to black celebrities in mainstream media outlets, black content creators and entrepreneurs start blogs of their own to highlight black celebrity culture and gossip. One of the most successful black celebrity sites of this era, Necole Bitchie, launched in December 2007. Another popular site, Media Takeout, launched in 2006, but by 2007 grew in popularity to become the second most popular gossip site after Perez Hilton’s site, according to 2007 data from Yahoo Buzz as reported in The Baltimore Sun. These sites paved the way for now popular black celebrity gossip platforms like The Shaderoom and Baller Alert.