From Poverty to Prosperity: How Gaming is the New Hip Hop

XSET co-founder, Get Familiar Radio owner, host of WIN BIG with Clinton Sparks on Twitch, and award-winning music producer Clinton Sparks explains why gaming and esports are a new way out of poverty, much like hip hop and professional sports in the following opinion piece.

Anyone that’s been around long enough to understand what hip hop has gone through to become the incredibly influential, profitable, youth, and pop culture phenomenon it is today could easily understand what gaming is going through, even if you’re not a gamer. 

They are both driven by youth culture, authenticity, competitiveness, shit-talking, and the hope of becoming successful in doing it. Both are misunderstood and underrated by the mainstream and parents. 

Both are well aware of their own greatness, even while others don’t see it. Both are ways for underprivileged kids to get out of the hood, yet hardly anyone is recognizing, supporting, or highlighting this when it comes to gaming. 

During my grueling efforts of raising money and trying to get people familiar with the evolution and excitement surrounding gaming as VP of business development at Faze Clan, I called Mark Wahlberg to discuss.

When he revealed that he limited his kids to only two hours of gaming a week, I said, “imagine if our mothers only let us do music for two hours a week, neither one of us would be here today.” 

Hip hop got both of us out of the hood and off the streets as well, as it has for so many others. 

Gaming is the new way out of the hood and off the streets; a legitimate and safe way to make a living. For some, a seriously profitable living. Just like hip hop. 

There are so many brands, businesses, and parents that don’t recognize the immense value and potential future that gaming can provide. And, how just like hip hop, it gets dismissed, downplayed, and even disrespected. 

Hip hop and gaming have always been in a relationship, they have just never really committed. Without mentioning the multitude of video games that incorporated hip hop music in soundtracks, or the music that has used or referenced video games, whether you go to a barber shop, recording studio, or even in a rapper’s tour bus, there is always a gaming console and artists competing against each other. It’s part of the culture. 

For years we looked at sports or hip hop as legitimate ways to make money to get out of the hood, but now we have a new way that is not only safer but much more likely to garner you success and make you money faster than hoop dreams ever could. Recently I met a talent in Atlanta whose family was struggling with past due bills and they would have become homeless had he not qualified for Fortnite’s World Cup, winning $50K USD from his bedroom – saving his family. So whether it’s joining an organization, streaming, building an online fan base, participating in tournaments, or creating content and merchandise that you can monetize, there are numerous ways to make money in the ever-growing gaming space. Just like hip hop. 

I’ve watched hip hop evolve over my life from being used as escapism from one’s reality to a way to express oneself and spread a message, build community,  or use it as a form of entertainment. I’ve also watched people’s misinterpretation and misunderstanding of those who make hip hop.

Just like I’ve watched the gaming industry evolve from its use of escapism from one’s reality to a way to express oneself and spread a message, build community, or be used as a form of entertainment. I’ve also watched people’s misinterpretation and misunderstanding of those who game. 

It blows my mind that there are still those who grew up and saw the growing pains, scrutiny, and rejection hip hop had to endure and what it has become. Those whose job it is to monitor and pay attention to business, investments, and cultural trends, that still don’t see the massive community and future in gaming. They still don’t see the positive impact it can have on our youth and their future. Just like they didn’t see it with hip hop. 

The global video gaming industry took in an estimated $180B in 2020 – more than sports and movies worldwide. 

Now that gaming has penetrated mainstream pop culture with the help of monumental moments like Travis Scott’s concert in Fortnite, Lil Nas X in Roblox, and rappers like Offset and Swae Lee investing in and joining a gaming organization (consequently attracting more media attention), gaming will soon suffer the same cringe-worthy attempts with brands and companies trying to use it’s popularity to slang their product. Just like hip hop. 

Hip Hop has taken its seat at the helm of youth culture and now gaming is charging through the same door that hip hop has been able to finally kick off the hinges. 

We live in a hip hop world whether you like it, or know it, or not.  For years, everything has been influenced by hip hop from marketing and branding, fashion even politics. We will soon be living in a world where everything is connecting to and also influenced by gaming, including hip hop. 

Parents and brands would once denounce Hip Hop by proclaiming, “that’s not music,”  or “It’s too violent,” when the youth would rap on the corner or blare hip hop out of their radios or cars. 

They mustn’t make the same mistake by discounting gaming or gamers as anything less than the next superstars, success stories, and a powerful community that will shape and shift the future of marketing, business, and pop culture. Just like hip hop. We represent this new and future set of talent and opportunity which is why we created XSET.

Hip hop built massive companies and made many rich. It’s overcome doubters, haters, and naysayers, and has been used to help educate. It’s brought people together and forged lifelong friendships. It’s empowered kids who felt lonely or abandoned, and it’s helped many people build extremely successful careers and it has made A LOT of money. 

Just like gaming. 

For over 30 years, hip hop gave hope and a way to make it out of the hood. 

Today, a gaming console can provide that same hope and opportunity.

Gaming is the new hip hop. 

GET FAMILIAR. 


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