Whether or not you’re a fan of reality television in general, chances are you’ve been caught in the clutches of at least one guilty pleasure. Reality television has taken over every facet of pop culture for the past decade; and its latest conquest is hip-hop.
Slowly but surely, we are seeing more and more hip hop stars on the reality show circuit, offering fans a glimpse into their “real” lives. But how real are the pictures being painted for the camera? Does Chilli really want to find a man, or is it that “What Chilli Wants” is another shot at the big time? How authentic was Fantasia Barrino’s soul-baring season of Fantasia For Real? Are Toni and her sisters really as rambunctious as they seem on Braxton Family Values, or are they just trying to make a place for themselves somewhere, anywhere on the entertainment spectrum?
Of course the exposure of a television show would be attractive to someone looking to sell records, but does the marketing plan help or hurt these artists in the long run? Let’s see how some of urban music’s finest have fared from their dips in the reality TV pond.
Keyshia Cole: She kicked off the hip-hop reality craze when her hit show, The Way It Is debuted on BET in 2006. After three successful seasons, Keyshia and her family were as famous as the Cosby’s, ultimately prompting a spin-off for her mother and sister, Frankie & Nefe in 2009. Three albums, a husband and a baby later, Keyshia is still riding high, with her latest singles, “I Ain’t Thru” and “Take Me Away” carving out spots on the charts.
Salt N Pepa: Salt N Pepa first hit the small screen with their reality show, The Salt-n-Pepa Show in 2007. It was a success, and led Pep to her spin-off, Let’s Talk About Pep, which was VH1’s second highest-rated program last year. Now, the sexy spitters have reformed and are headlining a national hip-hop tour, packing houses again like they did twenty years ago.
Kandi Buress: Atlanta’s most talented housewife, Kandi Buress has been trying to re-launch her career since she joined The Real Housewives of Atlanta cast in 2009. With priceless placement and countless cameos of her in the studio, playing records and touring the country for promo events, the music has yet to make a splash. Even with sneak peaks of ”Me and U” and “Fly Above”, the publicity push hasn’t been enough to set her career soaring.
Fantasia Barrino: The second season of Fantasia For Real was VH1’s highest-rated show of 2010. Fans watched her stage a comeback with real-life drama that spilled over into daily headlines. A suicide attempt in the news was followed by “the suicide attempt” episode of the show, which conveniently aired the week before the album dropped. For all the hard work and dedication she seemed to be doing on the show; it was awfully easy for her to skip this year’s GRAMMYs in a hissy fit. Not the behavior we’d expect from the girl we just watched beg for her career back. Still, her song, “Bittersweet” from her 2010 album, Back To Me earned her this year’s GRAMMY for “Best Female R&B Performance”. Guess I’m still on the fence for this Idol alum.
Ray-J: In 2009, he filled in for Flava Flav as VH1’s resident Rico Suave on his hit dating show, For The Love of Ray J. The show, which depicted Ray as the pimp of all pimps, with gorgeous women competing for his affections, probably helped him achieve the sex symbol status he needed to push records like “Sexy Can I” and “One Wish”. I would stick him on the list of reality show winners.
Brandy: After wrapping the second season, Ray-J was joined by big sister, Brandy, for another reality show, Brandy & Ray-J: A Family Business. This show, meant to give us a true glimpse of the “business” just comes off as two starlets playing office and fighting with their parents—and each other. Still, it was nice to see Moesha all grown up, and her R&B resume is enough to keep her interesting, even without new music to judge. After she hung up her ball gown from Season 11 of Dancing With The Stars, she debuted her new self—BraNu, the rapper. With no singles to speak of, the jury is still out, but I’m thinking this may have been a real-life music mistake.
Jim Jones: Love & Hip Hop is definitely one of my guiltiest pleasures (I can’t get enough of Mama Jones), but I’d have to admit that Jimmy is probably the least interesting part of this ghetto-glam world it invited me into. His “tough guy” persona comes off as an act, begging me to question the legitimacy of the street cred he seems so proud of. Still, his single, “A Perfect Day” is getting a lot more play than it would without the promo push, so in the end, it looks like the Dip-Set Dropout is having the last laugh.
Olivia: The other breakout from Love & Hip Hop is Olivia, former first lady of G-Unit. Through the show, she’s managed to shed her “Candyshop” image and get out of 50 Cent’s shadow. Considering I’ve been hearing her single, “My December” all over the radio, I’d say her plan is unfolding quite nicely.