MTV, the 2010 VMAs, and the Canadian Hip Hop Revolution

This year’s MTV Video Music Awards will be televised on September 12, 2010 at 9 p.m. and it will have a definite dominant musical theme: hip hop. More specifically, safe hip hop. Despite the plans to feature performances by Trey Songz and Ne-Yo, two performers who can claim some kind of street cred, the big names are Justin Bieber, Kanye West, and Drake.

Justin Bieber and Drake are ushering in the Canadian Golden Age of Hip Hop. They are doing so as expatriates living in the United States and going to bed with American producers and record labels. But the nation to our north has to be pleased they collectively erase the association of nationalized health care and Celine Dion.

Kanye West may be the king of award show controversy, but the kid from middle class suburbia has never been noted for his urban flavor. He is perhaps one of the leading forces in the day and age where hip hop is melding with far more pop music elements (or at least sample tracks). I guess you can even make an argument that West paved the way for the acceptance of the Bieb (though the thousands of preteen girls swarming the box office to spend their parents’ money on Justin Bieber tickets like the CGI creatures from Piranha 3D helps too).

Even Drake can rely on his good looks and versatility as a performer without spending too much time explaining his innate love for hockey or hesitance to pronounce the “o” in “about”.

Of course, like the major music festivals, the VMAs are using the less prominently advertised live performances to take a litmus test of the American teenage audiences’ capacity to stomach more European genre-bending acts like Florence and the Machines (who is really just a single performer with a backing band) and house DJ, DJ Deadmau5 (who actually wears a gigantic mouse head while diddling with his iBook).

All this is tied together with a host that ups the ante again. Chelsea Handler is the acerbic comedian/host of her own E! late night talk show and is sure to push the boundaries…again. I expect to hear a few jibes about Justin Bieber hitting on her, how she really wishes Drake would be tied up in her dressing room, and a couple of barbs about Kanye being Kanye.