Malcolm McLaren, the wily manger who guided original punks the Sex Pistols to infamy, died today after a battle with cancer. He was 64. After outfitting the New York Dolls with outrageous stagewear in the mid-'70s, he became more notorious for coordinating the Sex Pistols' outlandish publicity stunts, such as a disastrous Thames concert cum boat trip. He also had a hand in the formation of new-wavers Bow Wow Wow; he convinced Adam and the Ants' backing band to defect and play the same role for Annabella Lwin. As a musician, McLaren dabbled in hip-hop, funk and electro. His biggest hit was "Buffalo Gals," an early hip-hop gem that's been sampled many times (most notably on Eminem's "Without Me").In a 2007 RFT article, writer Dan LeRoy posited that McLaren is "the godfather of today's mainstream hip-hop." Why?
McLaren was one of the first industry figures to suggest openly that music was really "all about the Benjamins." He was happy to outrage the public with sex and violence, if he thought it made good financial sense, and he foresaw and encouraged the devolution of music into a means to an end -- specifically, a way to market bigger, more lucrative ideas.
In other words, McLaren is the spiritual godfather of 50 Cent and today's businessmen MCs -- and not because he once dabbled with hip-hop as a solo artist.
"What Malcolm McLaren did was to reveal the inner workings of the record industry. And it was all new knowledge," says British-born author Simon Reynolds, who was thirteen years old when the Pistols turned England on its ear. "Before that...rock was about art and expression, and money was felt to be corrupting."