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June 6, 2012

The Hip Hop Echo Chamber

One of the pioneers to this rap blog shit, Andrew Nosnitsky, just dropped a nice piece about the consequences of blog’s becoming the new tastemakers. Here’s an excerpt:

The principal currency in this new blog economy is buzz. Buzz is a thing that is almost completely imagined, which everyone desperately wants to have or be near. And this thing that doesn’t exist is most valuable if you’re around it before anyone else. Amateur and ‘professional’ bloggers alike fight to get in on the ground floor with the next Next Big Thing. In their rush, they tend to reward a strong narrative (a teenager on house arrest! An Australian immigrant who loves Tupac!), scandalous talking points (homophobia! Homosexuality?! White girls who say the N-word!) or superficial aesthetics (kids who are good at Photoshop! Kids who are good at Final Cut! White girls who may or may not say the N-word but who look like fashion models so either way it doesn’t matter!) over historically valued musical pursuits like hit records or good records or great records.

I fully co-sign his arguments and it’s something I’ve been talking about for a while, particularly the inherit conflict of interest it creates (Hi Karen!). Even more frustrating though, is that the art suffers as a result of rapper’s only looking for hype. My inbox and twitter get destroyed with rappers shooting me links to their youtube videos, thinking this is how they will “make it”. It’s like they don’t realize the world doesn’t work like that, it works like this. I do realize it has always been like this even before blogs, the djs were getting harassed, bribed or beat up for spins.

My question is how did all this start? I think the first “blog rapper” was Kanye West. But he came out at a time when blogs were not as powerful and he already had a record deal and was popular. I think the first rapper that proved the “blog business model” was Drake. That is he was the first to get critical acclaim from the top rap blogs as well as their readers starting around late 2009 and 2010. Sure before this he was getting major spins on Myspace and did have a “fanbase” from his television show, but Drake wasn’t doing small shows or touring and wasn’t know for his music. I think this showed those that read rap blogs (in which 99% are rappers themselves) that they could make it solely of blog buzz. But these struggling rappers sorely missed the point, it wasn’t the blog buzz that propelled Drake, it was the great music first that created the blog buzz.

Moreover, the rap blog industry in 2012 is totally different than it was just 2-3 years ago. I have yet to see another rapper come up this way and actually “make it” like Drake did (you know with more number 1′s than Diddy). My feeling is that this way of making it is over, it’s become too saturated. It’s like how mixtapes were after 50 Cent in 2003. People thought the key to making it was putting out more mixtapes. It isn’t. Just like having coverage on all the blogs isn’t. Like I’ve said over and over again, it’s the MUSIC that matters most.

Best line:

We toppled the old oligarchy of major label hype and lapdog, ad-courting print magazines, only to build an even faultier system in its place.

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