Once upon a time in a universe far, far away, HipHopDX used to host blogs. Through Meka, Brillyance, Aliya Ewing and others, readers got unfiltered opinions on the most current topics in and beyond Hip Hop. After a few years, a couple redesigns and the collective vision of three different Editors-In-Chief, blogs are back. Sort of. Since our blog section went the way of two-way pagers and physical mixtapes, Twitter, Instagram and Ustream have further accelerated the pace of current events in Hip Hop. Rappers beef with each other 140 characters at a time, entire mixtapes (and their associated artwork) can be released via Instagram, and sometimes these events require a rapid reaction.
As such, we're reserving this space for a weekly reaction to Hip Hop's current events. Or whatever else we deem worthy. And the "we" in question is myself, Omar Burgess and Andre Grant. Collectively we serve as HipHopDX's Features Staff. Aside from tackling stray topics, we may invite artists and other personalities in Hip Hop to join the conversation. Without further delay, here are this week's “Stray Shots.”
Did The #BeyHive Go Overboard In Attacking Karrueche Tran
Omar: During Twitter’s infancy, it was touted as the great equalizer and a platform to allow us laypeople to correspond with celebrities on a whim if they deemed us worthy. Much like Facebook and the blogs that predated it, Twitter would allow regular people to also document the minutiae of their days 140 characters at a time and even elevate a few people into the realm of “almost stardom” by virtue of their tweets. Now that Twitter has reached maturity, I wonder if giving everyone a platform or a voice simply because they want one was such a good idea. That perceived upward mobility through social media has also created a mob of sorts, and yielded two immediate takeaways. Posting missives 140 characters at a time leaves little if any room for a nuanced debate, and when the first thing that pops into your head is immediately available for thousands (or millions) to read, there’s not much time to consider keeping such thoughts to yourself. And so we end up with a Twitter mob mentality that people tout if it produces a hashtag-worthy moment like #HasJustineLanded, but shrug off when offended fans hurl death threats, racial slurs and other insults at those who speak ill of their chosen celebrities.
This week’s victim was Karrueche Tran, a middling celebrity who has risen to fame via her connection with Chris Brown, hosting gigs and modeling. Tran doesn’t emerge from the fracas blameless, as she chose to read a joke about the coarseness of Jay Z and Beyonce’s daughter Blue Ivy Carter’s hair while hosting BET’s 106 & Park. Beyonce’s fans, the self-proclaimed #BeyHive, descended upon Tran swiftly. And after much handwringing, BET might have suspended their countdown show and either reprimanded or canned the writer of the Blue Ivy joke Tran told. From conks to cornrows, there’s always an undertone of race when discussing black hair care. So the fact that the writer (and Tran by association, who wasn’t forced to tell the joke) either ignored that undertone or mistakenly assumed it would slide as part of the unspoken agreement of being amongst “kindred spirits” speaks volumes about why BET stays losing. Within hours, the BeyHive hit Tran with the usual racist, sexist, classist taunts. Whether you’re talking about #RihannaNavy, #TeamBreezy or any other technically unsanctioned group of obsessive Internet fans, the result is the same. The groups can be leveraged for social media currency and sometimes additional sales. Beyonce even included birthday wishes from her #BeyHive on her official site. But when factions of an artist’s online fanbase go rogue in the manner the BeyHive did, or the way #TeamBreezy did by issuing death threats to comedienne Jenny Johnson, there’s little if any accountability from the artists themselves. At least Karrueche owned up to her mistake and told that terrible joke on television instead of hiding behind a keyboard. At its core, some sections of the Internet are still safe havens for cowards to anonymously hurl their insults and participate in groupthink, and I’m not sure repackaging the medium into any app will change that fact.
Andre: The vast, vapid online universe is beginning to bear strange fruit. For the first time, maybe ever, people can get together and share their niche fetishes. We’re not talking more longstanding fan armies that actually meet up in person like the Juggalo’s or conceptual schadenfreudes like people who love Cards Against Humanity; we’re talking the swathing hoard who chase celebrities through Twitter streets hoping for some recognition that they are alive. In 2014, you can build a career of great effect if you cater to these people. Rihanna and her #RihannaNavy, for example, is buttressed by the fact that Rihanna will actually hug them at meet and greets, unlike the fans of Avril Lavigne whom you must admire from at least four fiends away. As it were, since Rihanna and Chris Brown move in some YingxYang Avatar like relationship, there is also #TeamBreezy. Both of these fan tumults of marauding gossip crusaders will descend upon you like the worst people of your high school class were cloned and then ordered to destroy you if you level even so much as a cursory critique at their idol, but the #BeyHive is in another league entirely.
The latest victim of the #BeyHive’s Galactus-like rage is Karrueche Tran, the ex/sometimes/maybe still girlfriend of Chris Brown who has come to fame for prettily standing next to the male celeb. Whoever’s cool with Brown is cool with #TeamBreezy, that is, until things fall apart. And things have apparently fallen apart, and so she’s already got to worry about those steaming orcs gathering at her gate. Her joke—or should I say the joke of the writer at BET who wrote it—about Blue Ivy’s hair being uncombed has now led to the great #BeyHive “coming” for her. This cannot be good. She’s kept herself off Twitter (shoutout to her publicist) and BET has leveled a formal apology to the Carters and maybe even fired the writer, but there are no breaks on the fan army train. Like the Crusades and the Vietnam War, once the gauntlet has been laid, the fight must happen by any means. Don’t believe us? Check out the apology she posted to her Instagram and the kind of gleaming hatred left behind by fans of the Carter’s. Sure, these groups can be a force for good if directed toward worthwhile causes. Check out the movement on the trials of Trayvon Martin, and the guardians of #BlackTwitter that held mainstream media to account for the perceptions of African Americans they trot out to the world as proof that nobility also lies within these folks. But the great mythology of our time may be that fandom itself has turned into some kind of life affirming activity. And it exposes the best and the worst of us all.
Omar Burgess is a Long Beach, California native who has contributed to various magazines, newspapers and has been an editor at HipHopDX since 2008. Follow him on Twitter@omarburgess.
Andre Grant is an NYC native turned L.A. transplant who's contributed to a few different properties on the web and is now the Senior Features Writer for HipHopDX. He's also trying to live it to the limit and love it a lot. Follow him on Twitter@drejones.