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. Well, 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, Andre Grant and Ural Garrett. 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’s this week’s “Stray Shots.
People Who “Hate” Anything “Mainstream”
Ural: We all know the type; anyone signed to a major label or has a hint of commercial success is a sell out. The same Hip Hop listener who to this day believes Kidz In The Hall’s The In Crowd is a better album than Lil Wayne’s Tha Carter III. It’s the same person who tries to discredit Kendrick Lamar post-Section 80. While some artists evolve into popular society’s center of attention, many day-one fans burn with resentment. In their world, enjoyment of mainstream or independent Hip Hop is mutually exclusive. Real Hip Hop fans enjoy Madvillainy and The College Dropout. Trust us, liking “Trap” and “Boom Bap” is totally fine. It’s all Hip Hop.
Andre: You can find them trolling around Internet hubs like Twitter and Facebook with false-snobbery as their main weapon. You’ll add them thinking everything is cool, they’re just kind of a zealot, and then they sneak into your DM’s with vile at the first whiff of rap betrayal. They’ve got an answer for everything. It just so happens that it’s often the same one over and over again. It’s “mainstream.” Other people like it so it must be bad. Such and such was cool before they went and started making music for the “masses.” They search and search for where Kanye went wrong, and they’ll never forgive Nas for making It Was Written. The day they heard about you is the day you begun to rap, and the day they hear you on the radio they lament your loss of credibility. Of course, it’s the credibility they themselves assigned you.
The “Hip Hop Is Dead” Malcontent
Ural: Time is relative and everyone can’t be born in between 1970 – 1985. Therefore, good Hip Hop didn’t end after the Golden Era and still lives today. Those who believe that there hasn’t been a good album since Illmatic or The Blueprint could be a reason why it’s difficult for the culture to mature creatively. If said person held similar feelings toward Nas’ Hip Hop Is Dead album in 2006 while ignoring T.I’s King, Jedi Mind Tricks’ Servants in Heaven, Kings in Hell, J DIlla’s Donuts, Clipse’s Hell Hath No Fury and Lupe Fiasco’s Food & Liquor, they are apart of the problem. Regardless, the culture will continue to move past dated notions.
Andre: The “Hip Hop Is Dead” native laments the changing of any guard whatsoever. They are Hip Hop’s conservatives; the wing of folks who hold on to what they think is some kind of radical belief in “authenticity.” They just won’t accept you for who you are. How dare you want to rap and not spit hard-ass rhymes when you’re really a gem? And how dare you cater your music to some demographic other than them: to women, to suburban kids, to those who like “Friends,” to whomever.
The Conspiracy Theorist
Ural: The Illuminati, Gay Mafia, The Government, Satan and Jews run Hip Hop according to these Hip Hop fans. We all know the type. They spend countless hours watching conspiracy videos on YouTube proving Tupac is still alive and that Jay Z and Beyonce sacrifice a virgin goat every third Wednesday of the month. This is the result of too much Byron Crawford and Alex Jones. Young Thug’s popularity can’t be due to hot singles and eccentricity. Nope, there’s a secret group attempting to emasculate all men within the culture. Facts and common sense never matter.
Andre: Steve Jobs was a conspiracy theorist too, once. And then he realized things are much less complicated than they seem. It wasn’t that there were only shadowy string pullers dumbing down the population with useless drivel, it’s that those shadowy string pullers were giving people what they wanted. Because guess what, folks? These things are driven by sales, ratings and popularity. That’s right! You, me, us, we are part of the problem. So whether it’s any of those forces named above, they all have one thing in common: it looks like they know what we want. So which is worse?
Fair Weather Hip Hop Fans
Ural: Maybe Hip Hop naturally leads to someone being the best due to hyper-competition. Makes sense why sticking with whoever has the largest radio hit, platinum single or most popularity is something wishy-washy fans are easily impressed with. They’re fans of Drake but wouldn’t know any of his work before Thank Me Later or claim to be huge Eminem fans but couldn’t recite a lyric outside of “The Real Slim Shady.” In fact, at times, one could say they’re technically not even Hip Hop fans. To them, Hip Hop is more of a popularity contest than anything about artistic merit.
Andre: The casual listener is the b-side of the Hip Hop rap-fan-sphere. Everything is Kanye or Drake and anything else is considered not worth listening to. Was it on the radio? Because if it isn’t does it really matter? They also don’t know much of anything and use their ignorance as a shield from more passionate fans. You’re so serious, they’ll scream, as they clog up valuable dancing space at Coachella or Bonnaroo, Governors Ball and your favorite concert venue. And while every performance sucks until they hear that one song they know, they’ll wile out like they found out Starbucks were giving out free Grande hazelnut macchiatos when they finally hear something they can sing the words to.
Ural: Undying loyalty to the very end. Ever met a Technician or Juggalo and entered conversations of Tech N9ne or Insane Clown Posse being the best rap acts to ever grace this earth? Yup, it’s part honest love and part pure delusion. Regardless, disagreeing to the smallest amount can lead to injury or death. For these fans, even an artist’s worst album is better than 99 percent of everything out there. Try talking to a Jay Z fan about how horrible Kingdom Come was or Eminem’s atrocity in Relapse. It’s a waste of time. Being blinded by fandom in their eye is misinterpreted as raw dedication.
Andre: Then there’s the straight up zealot. They don’t care about anyone and anything except this particular artist or his or her crew. And they don’t care that they don’t care. This results in a huge spiral of super-fandom that must be seen to truly be believed. They know everything about Eminem, Jay Z, Tech N9ne, DJ Quik or anyone else that they love beyond all reason, and if one breathe is uttered that is anti their worldview they turn suddenly violent. Their artists are well fed, though, and they make sure that their concerts are sold out no matter where they are. Romantics in the extreme, they believe that a particular artist’s music speaks specifically to them and others like them, and they find solace in the fact that this artist has made them less alone. If you see one, run the other way as quickly as you can and if you see a bunch (on social media or in real life) just fall to your knees and begin to pray.
Andre Grant is an NYC native turned L.A. transplant that has contributed to a few different properties on the web and is now the Features Editor for HipHopDX. He’s also trying to live it to the limit and love it a lot. Follow him on Twitter @drejones.
Ural Garrett is an Los Angeles-based journalist and HipHopDX’s Senior Features Writer. When not covering music, video games, films and the community at large, he’s in the kitchen baking like Anita. Follow him on Twitter @Uralg.