Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Alright, this video is a bit long and there are some solid thoughts throughout, so it'd be pointless to comment on every aspect of it.  I do have a few choice insights though:

First off, it is NOT true that rap fans are ill-equipped (as one girl says in this video) as compared to fans of other genres - specifically rock and country, which she mentions directly.  Economically speaking, rural areas are more impoverished than urban areas based on residential income levels.  These urban areas are also home to the foundation of country and rock fan bases.  If anybody is ill-equipped in this country, it's the kids who are poor in areas that are far-removed from resources (including the urban setting of hip-hop).  

In addition to that, the major audience of hip-hop is no longer ghetto youth.  It's middle class, white, suburban, young adults.  Album sale statistics illustrate this pretty explicitly, but you can also look at any picture of your favorite rapper in front of a crowd at a show to see who the main audience is there.  If there's anybody that's WELL equipped in this country, it's middle-to-upper class white kids.

Next, somebody made the comment that hip-hop is the only genre that is for the youth and that talks about life on the streets.  Bitch, please!  Whoever made this comment clearly has little knowledge of any genre outside of hip-hop.  Country music is barnstorming, bootlegging music.  It's original form (and the form that some - albeit few - musicians still stick to these days) is telling stories about troubled times in town, at work, or at home, as well as good times drinking, with family, or driving around in your truck with your dog and shit.  That's real life for those musicians and their fans.  Arguably, it's more real than the current trend in rap music.  You know what I'm talking about - all the bullshit about rims and hoes and slinging dope.  Most of these dudes do not even do this shit, AND even if they do, their fans don't!

The same thing that was said for country music can be said for blues.  It was an impoverished youth movement that arose as a form of expression to attempt to illustrate the troubles of the time - racial, economic, and social.  Also, rock 'n roll - which was birthed from blues - grew up quickly as an alternate means of expressing those same troubles.  Jazz is in the same boat as blues, with the main difference being that the thoughts and emotions of the artists were usually expressed instrumentally instead of verbally.  Some people would argue that it's that fact that gives it even more emotion and more credibility.  Reggae was (and still is in large part) a youth movement that arose to express the evils of abusive authority, globalization, and a lack of freedom (and sometimes spirituality) in the modern world (aka Babylon), from the perspective of impoverished Jamaican youth.

ALL of these genres are of the youth and of the streets.  Sadly, most of them (including hip-hop, but perhaps still excluding reggae still at this point) have been ripped away from their foundation and re-instituted as business models.  No matter what radio station you tune to (unless you're rocking 88.1fm in StL or other community stations, in which case you rock), you're going to hear just as many (or more) commercials as songs.  If the stations want advertising money, they need to get commercials.  If they want commercials, they need more listeners in order to entice advertisers to do their thing on their station.  If they want more listeners, they have to play music that they think people will tune in to.  If record labels want the radio stations to play THEIR music, they have to (or they think they have to) CRAFT songs/artists/albums that fit a pattern of what they think fans are most likely to blindly follow.

So, are rap fans fickle?  I don't know.  I can definitely side with Budden on many or most of the points that he makes here, but I'm not sure if it's something that's exclusive to hip-hop.  That being said, it's a wasted effort trying to make excuses for hip-hop fans like the three other people in the video repeatedly try to do.  It's (probably) not a genre-specific problem that they're actually talking about here.  What they're discussing - perhaps without realizing it - is a cultural phenomenon of commoditization.  If there's ANY disadvantage that hip-hop has here, it's that it's still a new genre.  Because of that, it didn't really have a hayday before execs realized they could cash in.  Rock 'n Roll was rolling for decades before it became capitalized.  Jazz and blues even longer.  Unfortunately for hip-hop, it was born right around the time of the beginning of major exploitation of artists and fans.  It had a few truly underground years to start to mature before it was snatched from the cradle and put on the streets to work for the man.

But there IS a counter-movement to all of this.  Check out your local scene to find true die-hard fans that stick with artists.  Granted, there are some real dicks out there at shows, but it's mostly all love.  Check out Prince Ea and the Make Smart Cool Movement.  Look into Black Spade for a truly artistic approach to the genre.  And don't forget Rockwell Knuckles, Tef Poe, Corey Black, Nato Caliph, Jonathan Toth from Hoth, Tucker Booth, Jonezy, T.Shirt, and countless others who are really making waves in local scenes and keeping the genre true to its task.

It's easy to find things to complain about regarding all genres, all styles, media, and everything else.  The challenge (and it's not really a difficult one to approach) is finding alternatives.  Dig out the real scene and immerse yourself in it.  Focus on the positive.  Isn't that half of what music's all about?



CONMAN said...

Good video and article.

One point I think that was failed to be mentioned is that rap/pop is currently the prominent genre of music. In the 80's rap was obviously around, but rock was the prominent genre so it's absurd to think that 40-50 year old people would be bumping rap music. And people want to listen to NEW music. I love great classic rap albums, but if there's an album that came out yesterday of equal quality to an album of 20 years ago, I'd rather listen to the new one.

I definitely agree the MAJORITY of rap fans are fickle. They basically listen to the 10 shitty songs playing on the radio and flock to a new artist when he releases a "banger." But even with all this, do I really give a fuck? 95% of mainstream rap is total shit, and about 95% of the music I listen to is underground/local. I'm fine with this and enjoy the music I listen to. I don't see myself and fans like myself as the same set of "fickle fans."

That's all I got.

-MikeG- said...

Excellent point! And well spoken.
Thanks for taking the time to comment.
I should say this though, since I didn't in the post above: the title of this post ("Joe Budden Thinks You're Fickle...And He's Probably Right") was mostly just to grab people attention. Thankfully, I can boast that the people who actually follow this blog are those who enjoy the quality side of hip-hop. Honestly, I don't know why anyone who preferred the radio-friendly blend of rap would even check this site, since we don't post any of it (unless of course you're the rare kind of fan who honestly enjoys both...not just listens to both because you tend to have limited options).
Anyway, thanks again for (1.) reading the post and taking the time to comment, and (2.) listening to good music!
Spread the word.

CONMAN said...

Yeah, for sure man. I honestly visit this blog more than any other hip hop related website, keeps me up well with the local scene and the few mainstream artists you post about I actually enjoy (Jay Electronica, Lupe Fiasco). Keep up the good work, and know I enjoy this editorial-esque posts.


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