Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Holy War

I wanted to simply post a link to a NY Times/Hip Hop blog smackdown posted at XXL but when I clicked over it was suspiciously absent from the site. I love the fire and insight provided by the rant, and he's absolutely right.

I get really frustrated with critics seemingly picking "their guys" and riding for them, again in my opinion, regardless of the varying quality in content. Stans, it's okay for your guy to occasionally dog a verse, in this age of over saturation, it's practically impossible not to. What's even more frustrating is how lines are drawn, dichotomies are cast. Just as clearly as one MC can do no wrong, another can't possibly do anything worthy of discussion once he/she has been summarily dismissed as "not my style". Why must we cheerlead and hate relentlessly? My favorite part of writing/discussing music is the gray, the obvious potential waiting to be met, the occasional bust, the unpredictability of how an MC will pan out. Under 2009 rules the future isn't written, it's blogged ad-nauseum and even when the sales come in, excused and apologized away so wrong never has to be conceeded.

Who would've thought Bol would write the most searing piece of criticism in a particularly chippy 2009? A reminder behind all the sarcasm and porn he's one of the smartest dudes doing this. It's not the first time an idea along these lines has been suggested but it's certainly the most salient and devastating articulation on one of the larger platforms Rap Internets has to offer. If XXL doesn't have the balls to run it I will, Bol if you're at all aware of this blog and this pisses you off request me to take it down and I'll do so immediately. And for the record, I LIKE Gucci.

Why the New York Times’ rap coverage sucks balls
from XXLmag.com - » Bol's Saturday Night Workout by Bol

If Gucci Mane’s the State vs. Radric Davis is only projected to sell 85-90k albums this week, does it really warrant a feature in the New York Times on the producers who helped craft the patented Gucci Mane sound? What’s next, a feature in the New Yorker on the grade school teachers who failed to teach Gucci Mane to read? I’m only half joking here.

It’s obvious that the white guy who wrote the story for the Times pitched it to them on the grounds that Gucci Mane would be a lot more successful than he ended up being. The State vs. Radric was supposed to be this from out of nowhere cultural phenomenon, like Tha Carter III, and the Times was positioning itself to look smart, by having the inside scoop on its creation. Instead, they just ended up making themselves look stupid, by making a prediction that failed to come to fruition.

The real story of rap music this decade is white guys aligning themselves with various trends in LCD rap, trying to predict the next big thing. It used to be the case that these trends would originate from the ghettos of the South, where people didn’t know any better. By the time you heard of some garbage like Master P or the Cash Money Millionaires, they’d already sold hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of albums to people with mouths full of gold teeth and debilitating sizzurp addictions. Whereas, LCD rap in the aughts was less of a grass roots phenomenon and more a matter of some white guy with a penchant for irony combing MySpace for the rappers with the most ridonkulous sounding names. Which they’d then pronounce the second coming. Sometimes the hipster set would announce that a type of LCD rap was the proverbial new ska, and it sorta kinda would be, like Houston rap, which really was ubiquitous for about a month in 2005, and sometimes it would completely fail, like hyphy, which was never popular at any point in time. (Note the difference.) As is the case with the Clipse, who still command magazine covers coming up on 10 years since they’ve been relevant, primarily on account of boosters in the world of hip-hop journalism, it’s obvious very few black people actually listened to a lot of that shit.

Which brings me back to Gucci Mane. Do I mean to suggest that he’s the creation of the secret message boards at Pitchfork? Honestly, I have no idea, and I could care less if he is. He was around for a good half a decade before he was the talk of the hip-hop Internets; and I’m not even aware of what his new song is called, but it can’t be any more popular than “So Icy.” So it could be a little bit of both. He might actually be somewhat popular in the parts of the country that contribute to the US having such a ridonkulous infant mortality rate, and he might also be the hipster community’s latest attempt to anoint some random, shitty southern rapper, for their own personal amusement. Things in real life are rarely as black and white as I make them seem on the Internets. At any rate, there doesn’t seem to be anything about Gucci Mane that would warrant him being discussed anywhere other than Cocaine Blunts. He’s neither particularly good nor particularly popular. (Funny how that works.)

I figured I’d go in, yesterday, when I saw that the Times was covering him as if he’d actually done something interesting. I didn’t bother reading it until just now, but it seemed obvious to me that Tha Carter III played a role in them devoting so much time and effort to Gucci Mane, and I figured that would come off as conjecture (which a lot of my stuff is anyway), until I finally did read the story, and come to find out it’s right there in the first few paragraphs.

And I quote:

"Still, in spite of these impediments, Gucci Mane, 29, has been the most prolific rapper in Atlanta over the last two years, the most hotly discussed, and also the most improved. In the last few months he’s had the swiftest ascent to hip-hop ubiquity since Lil Wayne.

He didn’t do it alone. Gucci Mane’s rise has occurred in large part thanks to a handful of producers — Zaytoven, Drumma Boy, Shawty Redd and Fatboi, most prominently — whose work over the past four years has come to exemplify the modern Atlanta sound: triumphant but moody, synth-heavy with sharp snares, all sprinkled with almost gothic overtones."

In the past few months, I really have had a breakthrough in my ability to predict a TI’s thought process. It’s only a matter of time before I really am able to save eight year-olds from freemason blood sacrifice. Then I can pitch a series about it to television, like that show Quantum Leap, but with more gratuitous nudity from the cam hoo-ers I’d cast as my love interests. It would definitely have to be on pay cable. HBO, or if it’s not good enough to be on HBO, Showtime.

Anyway, it makes you wonder if, when last week’s sales are announced tomorrow and the State vs. Radric Davis utterly fails to distinguish itself, Byron Calame or someone from the Times will call the guy who did the Gucci Mane story and be like, “I thought you said this bullshit would be notable on the basis of its popularity?” Nah, right? The thing is, it’s hard to determine the relative success or failure of an album, in an age when 50 Cent sells 160k copies of Before I Self Destruct. And that’s if you count weeks worth of digital sales, to people who aren’t as Internets savvy, and all of the copies Interscope bought and had buried in the same hole in the desert where Atari hid that ET video game. Has anyone actually seen a copy of Before I Self Destruct in the wild? The State vs. Radric Davis album only sold 70k copies less than what the new 50 Cent album sold. And it sold something like three times what that Wale album sold. However, I don’t think it’s fair to compare the sales of an according to Hoyle LCD rap album to the sales of an album by a guy who went to an all white high school (and hence knows better) and was forced to do a lot of pandering. The 90,000 copies the Gucci Mane album will probably sell is still only twice as much as what that damn Black Eyed Peas album continues to sell each week, years after it was released, and less than one-tenth what Tha Carter III, the LCD rap standard bearer, sold its first week out.

Relatively speaking, the Gucci Mane album selling 90,000 copies is hardly any different from that Felt album selling 7,000 copies, or whatever it sold. But where was the Felt feature in the New York Times? It might have even been more interesting, to the Times’ well-educated readership. The thing is, there probably isn’t anyone who gives a shit about the Felt who can get a story published in the Times. There aren’t very many people who give a shit about Felt in general. (No shots!) And I can’t imagine the people at the Times who decide what gets published and what doesn’t get published (i.e. the people charged with making sure Noam Chomsky remains obscure) know very much about rap music. They’re basically at the mercy of whoever comes striding in there with the latest selection from the Asylum Records lulz of the month club.

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