Hip-Hop Blogs Are The New Urban Radio…And That Isn’t Necessarily A Good Thing

jaybeymac

A while ago, people started buzzing about how blogs were changing the face of music and hip-hop specifically, saying that those who run blogs are more instrumental in getting music out than the labels and the radio stations.  This at first excited me as a person who turned off his radio back in 1999 and never really looked back.  I thought “hey, the blogs are going to start putting out more underground artists and getting people heard who may never see radio time but deserve an ear regardless” and to a degree, that happened and is still the case.

The problem is that during these early conversations about this great shift, people thought that the best thing about this would be that the role of taste-maker would go from corporate types with a vested interest to average-Joe bloggers with daytime jobs and an enthusiasm for music that had little to nothing to do with the almighty dollar.  Then blogging became a full-time economic pursuit for people.  Your average Joe figured out how to monetize his blog and discovered the effects that covering the “hot” artist of the moment had on site traffic and in turn, ad revenue.  And that’s just where everything got super stupid.  Now you’ve got artists releasing lots of content outside of actual music, giving you the artwork, tracklist, trailer to the album, trailer for the mixtape, trailer to the music video, behind-the-scenes footage of the music video, footage of the bowl of cereal the rapper had the morning before going to film the video, and so on and so forth.  It really gets out of hand, all in the name of beating you over the head with the “hot” artist of the moment, i.e. the six people in the game with enough money to afford all this extra marketing.  And bloggers eat it right up…why?  Because it gives them more content, which increases visibility (but may not necessarily build reader loyalty), and because it increases traffic and thus increases ad revenue.

Part of what comes with living in an era where literally “anybody” can have a blog is understanding that while some are here to be arbiters of good taste and mean well, others are here mostly for profit…and more or less also mean well, but are doing the culture a disservice by doing the same things we used to criticize urban radio for before the smart folks just stopped bothering to tune in.  Quality over quantity is just not something that is appreciated in today’s rap game, where you basically fell off if you haven’t put out a mixtape in the last 3 months.

My frustration comes more with being a hip-hop fan than with being a blogger, since Rap Dad is simply an extension of my fandom, not something that I feel needs to measure up with other blogs in order for me to feel validated.  I’d rather have a blog on the side that is truly something unique and gives people an idea of my taste and point of view than have a blog that pays all of my bills but doesn’t bring anything new or unique to the table because that’s short-lived.  As a fan, it just sucks to have to sift through tons of the same nonsense in order to get to the real art that’s out there.  And I’m not knocking those who make money off of hip-hop blogging at all…many do have integrity and stumbled upon success while others are just playing the game and getting their hustle on.  But it’s a hustle that can absolutely be knocked when it subtracts from the culture and doesn’t add to it.  My advice to those getting into the hip-hop blog game is this: figure out where you want to go and if there are already a bunch of people doing exactly what you’re trying to do.  If there are, then you must make a decision of whether to continue to emulate or whether it’s worth it to you to gamble and bring something new to the table.  Please bring something new.

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