Want Better Hip-Hop? Be a Better Fan
The “yes” man is a thoughtless sheep, liking whatever he is told. He forsakes his American right to an opinion and will bite his tongue in half before voicing an honest outlook. Saying yes is his talent, constantly gifting false praise, fitting perfectly in the entourage, never jeopardizing his position. You can find these folks usually kissing the ass of whomever, wherever, if the opportunity allows, chasing the latest fad, hiding on blogs wearing a journalist's clothing, on Instagram with your favorite rapper or band who just dropped a horrid single. I praise these Parseltongue wizards; they’re entertainment industries backbone! Would we have Yeezus without a room full of disciples praising the gospel? Musicians step into the recording booth as Clark Kent, and walk out Superman fueled by the confidence presented by these hordes of nods, pearly whites grinning, celebratory, “man you just dropped a classic”s. Bless them and the egos they keep inflated, the festivals they cluster, and the timelines they heave idiocy all over.
On the other side is the antithetical dimwit, better known as the “no” man. He who believes the revolution is taking down radio towers and loving music that is undiscovered. Popular is his anti-Christ, "real" hip-hop is his favorite genre, and prides himself on a faux-superior taste in music. Favorite stories always begin with, “I knew him when there was only five fans at his concert and now everyone loves him. Where were you then?!” I love their ability to find hidden treasures to horde. They'd rather lock their favorite artist in obscurity than allow them the “main-stream” prosperity.
In the middle is the rarest kind of connoisseur; the type who finds ecstasy in discovery, secure in their taste, but hungry and open-minded for more. Their delight and disappointment is never shrouded in bias, they're knowledgeable enough to discuss without debates turning to tantrums. They attend shows, play out singles, purchase albums, treat festivals as a scavenger hunts for new talent, immersing themselves in the best and the worst music has to offer. These are the aesthetics of a “fan”. Not the kids in cult followings that spend night and day Tweeting idols in hopes of a response. I’m talking about true aesthete that cares most about the music and what it feeds their soul.
Walt Whitman once said, “To have great poets, there must be great audiences”. I relate this idea to the foundation of any art form. When it comes to hip-hop, I don’t see the “audience” anymore. There’s a mixture of “yes” men, “no” men, the “middle” and a cluster of others thirsty for recognition, attention, celebrity, and the almighty dollar. For the longest, I viewed WorldstarHipHop with disgust. Platforms that don’t epitomize the culture shouldn't be given the opportunity to utilize the name. Hip-hop is art, brotherhood, trendsetting, poetry, passion, possibilities, success, overcoming, and conquering. But if you flip the coin over, hip-hop is saturation, jealousy, fabrication, fornication, duplicating, manipulation, greed, violence, substance abuse, and Auto-Tune.
I said this would be the year I wouldn't write another piece about “the state of hip-hop”. It’s overdone, one more jaded opinion throwing gasoline on an already burning stage. No one even has a clear definition of the essence anymore. All I have is a Polaroid memory of the "golden era" idea, a time period I wasn't raised in. We have long ago bitten the apple and departed from that Eden. I've come to the conclusion that the best way to enjoy the genre is to be a hermit. Escape from all the comment sections, Twitter beefs, reality shows, one listen reviews, soul-less Instagram photos, and everything else that makes you feel like you are trapped in a soap opera. This isn't about the state of hip-hop, this is about the audience, the fans! We are the shepherds, not the sheep! We are the following, not the followers! Artist, writers, bloggers, and miscellaneous carry the culture’s voice, but the fans carry the culture’s heart.
For the love of music, become a great audience.
[Yoh has no taste for either poverty or honest labor, so writing is the only recourse left for him. You can follow him at @Yoh31.]