Knowledge Darts Vol. 1: Are We In The Upside Down?
"85% of the rap opinions that actually gain traction on Twitter aren’t even worth the paper they’ll never be printed on."
I’ve sat back and watched rap journalism devolve into a veritable circle jerk of glorified PR agents who offer their opinions on music while lacking the necessary knowledge bases to even make accurate statements about its history. Quite frankly, 85% of the rap opinions that actually gain traction on Twitter aren’t even worth the paper they’ll never be printed on. Facts matter. Context is key. You can’t learn about what happened in rap in 1992 simply by reading the old Billboard charts unless you can go back to 1992 in your mind and remember what was happening at that particular time. If you can’t recall what was going on in the realm of print media, college rap radio, the mixtape circuit, the underground or whose videos got burn on Rap City, Yo! MTV Raps, Pump It Up, or Video Music Box? You lack the proper context to even effectively use any data you’d find through Googling or Wikipedia searches. Without firsthand knowledge of these time periods you won’t even be aware of the deficiencies or holes in the information you’d find online. Which brings me to another point. The sheer futility of rap Twitter debates.
I’ve watched many a half-baked Twitter debate regarding rap catch fire and flood my timeline with the speed of Japanese internet service. I’ve sat there in disgust scrolling through all of the revisionist history and hot takes using Billboard charts and record sales to defend their claims. This is where facts and context converge. In order to make sense of charts and sales, you have to consider the climate of that particular era of music. That includes the radio, television and print media coverage, how many record labels there were, who were the hottest artists/camps/outfits or dominant/most influential producers during this same time period, then identifying the field that would serve as contemporaries or competition for that particular artist. If you can’t recall all of this information from memory, how can you present a solid case or argument? You should tap out of the conversation and shut the entire fuck up.
Which reminds me, I saw the editor of HipHop DX post a video on YouTube less than a month ago titled “Biggie Ain’t The GOAT,” where he failed to present a real case as to why he wasn’t that could hold water to anyone with basic critical thinking skills. He beat around the bush, name dropped his friends, posted clips that detracted from the actual subject and made several damning statements in the video that quite honestly should render his opinion on rap null and void. He also incorrectly stated that Notorious B.I.G’s run was only three years long when it actually spanned from his demo playing and his appearance on Stretch & Bobbito’s WKCR show in late 1991 to his untimely death in March 1997, weeks before his sophomore album was set to drop.
Justin Hunte failed to defend his video’s flaws and inconsistencies when it was pointed out that Big was the most dominant emcee of what was arguably the most competitive era of rap between 1992 and 1996, commonly known as the Second Golden Era. Biggie went from being a grimy underground street emcee in late 1991 to The Source’s Unsigned Hype in early 1992 to a mixtape messiah to doing notable guest appearances to dropping his own smash singles all before his album dropped. Biggie also eclipsed Nas, dubbing him “The Second Coming Of Rakim” by The Source, who declared his album a classic before the average head even heard it just six months prior. Big swept the 1995 Source Awards and even when he was experiencing pushback as the most commercially viable rapper at the dawn of the Jiggy Era in early 1997, he was still recognized as the nicest emcee lyrically. During this stretch future greats like Jay Z were the man sitting next to the man (Big L) sitting next to the man (Biggie) to give you an idea of how competitive it was. These issues were never addressed by HipHopDX and Hunte, only RT’d the praise for his post but none of the mounting criticism. Seems fair…
I guess it’s stupid of me to expect anyone to actually uphold the tenets of journalism in the era of alternative facts? Meanwhile my daily newsfeed reawakens all of my old Cold War-kid anxieties from back when I read Cyberpunk books and sci-fi short stories about dystopian futures in anticipation of Ronald Reagan bringing about World War III during my teenage years. Are we in The Upside Down?