Knowledge Darts Vol. 13: Facts, B!
You must be Dreamin'
As a historian and a journalist of considerable age in this space, few things distress me more than the complete lack of regard for historically accurate music journalism. All I ask is that the pieces I read be somewhat researched or based in fact. Why? Because despite what you may have been led to believe, words still mean something. You can’t just write or say ANYTHING and expect to not get called out for it—particularly when your assertions hold little or no weight. Let’s rewind back through this week for a few recent examples of such infractions.
I was on Twitter recently, arguing about basketball, when an article was RT’d onto my timeline with my handle attached. I groaned pre-emptively and mentally prepared myself for fuckery. My suspicions were clinched after reading a headline titled “Waka Flocka Flame Says Lil Uzi Vert is ‘Rock Not Hip-Hop’.” First of all, Waka Flocka Flame isn’t someone I’d consider an authority on either Rock & Roll nor Hip Hop culture for me to even entertain his opinion. The worst part is that this wasn’t a headline from a gossip blog that specializes in driving traffic by implementing clickbait titles. It was from Billboard.
Adding insult to injury, the article was based on an Instagram post as opposed to something Waka actually vocalized to a human being. The Billboard article even contains a screenshot of the gossip blog The Shade Room’s Instagram account page. What bearing does this have on anything? Why is this news? There is nothing either newsworthy, factual or substantive involved in this article, so why does it exist in the music industry journal of record? If this is the level of journalism we’re getting from a reputable outlet like Billboard then what hope do we have anywhere else?
The very next day an article from the Houston Press came circulating through social media with the misleading headline “Travis Scott’s Latest Arrest Proves Hip-Hop Is In Its Rage Era.” I refused to even pay attention to it at first, because the “Rage Era” isn’t a real thing. It’s something made up by a journalist the same way Gretchen Weiners made up “fetch” in Mean Girls. The article begins by recounting a number of Travis Scott shows over the past couple of years where his fans did a gang of stupid shit like climb railings and leap from rafters. It also details his previous charges for inciting a riot, disorderly conduct and endangering the welfare of a minor. Following this passage, the author—Brandon Caldwell—details that Travis Scott’s contemporaries Rae Sremmurd do similar things at their shows, then identifies Kid Cudi, also known as “Mr. Rager,” as Travis Scott’s biggest influence. In his next paragraph Caldwell attempts to make his case. What he did instead was make the headline of the entire article one big lie.
He claimed that the “Jay-Z style” of stage performance is dead. First off, Jay-Z didn’t event or innovate any aspect of the emcee’s stage performance to attribute any sort of performative style to him. Secondly, that statement is flat-out erroneous. He claims that Russell Simmons attributes moshing in Rap to Onyx when people moshed at Public Enemy shows in the late ’80s and early ’90s—before Onyx was even signed to Rush Associated Labels in 1992. The author then skips to Method Man & Redman having “rock type” shows in the “late ’90s” and references KRS-One tossing “PM Dawn’s Price Be” off the stage on the day after Christmas 1993. Thing is, rap shows had this type of energy from 1987 through 1997, although it was more prominent once the Second Rap Golden Era began in 1992. Everyone from Leaders Of The New School to Das EFX, Black Moon, Wu-Tang Clan, Naughty By Nature, Redman, EPMD, etc. could get crowds to lose their shit. For the sake of accuracy, the event that kicked off this era was when KRS-One and the BDP Crew rushed the stage of the Roseland Theatre on January 13, 1992 to toss PM Dawn offstage in response to statements Prince Be had made in recent interviews. That event did NOT happen on December 26th, 1993 as Brandon Caldwell alleged. I guess no one at Houston Press either fact checks or edits their articles, huh? Fuck journalistic integrity. Fuck facts altogether.
The rest of the article is essentially bullshit on top of more bullshit, and fails to ever prove what it claimed to do in the title. It reads like it was written by someone who learned about previous eras of music by reading Wikipedia and watching videos on YouTube. What made it worse was the discourse that followed on Twitter where some users claimed Travis Scott and Lil Uzi Vert brought Rock and Rap together like no one had ever done previously. Pardon fucking me.
I grew up with The Clash’s 1980 LP “Sandinista!” and Blondie dropping “Rapture” back in 1981. I guess Punk and Hip Hop never melded together in New York’s Downtown club and art scenes resulting in compositions like Malcolm McLaren & The World’s Famous Supreme Team’s “Buffalo Gals” in 1982?
I guess the Beastie Boys never recorded “Cooky Puss”. I take it Run DMC never recorded either “Rock Box” or “King Of Rock” in the alternate universe these folks are tweeting from? I can totally understand how it’s possible people don’t know all of these facts, but it hurts me that there isn’t even the basic desire to find out if what you just typed has any basis in fact before pressing the Tweet button. It depresses me even more that journalists don’t feel the need to do the same when they write articles.
Last thing that really bothered me involved an Instagram post by Genius’ Rob Markman promoting his new live event Genius Level where he recently interviewed R&B artist/songwriter/producer The-Dream. In his Instagram post he referred to The-Dream as “the greatest songwriter of our generation,” this made me raise The People’s Eyebrow. I immediately began searching the deepest recesses of my brain, looking for a way for that this statement might be considered factual, only to arrive at “BULLSHIT!”
Look, I totally understand why someone would use hyperbole to promote their event, but Rob Markman is a respected journalist who should be well aware by now of the gravity of his words. By calling Terius Nash the greatest songwriter of our generation you’ve put his name in the same class as other previous legendary songwriters who get the same or similar billing. Let me outline for you just what a dangerous offense and a monstrous fuck up this is from a music historian’s perspective:
You can’t be considered the greatest songwriter of “our” generation unless you’d be in the same discussion as the greatest songwriters of previous generations. Just having a bunch of hits isn’t enough, you need to have made timeless classics folks will make documentaries about 30 years from now.
We’re talking a lineup that includes luminaries such as Ray Charles, Johnny Cash, Woody Guthrie, Paul Anka, Leonard Cohen, Paul Simon, Bob Dylan, Carole King, James Taylor, Isaac Hayes, Gamble & Huff, Paul McCartney, John Lennon, George Harrison, Joni Mitchell, Brian Wilson, Smokey Robinson, Chuck Berry, Bruce Springsteen, Holland-Dozier-Holland, Burt Bacharach, Loretta Lynn, Van Morrison, Dolly Parton, Kris Kristofferson, Neil Young, Curtis Mayfield, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, James Brown, Bob Marley, David Bowie, and Lou Reed. Even if we limit the definition of “our generation” to the past 30 years, what about Prince, Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis, Diane Warren, L.A. & Babyface?
Do you think Terius Nash deserves to be in the same conversation as ANY of these legends I’ve just listed? If the answer is no, then you see my point. The-Dream is an undeniable great at making hits but in NO way should be considered the greatest songwriter of “our” generation. Fuck outta here, Rob!
Guys, I’m reaching my wits end with y’alls bullshit. Please do better or I’m gonna be forced to make each and every one of you regret the day your piece of shit articles, thinkpieces, tweets or Instagram captions were ever posted. Words still have meaning and facts still matter. Regardless of how things may seem…