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Apr 18, 2008

into the devil's nest · by Rafi Kam

Busta Rhymes has some kind of tirade at his listening session. Complex magazine reports on it but then pulls the audio “at the request of Interscope Records”.

Wait, you can’t properly cover the listening session you were invited to report on? Interscope doesn’t own that audio. Grow a fucking sack, Complex! I thought you’re supposed to be a big deal now? Look around, nobody’s selling records. Are you sure you still need Interscope more than they need you?

So I search out the audio elsewhere online. Some maverick operation must have it right. Ah, there it is on world star hiphop. I’m listening to busta spit some high energy nonsense as if it’s 1996 again, and then all of the sudden I hear in the middle of the clip “WorldStarHipHop.com”. EXCLUSIVE! WORLD PREMIERE! Evil Dee is on the mix – come on kick it!

See, this is why we can’t have nice things.

You want to know who’s holding down hip-hop journalism these days?

Don’t look over here to us or to any of the places in our blogroll. We got day jobs and we’re mostly in it for the groupies. Forget the magazine stands, the Complex/Rawkus/Harris Pub/Viacom/Quincy Jones conglomerates. The SOHH whats and AllHipHops… Forget all those page-view pushers, what the fuck are they good for?

The place holding down hip-hop journalism right now isn’t the Smoking Section… it’s The Smoking Gun. In the span of three weeks, the Smoking Gun has dropped the two craziest hip-hop stories of the year. First they exposed the shoddy journalism of the LA Times and how a con-man served as the source for the paper’s controversial Tupac story. Now they’ve exposed the phony, “notorious” back-story of Akon.

Hip-hop journalism? No such thing. No one is doing their due diligence out there. We got pundits, publicist lackeys, gossips, posers… How about a fucking journalist? Can we make room for just a few of those?

Or is the problem that any number of incestuous media sources would have had to kill that story since Akon’s Konvict Muzik is distributed under Interscope?

Speaking of all this shit, did you know that someone at the LA Times was incubating a multi-authored hip-hop blog?

Not sure whether this was a mission from above or just some maverick Times staffer trying to show what they could do. But they had reached out to some quality hip-hop bloggers like Robbie, Brandon and Doc Zeus. They had this publicly accessible blogspot site (I swear to god, with the damn black background) that was supposed to be secret while they tested out the operation with multiple posts going up week after week.

But then you also had blog contributor Slav Kandyba dropping a link or two to the test site. I’m not sure if that’s how the search engines and LA Observed found the blog but find it they did… Just in time to catch a post by one of the LA Times Beatbox bloggers, with a ton of bravado, claiming his allegiance to his “colleague” Chuck Phillips and attacking Sean Combs for his response to the Tupac story.

As per the LA Observed quote, the blog post shockingly read “You might be a smooth criminal, but when you pick on the media, you pick into the devil’s nest and you will get stung.”

So the cat was now out of the bag on the LATimes Beatbox, and here was this lone blogger on it, defiantly gung-ho about the right of him and his colleagues to spread lies without fear of reprisal. Bear in mind, this is already days after the LA Times has retracted their Tupac story, having been disgraced by the Smoking Gun expose. Now a blog with their name on it is saying “step off Diddy, we are the all-powerful media!” Naturally the Beatbox demo blog was obliterated that very same day and we’d have to assume the idea of an LA Times hip-hop blog along with it and, if the world makes sense, perhaps someone’s job as well?

The craziest part to me is that these would-be LA Times bloggers weren’t offered a dime for their words. For some, the supposed legitimacy of the LA Times name on their resume or maybe the idea that they’d get more exposure was the motivating factor. For others, it may be enough to belong to a powerful, infallible, and vengeful crew known as the media.

But I can’t get over the fact that these smart, successful bloggers were sort of rehearsing for an non-paying job for a commercial newspaper. As I said to Robbie (who backed out of the arrangement early), the LA Times doesn’t give him any added exposure over Unkut. When it comes to hip-hop, Unkut is super-credible… and what is the LA Times? Just a desperate print newspaper.

The gang mentality on display in that now vanished blog post is nonsensical but also horribly outdated. What does it mean “don’t mess with the media” when we are all the media? When The Smoking Gun is trouncing big media and hip-hop media alike?

There’s no fair exchange in a good blogger getting exploited by a commercial website or print publication. Most of these operations you think are powerful, are actually in a bad way. Ask yourself, are they creating any value in this world? Or do you legitimize them, instead of the other way around. You might find ultimately that you hold all the power, what then are you going to do with it?

Comments for "into the devil's nest"

  1. a-fucking-men!

    sincerely,
    a pundit


    ron mexico    Apr 18, 03:32 AM   
  2. preach!


    hoosteen    Apr 18, 04:21 AM   
  3. man you need to post more rafi
    longs for the good old days of oh word
    anyway i find it hard to believe brandon and doczeus would blog for free for the LAT. would be nice to hear from them on the matter


    3am    Apr 18, 05:48 AM   
  4. 3am-
    I’ve been working on a piece on the topic. Rafi kind got the heart of the matter though, so if I have anything to add, you’ll see it somewhere.

    A dumb dude like me just wants to get noticed and maybe even make a few dollars, so it says “LA Times” in front of it, I get excited and then get annoyed and then make the best of it and then some uber-douche makes it about himself. Part of me’s happy it got killed as it did, but a small part was vaguely interested in where it could’ve gone…


    brandonsoderberg    Apr 18, 06:02 AM   
  5. Ha!

    I buy Brandon’s explanation too.

    Excellent post.


    Thaddeus Clark    Apr 18, 11:15 AM   
  6. Hit the nail on the head, Raf. Great work.


    AaronM    Apr 18, 12:11 PM   
  7. That thing was doomed from the start. Ask me for a million reasons why and I can give you a million and one.


    Gotty™    Apr 18, 12:27 PM   
  8. said like it is…!

    But how will the hip hop blogz repurpose this verbose content for their readers?!?


    upset the setup    Apr 18, 12:40 PM   
  9. couldn’t of said it better. good work, son.


    franchise    Apr 18, 01:42 PM   
  10. I agree with you 100% Rafi. However, it’s hard for an entertainment magazine like XXL or Vibe to get the kinds of stories an investigative news site like The Smoking Gun gets.

    Though, even with that said, it sucks that Vibe would spend so much time exposing Busta (for what? Becoming old and mean?) yet not even get that entertainment story right.


    Hashim Warren    Apr 18, 03:15 PM   
  11. Akon’s manager is constructed from raw genius.


    sankofa    Apr 18, 04:29 PM   
  12. I’m suing ohword.com for failure to cite me as inpiration for this post.. but dope post tho!


    Jay Smooth    Apr 18, 11:12 PM   
  13. The Smoking Gun is run by a bunch of old white geezers that look like Rafi. lmao. j/k, at least you and Clyde are the cool geezers who appreciate hip-hop. But all in all, journalists > bloggers. You don’t know what it’s like in these shoes, homie. Nor do you want to find out.


    Slav Kandyba    Apr 19, 07:07 AM   
  14. Rafster, While I feel you on the critique, my question for you is why isn’t their a discussion of erosion of JOURNALISM in general not just HHJ?

    It’s similar to when folks talk about HH/Misogyny, but not Misogyny in pop culture in general. My position is don’t bring me the HH critique unless we gonna do the general critique as well.

    Word to Ice Cube & bell hooks.

    Feel me?


    m.dot    Apr 19, 08:03 PM   
  15. “We got day jobs and we’re mostly in it for the groupies.”

    as an aspiring music journalist i look up to you man, no need to be modest, you gotz fanzorz


    tucan sam ain't nuthin ta f' wit    Apr 19, 08:04 PM   
  16. Thanks for the support from people in the comments and over im. The feedback is making me want to do a lot more writing.

    Jay,

    True indeed. Without you tipping me off to the Busta story this post could not have happened.

    Slav,

    Well yeah I don’t want to work for a newspaper. That’s obvious, ain’t it? But at least you get your badge of honor and a gang of homeys like Chuck Phillips to Ride or Die for.

    m. dot,

    Since you check my shared items feed you’re already up on Jeff Jarvis and Scott Karp. Subscribe to them for in-depth discussion of journalistic changes. I don’t have the expertise to outdo them. Slavosaurus, you may want to subscribe to those dudes as well.


    Rafi    Apr 19, 11:01 PM   
  17. Personally, for me. I kind of have always blogged about hip hop for no other greater purpose than for fun so I joined the LA Times experiment because I thought it would be cool to have a forum that would reach a greater audience and perhaps, I’d be able to turn my fledgling little enterprise over at my website into an actual career at some point. Since writing about hip hop for a living seems to beat working as a temp at a law firm but I digress… The money was never an issue since I’ve never had a career in journalism in the plans for my life. It literally just seemed cool to be writing for the LA Times.

    I thought the post was ill-advised but I was more shocked that anybody would consider the post in question to be newsworthy.


    DocZeus    Apr 21, 12:34 AM   
  18. I’m going to post-ulate here. Raf, I get where you’re at in this. In this dialectic, you challenge the modes of journalism and there’s proof positive some outlets are empirical and feed inaccurate information when they don’t bury it. But when they do, we break out the shovels like you did here.


    Jay B    Apr 21, 01:38 AM   
  19. http://newjournalist.org/programs/

    FYI. Something for you bloggers who want to be journalists to check out.


    Slav Kandyba    Apr 21, 04:18 AM   
  20. “Since writing about hip hop for a living seems to beat working as a temp at a law firm”

    Don’t be so sure about that…

    Great post, Rafi.


    noz    Apr 21, 12:33 PM   
  21. noz-

    Well, I suppose in the monetary rewards sense, you’re probably right but in the sense, that my current job basically entails that I sit around a cubicle all day, surf the internet and wait for somebody to ask me to make some copies so I can do five minutes of work. I’ll say the thrill of writing about my thoughts on whether or not Weezy is actually gay is perhaps preferable.

    I’m actively hoping that I fail at life…


    DocZeus    Apr 21, 01:47 PM   
  22. My non-journalist day job prevents me from doing near fuckall as far as doing organic stories for the daily I work for part time. I should have been the natural one to jump on the Buck v 50 story (we’re in Nashville) but I just didn’t have the time to chase Buck’s publicist around all day. How many major news outlets have a full time “urban” music journo anyway? A handfull, if they even care to cover hip hop at all. I suppose bloggers are supposed to take up the slack but I wouldn’t expect them to have access to the kind of resources working for a major daily are supposed to avail you, and I don’t know that the PR folks are going to be as open to rap bloggers as they might be to someone who can say,“I’m from the Bugtussle Times.”

    Don’t know what kind of agreement Complex had with the people who put on Busta’s listening session. I don’t know the full situation so I can’t say whether or not they punked out. Sounds like it, though.

    MM


    gandalf mantooth    Apr 21, 02:05 PM   
  23. We are all having a grand pissing contest about a bunch of nothing. I don’t think that bloggers are helped by this corroding cynicism within media. I know what the sentiment of the post was and the LA Times couldn’t have suppressed such a sentiment. Why is this whole blog craze is getting so completely deficient, shallow and uninteresting? The reason there is no real journalism is because there is no demand for it in hip hop blog world. I’ve bounced around to several sites with a lot of my high-minded ideas about how this can liberate real news, bring back Black writers like the Village Voice did years ago but…there’s no demand for real writing outside of niche sites like this one. Every single prominent hip-hop site or blog wants to get numbers, dumb down the audience as much as possible, spread unsubstantiated rumors. There is no critical backbone except in this kind of reactive backlash. As much as I respect Rafi, Brandon, Gotty, OhWord and the others, I wish we would all devote ourselves to pushing the boundaries rather than complaining about the limits of such a forum.


    Drew Ricketts    Apr 21, 06:03 PM   
  24. is there no end to slava’s snowshow?


    ron mexico    Apr 21, 09:17 PM