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Apr 21, 2008

Further into the devil's nest · by Brandon Soderberg

As a participant in the LA Times Beatbox experiment and occasional contributor to OhWord, I thought I would add a few things to Rafi’s into the devil’s nest. And because part of this kinda-controversy came from a Beatbox blogger “defending” an LA Times journalist, however Pulitzer-Prize winning, who didn’t do his job properly, this lowly blogger decide to play “journalist” and see if he could clear a few things up. As it stands, all that exists is a leading LA Observed blog and Rafi’s post and I thought my participation in the blog might help clear some things up. No such luck. Everyone involved had no interest in talking; I’m the only asshole willing to talk about it.

I was first contacted by Camilo Smith in a genial e-mail about the possibility of working on a hip-hop blog for the LA Times. The reality of zero pay was presented immediately, but the promise of “exposure” won me over. The next step was the “test-blog” which all bloggers were told to post daily and keep it “G-rated” (odd for a hip-hop blog) and we would see where it went from there. I was getting a little skeptical- why am I trying-out for a non-paying job?- but this promise of “exposure” kept me involved.

The Beatbox began with daily posts primarily from myself, the Good Doctor Zeus, and Slav Kandyba, with others, including “head” of the Beatbox, Smith, only occasionally posting. While Smith did send e-mails thanking our involvement and apologizing for his lack of posts, the reality that this was something of a debacle set-in.

To keep the West-Coast theme, I’ll compare it to Fatlip’s ‘Oh Shit!’ verse, when it hits him that he’s pretty much about to bang a dude. It was only a matter of time before the metaphorical “her feets was too long” moment came, when one’s worries are solidified, and it did, through Kandyba’s open-letter to Puffy. You know the one that said: “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.”

Smith admitted that he should have killed that Puffy post earlier than he did, but the fact that it stayed on the website until the LA Observed called him out (at least 24 hours after the post first appeared) shows a short-sightedness that’s reckless and hardly protective of the others roped into blogging for the Beatbox. When the whole thing got canned, apologies were direct but curt and why shouldn’t they have been? We were just a bunch of worthless bloggers doing it for free, he had a real reputation to save.

That post should have been pulled not because of possible legal ramifications- I thought very few people knew of the test blog and it was never actually official- but because it was certainly a bad look to have what are essentially threats and weird, Clintonian defenses of a journalist that fucked-up on a blog that’s showing what us dopey bloggers can do.

It’s hard to tell what Kandyba’s motivations were- if he was sincerely defending a fellow journalist or trying to ingratiate himself into the “real” LA Times I don’t know- but either way, when you’re not paying someone anything, they usually start thinking of other ways to benefit from the agreement. As Rafi already pointed out, Kandyba advertised his entries on his personal blog, despite it being quite clear that this was a test and should be kept quiet.

Kept quiet, mind you, not because of anything genuinely covert as that LA Observed piece tries to suggest, but because it was something in-the-making. Even today, Kandyba has not removed those old posts from his blog- which is either some weird form of integrity or stupidity- and this angry post exhibits no sense of his own involvement in the blog’s demise.

The initial response of the Beatbox crew- outside of myself, who out of fear of whatever small reputation I have, e-mailed Smith informing him that I wanted nothing to do with the blog,- was to distance themselves from Kandyba, hope it all blew over, and keep chasing that Nahrigholatorhh.com dream. There was even some talk that somehow this “controversy” might get people more interested in the blog! As stated before, my requests for additional information for this article were rejected.

Camilo Smith, the genuinely good-intentioned if naïve guy who started the blog encouraged myself (and apparently others) that it would be wise to simply let it go because of a possible lawsuit and presumably, his possible removal from the LA Times staff (he again enforced this when Rafi’s post popped up last week). Smith’s mistake was not making the blog private, but I think the bigger mistake is the same so many other make in this so-called Web 2.0 world in which we live: The more you suppress something, the more it will show up in one form or another on some website.

Then, there are the other bloggers involved who also decided to keep quiet, probably because they feel they have something to lose by coming out and talking (or maybe they just aren’t “snitches” like me, who knows…). I would say however, that while I can respect a want to cover one’s ass, it’s a little sad that a group of bloggers that now get nothing out of this whole thing other than being associated with a big, dumb, part print media-exploited blog controversy wouldn’t speak up even a little bit.

As for Slav Kandyba, who was just another blogger for the Beatbox until posting the infamous Puffy threat, he was interested in talking, then was not at the behest of Camilo Smith (and also because I called him an “uber-douche”). Fair enough, I guess. I continued exchanging e-mails which devolved into Mr. Kandyba invoking a “criminal record” and saying he would come to “Bmore” and break my jaw; At least this time, his tough-talk didn’t contain a mixed metaphor.

That Kandyba follows Smith’s “keep quiet” suggestions instead of reaching-out to this goofy blogger, who despite calling him a douche, genuinely wanted to get his side of the story, is symptomatic of the problem. As if the LA Times and/or whoever’s tangentially related to the paper has genuine interest in protecting the guy that until a few days ago, was totally thrown under the bus for Beatbox’s failure.

At the same time, the demise of the blog is not only the “fault” of a naïve editor and an opportunistic journalist/blogger, but the LA Observed who created a fake controversy to further fuck with a paper that took it hard when the whole Tupac/Biggie story had to be retracted. How a test-blog that is only vaguely connected to the LA Times and was not being read by anyone other than some insiders constitutes a news story is a little confusing.

To the extent of my knowledge, myself and the others were non-paid, non-staff bloggers, given a username and a password and told to post once-a-day; If my posts were a series of LOLCatz or something, it would’ve been up to Camilo or someone else to remove it. There was not any direct editorializing of content. How anyone outside of the blogger himself is responsible for the content, I do not know. The LA Observed’s actions are a prime example of major media’s love of creating news story rather than reporting on them and in that sense, they appear as irresponsible as the blogger who took the whole exercise a little too seriously. It’s but one more way that the borders between blogger trash and real print media coverage are porous.

The most fun part of all this is how those involved, expressed their contempt for blogs while using the medium to generate controversy. Kandyba has posted comments on Rafi’s entry and Dallas Penn’s re-post, expressing his contempt for bloggers and pride as a journalist, even though, his name is probably known by more people for his recent blogging antics.

LA Observed too, used blogging to create a controversy that could never, ever, get into print, while criticizing the irresponsibility of another blog. Essentially, Observed started a “flame war” but they’d never call it that. Along with whatever vague connection there was between the Beatbox test blog and the actual LA Times, Observed’s willful irresponsibility reveals how “blogging” as a medium, is more often misused by respectable print media and “journalists” than the average blogger.

The average blogger (like the majority of the non-paid Beatbox-ers) does not use blogging to start shit they’d never get away with in-print. Blogging is a refuge away from status-quo tugging articles, and 250-word limit reviews or you know, a place to tell readers how the Hulk almost got them laid. Bloggers just have to remember that’s worth more than any promise of “exposure”.

Comments for "Further into the devil's nest"

  1. thanks for the insider breakdown.

    “this is some shameless shit.” -augustus haynes


    ron mexico    Apr 22, 12:10 AM   
  2. Nice post, Brandon. Thanks for the further insight.


    David    Apr 22, 12:57 AM   
  3. BOOM


    Jay Smooth    Apr 22, 03:07 AM   
  4. Wow.

    One.


    Dart Adams    Apr 22, 08:51 AM   
  5. No, seriously though, is Jay still selling hip hop infinity?


    *midnightheory*    Apr 22, 10:29 AM   
  6. that hulk story is fucking hilarious, by the way.


    — sizzle88    Apr 22, 11:20 AM   
  7. sizzle88-
    Yeah, it is, I just swiped it from the Around the Horn here at OhWord a few days ago though, not my discovery-


    brandonsoderberg    Apr 22, 11:27 AM   
  8. these pieces need an agent b graphic organizer


    sankofa    Apr 22, 04:30 PM   
  9. “he pulled a fast-one on me…”


    thadd clark    Apr 23, 02:27 AM