Hip Hop heads are some of the smartest, most varied people you’ll ever meet. You got the 80’s old-school cats who cling to KRS-One, Rakim, or Public Enemy as the greatest MC’s of all time (period), and keep the Five Percenters tradition alive. You get the Phillies and Backwood smoking, Hennessy & Baileys drinking, D.I.T.C, Canibus, Purple Tape (a.k.a Raekwon’s 1st album for those not up on history) lovers from early to mid-1990’s. There’s the people like myself who came up on Vanilla Dutches being the number one choice, Cassidy killing Freeway, G-Unit mixtapes had the biggest buzz on the streets, DMX and Eminem being the most marketed rappers on the planet (damn, can you remember a time when DMX was Def Jam’s biggest star), and Ruff Ryders and Dipset being the crews holding down “the streets.” And finally you got the new Hip-Hop heads; a mix between cats who love Jim Jones & Dipset for they “swagger,” the Lil Wayne obsessed, the True Religion jean wearers, and new “backpackers” (the Lupe, Little Brother, Saigon, Brother Ali faithful) always ready to say “the real hip-hop is right here.”
This wide mix of folks has been created thanks to over thirty years of Hip-Hop music and culture. They can recite a classic line at the drop of a dime, they can learn the lyrics to a song from one listen (you know the person that learns the words before it gets on OHHLA, that person) Hustlers, business men, college students, artists, and haters: all under the same umbrella. And where is the one place you can find them all. the internet.
Hip-Hop websites, blogs, discussion boards, forums, and all of the like, they bring together heads from all over the world. It is here we have formed a community. We discuss, debate, “politic,”- all in the name of Hip-Hop. Most of us ain’t getting paid, don’t work for MTV, BET, VIBE or any other mainstream outlet. Just the regular normal cats that have been given a voice and a platform. Not only are these communities great for diversity of thought, they allow for expansion of knowledge. It is similar to what is called “people’s history” or “bottom-up history:” the idea that you analyze and chronicle events not based off of observers or major players, but from the participants who also interact and observe; the everyday, working-class people who voices are rarely given popular attention. This is a major characteristic of our online Hip-Hop community. The people who you would normally never read in The Source or see on BET are heard. The opinion of the average fan has been raised. We now speak.
The greatness of it all is that it takes away some of the grip held by mainstream outlets and corporation over Hip-Hop. The internet and downloading have given an unprecedented amount of power to the consumer and the Hip-Hop lover. Now we can download tracks to see if fam really brought it or fell off. A new artist can spread they buzz on their own, all they need is a MySpace page. And news, interviews, and information can be disseminated world-wide and instantaneously. Most people check Real Talk before they pick up a VIBE magazine. We email, we “AIM,” we download, we upload, we SHARE. As capitalistic as Hip-Hop is, isn’t it funny how “socialist” our online community is?
Are there downsides to this sharing, open community-of course. Do we now have everybody and they momma thinking they “a rapper”? Yeah. Does every single crew claim that it’s “more than music, this is a movement?” Yeah. Have we left ourselves more open and compromised our privacy, no doubt. Has the market become over saturated, for sure. But none of it surpasses the fact that now the power is in the hands of the people in a monumental way.
When artists and labels cry about how much money they losing off downloading and how much it is hurting the industry, tell them to fall back. Downloading has made some artist more well-known then they could have been ten years ago. You can go from local to global without the major label or major media press coverage. This notoriety certainly helps marketing, certainly brings in more endorsements (from the fact that you can reach a bigger audience and because now, with the internet, there’s more places to market you), and certainly helps show and concert attendance (I figure the more people who know you, the more people who can potentially come to your show. if they don’t watch it on You Tube, but still you get the point). And further, as George Nelson has said, “The record selling business is a dinosaur.” Artist never were getting rich strictly off records sales in the first place; so if they haven’t smarten up, learned from history, and change the type of deals they sign, that’s your bad-not ours.
Hate it or love, the mainstream media still controls a large part of what we see and don’t see; what we hear and don’t hear; what we know and what we don’t know. And more then anything, mainstream Hip-Hop outlets has created an industry. It has given jobs to people who wouldn’t have jobs otherwise. In an inverted way, it has given hope and career aspirations to poor kids in hoods where it seems like there is nothing else (whether a music career, a entertainment career, or a sporting career should be their only aspirations. that’s for a whole other editorial).
But our community has a power that is ever-growing and ever harder to control. They can lock up people for downloading music now, they can read our emails and track the sites we visit, but the game changes-we will (and have) find a way around it. Always have, always will. Right now, we (the Hip-Hop lovers, the Hip-Hop Heads) have the power. The model for distributing music has to change, and obviously the content of the music has to be changed (people are listening to the albums; they download them, find that it’s trash, and keep it moving). It will have to go digital, it’s only a matter of time.
And we, this Hip-Hop community, will be there; holding it down. So shout out to all the academics, scholars, Hip-Hop historians, working-class folk, kid who go online when they should be in class, buddaheads, backpackers, college students, and anybody who is a REAL Hip-Hop lovers. Ya’ll are sharp, insightful, and passionate. Keep holding it down. “Power to the People.”