I’m a fan of rap music. I can listen to NaS all morning, Gucci Mane all afternoon, & everything in between for the duration of the day. It’s easy for me to bump Redman’s entire catalog & chase it with internet tidbits of Dom Kennedy or Ab-Soul or whoever from whatever geographic location or era you choose. I’m a fan of rap music, first & foremost, period.
Overall, I’m partial to the music as a whole, & I believe this is the main reason I never became more involved in things like reviewing albums. To me, the nuances & idiosyncrasies of your favorite rapper are far more interesting than the “music” they conjure up. In the time it would take me to breakdown & rebuild their musical works for the sake of my literary audience, I could instead document their affects on the culture, for example. & it’s not that there’s anything wrong with being a professional music critic, but I don’t listen to the music as much as I watch how & why it’s made, if that makes sense.
For what it’s worth, the “fan” has always been a pivotal part of the musical experience. The fans provide the revenue & revelry needed to keep the artist drowning in his own madness long enough to churn out a few classic albums. If he doesn’t overdose off of his own hype, the process can continue well into rap retirement (which isn’t a real thing; niggas just say that to look important), graduating higher & higher into the ranks of Hollywood.
Fans were the main reason rappers really rapped, which was to sell records to…the fans. The rap industry would’ve collapsed long ago if it didn’t create it’s own market to sustain itself economically. This is why the Hip Hop entrepreneurs of the 90’s were able to flourish. Even the artists themselves.
The ‘Net changed all that though.
Like so many relationships before, the bond between rapper & fan became tangled, confused, & too frayed for repair once online access destroyed Hip Hop mythology. That meant no longer were rappers inaccessible demigods who traveled in harlot-filled chariots. Now – with the assistance of the internet’s social media outreach program – these were just regular people, some of which happened to have a lot of money, all of which put their pants on one leg at a time. (Unless they only have one leg, but that’s neither here nor there.)
With the artists realizing that they don’t necessarily need the
accrued debt financial backing of a big budgeted machine to be successful, no longer was there a reason to cater to the audience per se. This audience didn’t buy music anyway, they downloaded it from wherever they found a secure link. It didn’t matter how many songs you shove on a zip drive because they’ll pay to see you perform. Contrary to unpopular belief, rap fans are in as many global locations as Jehovah’s Witnesses. & some can be equally as persistent, too. Nevertheless, people love free shit, so feed them snacks until they’re ready to support their virtual habit of their own volition. From there, the sky’s the limit.
Now that it was clear that the artist’s success & popularity doesn’t rely solely on record sales, the balance of the respect template shifted. Rappers get attacked on the social networks daily (from what I see) for nothing sufficient, & they attack back, between literally attacking one another. & if someone professes admiration for an artist, they are digi-lynched, spacebar tar & feathered, & called a “dick rider” until something better to insult comes along. The amount of rap connoisseurs is almost equal to the amount of rap fans, & there are more rappers than both groups put together. You do the math.
The ‘Net used to be the back door that people like Soulja Boy used to sneak his way onto the big stage. Now, unfortunately, it’s the big, glass door next to the other big, glass door. If & when you pry it open, you better be prepared to deal with what’s on the other side. Like Kim Kardashian’s thigh area. No shots, though.