Meyhem Lauren, Pitchfork, Hip Hop and Hipster Media
Meyhem Lauren recently dropped Mandatory Brunch Meetings, a 17-track mixtape which was reviewed by the music site Pitchfork. Meyhem Lauren was not pleased with the review, which, written by Jonah Bromwich, essentially called out Lauren for a number of perceived musical offences, including verbal monotony, subject matter that varied too much and non-cohesive display of personality.
Meyhem Lauren decided to take it to the booth in an attempt to… re-clarify the ideas behind his songs, persona and project as a whole.
It’s not as much a diss (though it has it’s moments), as a fairly lucid attack against the miseducation of journalists attempting to analyze hip hop, his in particular. This is now becoming something of a recurring topic, particularly in the wake of the recent dustup between RapRadar.com’s B.Dot and SPIN writer Jordan Sargent, with the former calling the latter a “cultural tourist” over the latter’s all-too-positive review of Chief Keef’s album, in the former’s opinion.
It’s also nothing new for Pitchfork. They are notoriously harsh critics, making their name with that angle. That being said, it is interesting how a circle of media sources seem to feel the same way, or at the every least, only really talk about a small portion of the hip hop ecosystem (particularly New York’s). It’s as if they have some kind of centralized playlist, and a hive-mind philosophy about those within in. Never seeking to seek out anyone, but collectively devouring certain artists when reaching some sort of algorithmic tipping point.
It just feels unauthentic. And some within hip hop are starting to rebel. While some may be throwing stones from within their own glass homepages, the voices are from increasingly louder sources, and therefore, are making more noise.
I will say this: As the creator of Birthplace Magazine and The NY Hip Hop Report, I have long been speaking out against the sorry state of hip hop journalism. The situation has opened a void which the so-called “hipster media” have (albeit reluctantly) begun to fill. Similar to the catalyst behind my starting a publication focusing on New York hip hop. Except that in my case, it’s not because I felt obligated. I wanted to do it. I know hip hop. I love hip hop. I am hip hop. I know New York. I know journalism and new media.
I know how to do it right.
One should not be surprised when these media outlets, who if not cultural outsiders, are usually not long-time devotees of hip hop music and culture, get it wrong.
It is another of what I posit is an ongoing set of small circumstances that is helping to dramatically change the face of hip hop music, part of a possibly-impending metamorphosis that I have been writing/speaking/preaching about for years to anyone who would listen. And whether or not you agree or disagree with Lauren regarding this particular review of his review, understand that the backlash is warranted, because “non-mainstream” hip hop artists, particularly those from New York, are beginning to focus their frustration at constantly being snubbed by the one industry that caused much of the problem the first place.
It is part of the reason why I created this media source and grind away at it with the voracity (and at times, starving artist-ness) of many of the artists we cover on the site and speak about on our radio show. With passion, understanding and love for the music and culture.
Artists that exhibit these characteristics, and the FEW media sources who attempt to shed light on their stories, are the ones that need to be supported as much as, if not more, those who don’t need to be chastised or spoken out against.
Hip hop doesn’t have much left in terms of respectable, balanced or forward-thinking media coverage. XXL is happy to recycle Rick Ross covers while burying Jean Grae stories. The Source’s website (along with most of the others) has long given in to the thirst for page views, easily (and poorly) copying gross, embarrassing and irresponsible offenders like GlobalGrind. The most OGest of OG journalists, Elliot Wilson, has done little to come close to supplementing his admirable legacy, as RapRadar does nothing particularly groundbreaking, and is perceived to be largely a clearinghouse for the highest bidder. Even with the platform and clout he has, his Q&A print magazine Respect adds little to the conversation. Large, respectable blogs such as 2DopeBoyz post nearly everything, leaving nothing that stands out. Good, thoughtful blogs like KevinNottingham are solid, but seemingly don’t have the wherewithal or desire to become major players. AllHipHop is what it always was, a hodgepodge of content and identity, never fully able to grasp the crown.
And let’s not even go into the cesspool of journalistic integrity that is InFlexWeTrust and other radio personality/club DJ/crappy cut-and-paste wannabe blogger sites.
On the plus side, HipHopDX tends to do well, at least attempting to craft meaningful, well-written pieces, and (for the most part) a constant stream of useful information. But aside from them, and despite the occasional good long form piece here and there, none of these other sites even attempt to be hip hop bastions of journalistic integrity. None are daring to venture out into progressive new media methodology. None are finding ways to stand out, adapt in a rapidly evolving/devolving set of industries: music & journalism. Few “care” about hip hop music and culture. They care about how to run a site that caters to it, because, in most cases, there is some sort of money to be made.
But that won’t last. Without alternate, evolving revenue streams, as well as an additional, varied set of reasons, I’d go as far as to predict that none will survive the next few years.
Mainly because none have new ideas. (Well, I do, but I ain’t talkin’…. Not for free anyway)… None have a grasp on the journalism industry as a whole. None are forward-thinking, content to simply keep milking the current formula until the cow runs dry.
Exactly the mindset that started taking down both industries to begin with.
Mainly though, it’s simple. None of these hip hop media sites really care about hip hop.
So, in the meantime, (probably) well-meaning (mostly) capable music writers on successful but traditionally non-hip hop-focused music sites are attempting to write about hip hop in meaningful ways. Their sites have done well because they are new media sites, with new media ideas. They may succeed, and it’s nice to see hip hop get some additional exposure, but when it actually comes to hip hop, again, they don’t CARE.
The Source was the best hip hop media ever because it cared. Until it didn’t. And then it became irrelevant.
The something-of-a-new-hip-hop renaissance I personally predicted (generally, as well as in regards to New York), continues to coalesce pretty much how I imagined it back in 2008 and ever since. There are several factors which determine why and where we’re going, but some of it has to do with the fact that for years, there has been a surge of hip hop music and entertainment led by artists and companies that know how to profit off if it, know how to promote it, know how to become “viral,” but don’t care about it.
Musical global warming.
The current backlash — including incidents like Peter Rosenberg’s criticism against Nicki Minaj’s outlandish hip-pop, B.Dot’s criticism against, and to, NY hip hop radio, B.Dot’s rebuttal to Jordan Sarge, Meyhem Lauren’s outburst toward Pitchfork — echo in sentiment my own feelings against Russell Simmons, Michael Skolnik, Blogzilla and GlobalGrind.
People who CARE about hip hop music and culture are getting tired of people who don’t.
(Even people who do, in their heart of hearts, care about hip hop music and culture, but work for organizations who really don’t. Or really can’t.)
Before one wastes precious energy stating who one hates in rap music today, or ridicule another hip hop site spouting the results of another made-purely-for-controversy “list,” or recap of a reality show that is only infintessemly related to hip hop, consider sharing this, and implore people to spread the word about artists and media who are not in the business of holding back the advancement of the music and culture, whether by exuding fuckery on the music tip or strengthening its existence on the media tip.
If you care to, that is.
Listen: Meyhem Lauren – The Laurenovich Angle (Fuck Pitchfork)