What Is Hip-Hop at Epinions Coming To? (Good Cop/Bad Cop W/O)Jun 14, 2007 Write an essay on this topic.
Popular Products in BooksThe Bottom Line "What more can I say?" - Jay-Z
When Nas declared that hip-hop is dead last year, he should have referred to Epinions as well.
I knew it was only going to be a matter of time. For a decade, it seemed that hip-hop music was on a steady artistic decline. Now, for the past year or so, it seems that hip-hop music is on a steady sales decline as well. And the hip-hop community at Epinions has become a reflection of that.
Now, I might have not been here as long as most of the major hip-hop writers here, so I am lacking a bit in perspective. I do know this, though: Per my conversations with older members at the recent get-together at D.C., it was clear that the Music section at least for hip-hop - was a lot better in years past, not only in quantity of reviews, but in quality as well. While it was far from the glory days when I joined the club last year, at least reviews were being pumped out regularly and on a daily basis, and a few were of very high quality. Now, I couldnt count the number of days I have pored over the Music section and find not one hip-hop review in the last 24 hours, let alone one that is pretty impressive. I mean, cot damn!, talk about a cyberspace graveyard! And if someone posting a refrigerator review for the Notorious B.I.G.s Ready to Die is not considered a bad omen, I dont know what else is.
So Big D and I are just playing around one day, talking via AIM, and we decided weve had enough. We have pointed out the main problems with hip-hop writing at Epinions over the last couple of months both expressly and implicitly and it seems we might as well be talking to a brick wall smeared with excrement.
Thus the gods are angry with you earthlings. You have displeased them greatly by not holding your weight and not listening to them. And here they are, brandishing their thunderbolts. To paraphrase Mobb Deep, lets drop a gem on em.
Enter the Good Cop/Bad Cop Write-Off (Take a wild guess whos the good cop and whos the bad cop!), a tag-team exclusive where each person writes an article in which he airs his grievances with Epinions hip-hop community, proposes changes, or just goes off at things that really p!sses him off. So grab your pens and pads, sit the heck down, and take notes. Here are pointers for the Nigerian Warlord the good cop:
I. ISNT THERE SOMETHING ELSE TO WRITE ABOUT?
The best way to make me yawn is, no, not writing a review replete with spelling and grammatical errors. It is (surprise!) writing the 2120890786th review of an album everyone and their dead ancestors know about. I really dont need to read ever again about how Illmatic is the best rap album of all time, or that Eminem murdered Jay in Renegade, or that the sky is blue. Quite frankly, Im not interested. I mean, damn, if you are going to write something on an album that well-known, at least tell me something I dont know! Or at least add your twist to it or something. Otherwise, please dont bother.
For example, you know why I havent done a Jay-Z series yet? Simple Hes been written of to death. And if I do, I better write something of the Me Against the World/The Chronic caliber. Say stuff that people do not know about the albums, or at least make it highly distinguishable from the rest of the pack. No, Im not going to do a series on Jay-Z just because I want to complete the New York Trinity (Ive already done Nas and Biggie). Or just because I have the urge to. And to be brutally honest, I cringe at the thought of doing a review on The Blueprint.
This is something Big D has been saying again and again, even way back in the comment boards of his older reviews. But nobody listens to him. It has even gotten to the point where he actually has to mention it in his reviews and start calling out names! I mean, it has gotten way out of control. Meanwhile Im looking at albums from Ice-T, Kool Moe Dee and other forgotten legends, and shocked to find out nothing written about them! Absolutely nothing! Instead cats want to go on a Jay-Z/Nas binge? What, does the hip-hop nation begin and end with these guys? It has become some rite of passage or something - especially for new writers to give their opinions on The Blueprint and Stillmatic. Its like beating a dead horse. Its like squeezing water out of a rock. Its like two deathly tired men who have just been screwed a hundred times in the last 24 hours by a gang of dominatrixes. For goodness sake, unless you possess the skill of a William Shakespeare or something, LEAVE THESE ALBUMS ALONE!
Have you noticed something about my covering of hip-hop albums on Epinions lately? 1.) I write reviews on new releases, and 2.) I write reviews on older albums that little or nothing has been written about. And its way past due for me to branch out and write on my other genre of expertise R&B. And Ive been dying to write stuff on Fela, the founder of Afrobeat and my homeland Nigerias most popular musician. In fact, I might just want to kiss the Common series goodbye and post it on my website instead. I would definitely suggest more people to write stuff on albums that have 1.) not been covered ever, or 2.) if it has, contains reviews that are of average-to-poor quality, irrespective of the number of reviews. For example, no one has written jack about some of Ice-Ts or Kool Moe Dees albums yet (or M.C. Shan or Geto Boys or any No freaking Limit artist for that matter), and if no one wants to try covering untouched albums or at least a series of them I will. Just be prepared for the spears of admonishment when yet another Stillmatic alert shows up in my inbox.
(Dayo clicks on Epinions tab in his Firefox browser)
My God no one has written anything on Da Youngstas?!?
II. THE DREADED C-WORDS
Please, please, please, can people find any words more suitable to use than commercial or commercialism to describe a rappers artistry? Im not under the impression that the English language has a limited vocabulary. And last time I checked, these kind of words should really denote the business of selling, something that is supposed to make profit. And that is definitely the case of the music industry - selling records. These C-words (as I would like to call them) have been misused to death over the years (and no, Im not just picking on you guys rappers and music critics are guilty of that as well). Mainstream (i.e. reaching a wider audience) is more suitable. Just dont be redundant with your stuff. Im constantly exploring new words to use, new ways to say things to keep my writing fresh and evolutionary. I mean, if you cannot come up with something better to say than commercialized/commercial beats, you might as well stop writing, delete your account and move on.
Same for the word classic, the misuse/overuse of which even annoys me even more. To call something classic is to refer to a piece of art that possesses lasting significance or worth, something that proves its timelessness or graceful aging over the passage of time. Not all 5-star albums even deserve that label, let alone albums of lesser quality. Yet that word gets thrown around from person to person like a battered whor@ in the midst of a band of horny bastards. Bad enough that I see too many dudes here throw the word left and right to describe their favorite albums; some even have the nerve to use it for a record that is barely a week old?!? And it is to my understanding and observances that hip-hop fans commit this sin more than fans of any other genre.
Call it a masterpiece. Call it excellent. Call it outstanding. There, those are a few words to use. Just lay off the classic word, at least for a few years. Seriously.
III. TO REVIEW, OR TO COMMENT?
You know, I really think there are two kinds of people in the hip-hop community at Epinions the reviewer and the commenter. Now, theres nothing wrong about writing on comment boards per se, not at all. In fact, I greatly encourage it, especially for pieces that are indeed engaging in content. But when someone posts damn manifestos and term papers and you look at his account and find, like, three reviews written in eight years; or treats a comment board like a forum and derails a discussion on a Nas album into one about who are the ten greatest rappers of all time, thats taking it too far.
This commenter profession has grown over the past few months, although it perplexes this esteemed reviewer as to where the attraction comes from. Is such an activity more profitable? Nope, in fact, not only does a commenter not make a penny; he actually contributes more hits to the persons review, which in turn logs in more nickels and dimes in the writers account! Ive decried this burgeoning profession a couple of times, and even posted links for the Epinions Music Source, a forum for such diverse or deviating conversation. And while a few heeded my suggestion, most people got defensive. Oh, well, the comment board belongs to one who wrote the review, so only he can decide what can be written on it? Are you freakin kidding me?!?
That, my dear friends, is the true definition of a commenter one who demands credibility when he actually doesnt deserve any. You want to get more respect here? Review more. Balance the strength of writing your own pieces with the strength of engaging in lively discussion that sticks to the subject at hand. Build your credibility here. Otherwise you might as well kiss anyone taking you seriously goodbye, and that includes your lists on, say, I dont know, who you think are the Top 10 rappers or hip-hop producers of all time. It really tugs at the heart to see a lot of talented cats here take the commenter route. And that leads me to my next point:
IV. A MESSAGE TO THE STANS
Please do one of two things: Either 1.) Curb your bias, or 2.) Shut up. Ive had it with guys slavishly heaping praise on a rappers album, exaggerating its strengths while damn near ignoring its flaws. Ive had it with arbitrary 1 or 5-star reviews. Ive had it with reviews that bash mainstream rap albums with little or no meaningful critical analysis. And Ive had it with reviews written almost solely to elevate the status of one rapper at the extreme expense of another. Acquire a sense of fairness. Yes, we all have our individual tastes. But standards are standards. For instance, Im more of a Nas fan than a Jay-Z fan (yeah, here I am with the Nas/Jay thing again, but - as inspired by the words of the apostle Paul if I want to connect, I better use examples you can relate to). Yet I am as eager to call out his flaws as I am to announce Jay-Zs strengths, or lambaste Nastradamus as much as I laud Reasonable Doubt. Better yet, even if I might never become a big Jeezy fan, I am wise enough to pick out the good stuff in his work, if any. I dont subscribe to favoritism, to the effect that it impairs objectivity or fairness in my reviews. And you stans shouldnt, too, if anyone is to see your work as legit instead of ramblings of a sycophant. Otherwise, you are better off taking your biased opinions to the comment boards of those hip-hop websites where your uncouth brethren reside with their profanity and bad grammar-laced rhetoric.
V. HIP-HOPS GOLDEN AGE
We may all differ a bit on the year range (Mine is, at most, 1986-1994). But I think major hip-hop writers here would agree that the period from the mid-'80s to the mid-'90s were the best years hip-hop as a musical art form ever had artistically. Period. Finito. End of discussion. You argue against it, I dont want to hear it. I dont care what your tastes are, or even if you were born yesterday. No one can even make a remotely compelling argument against it, no one. In fact, I dare anyone to. And I dont want to hear that having a golden age in hip-hop is unfair to the current crop of emcees (Most of them need to step their games up anyway). If you want to do that, slam the Renaissance of Europe as well.
But maybe, just maybe, if you push me enough, I will give you the greatest schooling in human history.
VI. BUT ITS HELPFUL, ISNT IT?
I think, somewhere along the line, we began to take the VH rating for granted. Really, unless you have written something a little short of exceptional (Exceptional would be MH, by the way), you dont deserve that stamp. Rating a review a notch below VH i.e. H really shouldnt be considered bad. Ive had a handful of H rating myself, and mostly from people whom I consider good friends or acquaintances. Do I see it as vicious backstabbing? No, I dont. Instead, I see it as giving a rats hiney about my writing This is pretty good, Dayo. But knowing how good of a writer you are, I know you can do better. And that is the spirit behind an H rating. You should have seen my review on Straight Outta Compton that I posted when I was nothing but a rookie; it was loaded with so many chunks of verses, I finally gave it a major clean-up. The two H ratings I got are still there, though. Am I going to lose sleep over it? Is my hair going to fall off? Is Paris Hilton going to be sexually molested by burly blacks and Latinas in jail? Sorry to disappoint you, but it aint gonna happen.
Now, if it is an SH, NH, or even worse, OT (Off-Topic), youve got major issues
Why do I bring this up? Well, someone recently wrote a review on a rap album, and almost immediately began to b!tch and moan about the number of H ratings he got, thus bringing the general status of his review to Helpful instead of the (undoubtedly) expected Very Helpful. Being one of those who gave him the H stamp, I wasnt going to let that fly, and I stepped in to explain to him why I gave him that rating. But the wretched fellow just wont shut the fu@k up! Instead of him to focus on what could have made his review better, he had the nerve to put himself in the same class with Mad Theory? Was this guy truly deluded or what? He was lucky he caught me on one of my jolly days, and in actuality, I was having fun with him. The darts I sent him would have been nothing compared to the verbal impaling he would have suffered if I had a gloomy cloud over my head instead.
If I rate you less than VH, I will explain myself if need be; one some occasions, the reasons for such a rating are just too obvious to warrant an explanation. Length is always going to be an issue. Im just as likely to give a review less than a VH if its three sentences long as a review that takes me forty days and forty nights to finish reading. But of course thats not my only criterion. And let this be a warning: Dont you dare send me hate mail if you really care about your rating because it will only trigger this: 1.) Ill send you an equally heated response too vitriolic for you to bear, 2.) Ill block you, and 3.) Ill act like you never existed. Ive done it before, and if you give me the opportunity to do it again, I most certainly will.
And wheres the link to the review? You only have my nickname for him as a clue. I do not need to reward him with any more hits to his craptacular dissertation. And for your information, it still stands as a Helpful review.
VII. DUDE, DO YOU EVEN WRITE HERE?
I dont mind those who are legitimately busy and thus are limited in their contributions. I mean, that is understandable. And not everyone is me. Tough enough that Im a law school student (sans the brief leave of absence). But now I run my own website, not to mention work full-time while going to school at Georgetown University this fall for my Masters in Journalism and a conclusion to my law studies. Yet writing to me has always been almost as natural as breathing. Hell, I was already doing homemade illustrated storybooks when I was five years of age! So it would be unreasonable for me to expect the same standard from everyone else.
What I do mind is people who do little writing to begin with, yet bemoan the dearth of recent hip-hop writing or the diminished numbers of hip-hop based writers contributing regularly. Its like a man with a dropped torch blaming the wildfire blazing around him. Whats the point talking about or complaining about the problem when you are part of the problem? If you are unable to write or if you have the ability, dont plan to write - you might be better off keeping quiet and be glad that there might be two or three people still writing consistently.
And this leads me to my last point:
VIII. STEP YOUR GAMES UP!
Theres a difference between being impressed and being blown away. I have been impressed about ummmm maybe damn, save from the usual suspects, I have neither been impressed nor blown away by anyone who regularly writes on hip-hop for a couple of months now!
Or are my standards too high? I dont know about that. After all, Im a guy who occasionally cringes at reviews he wrote just a week ago! Believe me, I am a lot more lenient on you guys than I am on myself.
And why is there a considerably lengthy drought? Well, its the sum of all the previous points. That stuff adds up to quite an underwhelming feeling whenever I visit Epinions nowadays. And Im a 100% sure my partner-in-enforcement Big D shares that feeling.
Okay, I know, most of us here are not professional writers, or at least plan to. And most of us have lives, or at least I would like to believe so. So am I necessarily blowing off steam? I dont think so. This being a hobby and one that is rewarded with a few dollars and pennies at that does not mean that people can discard, at the very least, basic standards. People tend to forget that this is, after all, a shopping site. Its not a personal database. Customers are depending on your work to make the best-informed decisions on what to check out, and what not to.
But why do I care so much about this? Duh, Im hip-hop til I die! Its the music I bump the most in my car, and what I play in my computer when I go to sleep at night. Its the music that I play in my headphones when in the library poring over casebooks. Its the music that, more likely than any other genre, gets me sparking off a conversation three hours long. Its the music (save for traditional Nigerian music) that I identify with the most the main soundtrack to my life. Now add the Epinions factor to it the triggering of my eventual realization that I can get as serious about a career in writing as I am in law and youll understand why I care at all. I should have moved on quite a while ago, and promoted and improved the hell out of my website (which is doing pretty good nevertheless, by the way), but I just couldnt stomach leaving here like that. Believe me, dedication to something can go further than merely making enough to pay a monthly phone bill.
And why am I picking on hip-hop only? What about other genres? Regardless of my level of familiarity with R&B, heavy metal, pop, country, salsa or even freaking polka music, I do share the general sentiment that the Music section isnt what it used to be. But nowhere is that problem more acute than with hip-hop. Plus, Im a hardcore hip-hop head, so go figure.
If we really want to make our voices heard, we need to start backing it up. Be innovative. Be a little more active. Grow in your writing. To those doing their job, much props to you. But to those that arent, youve been warned. Ive had my fill of this, and as from this point onward, Im not going to be so nice anymore if I dont see changes. I might start calling out people a lot more often. I might start downrating reviews. I might start cleaning up my WOT. Or I might just leave here for good and move on. Either way, its the beginning of quite a different balogun around here. To paraphrase Prodigy in Keep It Thoro, I write like no one out here can fu@k with me!
And if you think Im bad, you aint seen nothing yet. After all, Im the good cop, remember? You will not be so lucky with Big D
THE BALOGUN HAS SPOKEN!
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