February 12, 2013
HHID's State Of The Union, or A Weird Way To Celebrate Six Years Of Posts
Today marks the six-year anniversary of HHID, which is approximately five years more than most hip hop blogs started around the same time. But instead of being self-congratulatory for tackling on a project that will take me forever to finish, allow me to step onto my soapbox for a bit.
It can be very tiring writing for a site such as this one. There are hundreds of different albums on here that I've written about, and as you should know by now, my process involves me sitting through every single track on any given project. As you can imagine, that can grow incredibly tiresome, especially when limiting yourself to a single musical genre. Thanks to my sadistic nature in having started this site in the first place, I find myself getting very fucking bored of rap music very easily.
Some of this is my own fault. Nobody asked me to write track-by-track reviews of albums that came out decades ago: it was something I wanted to see done on a more regular basis, so I decided to make it happen myself. But listening to music simply to write about it takes its toll, which is what caused the majority of my long hiatuses: it's important to take sanity breaks every now and then, so that I don't just give up and throw this blog against a wall or something. The readers don't see this, because to them I'm merely just some dude writing about music, but most of the time you listen to music to derive some sort of pleasure or enjoyment out of it, and I've made the conscious choice to listen to music as a sort-of job. A job that doesn't pay very well, mind you (but I'll get to that later).
However, I place most of the blame on hip hop itself. The music industry has bastardized our chosen art form, raping and pillaging until it became virtually unrecognizable. It's easy to write that, back in the day, the music actually consisted of a message, but that's obvious, and that's not even my point. But back in the day, it was a given that most rap albums on store shelves were written and performed by professionals, even if you didn't specifically care for their work: in order for a struggling artist to land a record deal, they had to perform, and perform, and perform some more, typically for fans, label executives, radio show producers, hell, anyone who had some sort of clout. And then you had to perform some more, because record labels only signed the best of the best.
Obviously, this changed long before I started the site in 2007. The advent of the Internet, the ease at recording music at home instead of using up studio time, the instant gratification one gets by releasing something online and receiving an immediate reaction, and, yes, the rampant pirating and illegal downloading of music have all changed hip hop (well, all music, but we're focusing on hip hop because, well, it's in the name of the blog). These days absolutely any-fucking-body can release a song, a video, a mixtape, or an actual album, and the heightened level of competition should have resulted in artists fighting for spots within your eyeline, constantly one-upping the next man in an attempt at winning your fandom. Instead, though, hip hop has turned to fucking shit. New rappers spring up every couple of minutes, but nobody really has anything to say: everyone's content riding current trends and recording songs that sound like everyone else's songs, and that also applies to multiplatinum artists on the radio today. Everyone's afraid to take actual chances, and this blase attitude toward the art form has trickled up into the veterans of the game, all of whom are still vying for relevancy in a music industry that has frequently shoved their collective middle fingers in their faces.
Hence, rap is boring to listen to.
Obviously, I'm not talking about all rap. But this is the reason why I primarily focus on older albums, choosing to grade artists on their respective bodies of work rather than comparing them to one another. (It makes me laugh every time someone comments that I love (insert album title here) but that I didn't care for Gang Starr's Hard To Earn or something similar: do you compare a Seth McFarlane cartoon to The Simpsons just because they're both of the same visual medium and appear on the same channel? Do you compare friends to one another because they're all human beings? I should certainly hope not.) Newer artists that catch my ear have a better shot at appearing on HHID because I find something that I may actually like, such as interesting production, or a turn of the phrase that I found intriguing. But most new rappers bore me. Most of the shit played on the radio today is heard by me only in five-to-ten-second spurts while I'm flipping around when Sirius XM's First Wave is playing yet another song from the fucking Police.
My complaints aren't new, and they don't apply in every case. Contrary to popular belief, I don't need all of my favorite songs to actually "say" something: I love tons of shit that looks silly as fuck when written down. (See: all of the New Wave I keep talking about.) For me, music is as good as the feeling that it manages to evoke, whether it be with the lyrics, the production, or a combination of both. (And yes, I still believe that production is just as important as the lyrics, because without the music, every fucking rap song would be an acapella, and that would be silly.) Not every artist is terrible: in fact, there are many who are actively trying to make the art form better than the way they found it. But there are too many rappers out in the world, and not enough of them are contributing to the genre in a positive manner.
Short of demanding that every single artist either prove their worth in a battle to the death, I'd simply be happy if there were more actual good songs in 2013 than there were last year. I'd like for the artists that I actually enjoy hearing to exercise quality control in their work, and to not just release every single thought that spills out of their respective pieholes. I'd like more of the younger artists to show respect to not just their elders, but to the audience in general: too many songs these days are dripping with contempt, where the rappers in question laugh all the way to the bank while the listener is forced to scoop their now-dead brain cells up from off the ground. I'd like more of the older artists to shut the fuck up and just continue making music because they love to create art and not because they have child support payments and third mortgages to cover; if that's really the motivation behind your latest project filled wall-to-wall with attempts to recapture your youth instead of growing older and wiser with your life experiences, then perhaps you should look for a different line of work. (I'd also like older artists to not do stupid shit, such as, oh, sue newer artists for tens of millions of dollars for borrowing a beat for a project that the younger artists wasn't even paid for. Lord Finesse, I'm looking in your direction.)
But enough of my unreasonable demands upon a musical genre that won't listen to me and will evolve well beyond me in about twenty minutes. What I can control is this site, which has enjoyed a steady readership and has grown into something that I enjoy doing, even if some of my words above may prove otherwise. What follows is a relatively short list of requests that I humbly make to the two readers.
(1) I originally created HHID to not just write about albums that I love (and hate), but to encourage active discussion between readers about said albums. That said, I've noticed that some of the albums I've written about have generated more user comments than others. I'd like there to be more comments and interaction, if only because I want to take a more active role in the interaction, as well.
(2) I've mentioned a whole shitload of times that there are multiple Amazon links within each post. Purchasing something by clicking on one of these links, even if it isn't what is actually being linked, helps the site indirectly by putting a (really fucking) small amount of money in my pocket, which, in turn, can be used to either purchase more albums or to encourage me to write more. So, more of that, please.
(3) Something I'm trying to get better at is running Reader Reviews during the occasional hiatuses, in order to keep the audience interested while I'm recuperating. As always, I'm still on the lookout for more contributions; as always, if you're interested, write to me first at max (dot) hiphopisntdead (at) gmail (dot) com. Unsolicited contributions will not be used from this point forward; you have to submit ideas to me so that I can ensure no duplication of efforts. If you've contributed Reader Reviews in the past that still haven't seen the light of day, look for a message from me in your inbox soon.
(4) Please understand that not every request will be honored. For one, I don't own every single album in creation, and besides, I'm in the middle of a project that finds me attempting to complete writing about the complete bodies of work of many of the artists in the sidebar (but not every single one, mind you), and that doesn't leave a whole lot of room for newer names to be thrown in the mix. I'm not shutting out new artists at all, but I have to be at least remotely interested to consider new names; as such, I plan on using the Reader Reviews as an outlet for the newer acts to have a presence on the site. So if you're not seeing the artists you would like to see, perhaps you should actively do something about it.
A sincere thank you to the readers for continuing to follow the site, even through its sporadic updates and the general apathetic nature of its main author. I will be trying to update much more frequently, but anything you guys can do to help me out would be greatly appreciated.
End of rambling. I'll be back in a bit.