I just wanted to start this article by saying thank you to Complex, XXL, and to those that are no longer with us, such as the Vibe, Word Up!, and The Source, for pushing hip-hop journalism. During the early to mid-late 2000s if you wanted to know the inside scoop with your favorite Hip-Hop/Rap artist you would just pick up an issue. In all honesty, with these magazines as a medium between fans and artists, there came a certain “mystery” to the artist; it is that you couldn’t personally interact with your favorite artist. A person would have to wait until the next issue to see the new and upcoming things in Hip-Hop/Rap. Also, these magazines had some level of credibility to them because, in order to score an interview with the artist, you had to be in the loop, again it was also one of the only forms of knowing what was going on in the industry. It was definitely a time to be alive.
Let’s start with the King of internet Hip-Hop/Rap, Soulja Boi. He popped onto the music scene with his hit song, “Crank Dat“, toppling the charts and taking the world by storm. From “Kiss Me Thru The Phone“, to “Pretty Boy Swag”, he gave rise to viral dancing. With the help of then rising media cultural influencer, WorldStar HipHop, Soulja Boi became the first artist to use a social media platform, to market and promote his songs. It is important to understand the level of respect given to WorldStar HipHop. WorldStar HipHop, innovated the genre, by helping Hip-Hop/Rap transition from exclusive print magazines to the web. Artists were now releasing music videos online, and marketing themselves on Myspace, bridging the gap between themselves and potential new fans. They helped struggling artists find a new way to monetize their craft since most viral music videos usually led to shoe deals, free clothes, and other perks.
As previously stated, Myspace played a huge role in this cultural shift. Its role in this shift mainly rested upon how it relayed gossip. It may sound a little childish but gossip plays a huge role in Hip-Hop/Rap. It would be a huge deal whenever your favorite rappers top eight or top ten people changed. In this subculture, gossip isn’t really gossip as we inherently know it, this type of gossip plays into the hype; hype for a new album, or maybe a new song. Artists understand that this type of hype could be used as a marketing tool. Whereas before, most of the hype would come from artists hinting at a new album or new song in a magazine article.
With the rise of social media comes a new way to experience Hip-Hop/Rap culture. An integral part of this new wave is how readily available for consumption everything is, including the artist. From interviews to tweets, it’s really not that difficult to have access to your favorite artist. With a quick google search, you can learn everything there needs to know about an artist. From VladTV interviews to AMA on Reddit, with a few strokes of your keyboard, you can personally ask your favorite artists questions. There is no need to write into a magazine’s headquarters and wait until the next issue to see if your question was asked or even answered. Therefore it is important to ask, with this level of access with celebrities, has this affected the image and quality of the genre? of the culture? of the music?
It is easy to see why some people might say yes because print magazines gave artists some control of their image. Keeping in mind how relatively new the internet, as a whole is, it is pretty difficult for an artist to control their image. The internet is a new world that we are still discovering. With us having easier access to our favorite artist, it also means they have easier access to our criticisms whether it be destructive or constructive. Especially now with a more politically and socially aware climate, it’s easy for an artist’s image to take a hit if their views are harmful to marginalized groups. It’s also easy to see as to why some people would say no to the previous question, because of the way it benefits struggling artists. Either way, this relatively new shift from print to online has definitely brought a new light and a new perspective as to how we see, view and consume the genre, along with the culture.