Hey there! My name’s Martin, it’s nice to meet you. If I gave you a link to this post, it’s probably because you criticized me on Reddit, or some other site, for something. You may have called me out for supposedly shamelessly promoting this website (in which case, go to bullet point 1); you may have said I was over-intellectualizing rap (please press 2); you may have made fun of a clearly white guy talking about an art form with African-American origins (press 3.) I want to talk about each of these criticisms one by one.
1.) “Martin, stop! You’re shamelessly promoting your website!”
I humbly disagree. First, the proffering of this criticism insinuates that I somehow benefit in an untoward way from this site. Well, rest easy, because I don’t. I don’t make money off this site, even with the ads there; I make a fraction of a penny every month, even. This website doesn’t even forward any of my professional goals; I am not using this website as a launching pad to pad my resume or something. The only payoff I get, a rather modest one, is seeing my page views go up, and thereby knowing that someone enjoyed my website. There is no bigger prize for me than checking my site analytics and seeing someone spent half an hour on my site viewing over a dozen articles. I sincerely hope you would not begrudge me this one advantage to my site, when everything else in my life is largely drudgery, haha.
2.) “Martin! You’re just over-intellectualizing an art form whose very popularity relies on how accessible it is!”
Okay, fine. I agree to a certain extent. But no one is forcing you to look at rap this way. But I know for a certain fact that there is a non-negligible section of rap fans who do enjoy this kind of stuff. I know this, because I have almost 250,000 page views (Yeah, I’m kind of a big deal.) So if you don’t like this stuff, skip it! Just know when you downvote it, you kill my soul. I spend a lot of time and energy on this, and like I said, my only payoff is having people enjoy it. If you downvote it because you don’t think it belongs in the subreddit, fine, but if you’re downvoting it because you object to my motivations, then I disagree.
Besides, I can’t help it; this is the way — almost the only way — I think about rap. To not do this would be deny a part of who I am, which is totally mad bullshit. I try to balance the intellectual stuff with more straightforward articles, like my one on Pharoahe Monch. Neither am I claiming this is the only way to think about rap; I greatly appreciate outlets that are more general in their approach, like HipHopDX. But that’s not how I do things.
3.) “Yo dude! You’re a white guy talking about an African-American art form!”
Yes, I am. But I am also constantly paying respect to the forebears and predecessors who made my analysis possible. This doesn’t make me a card-carrying member of pro-black unions, but after doing my due research, I sincerely think Iggy Azalea is racist. I think parodies of Hip Hop, like Bo Burnham’s song here, are racist. I completely agree with Kanye West when he says, “Racism still alive / they just be concealing it,” and that George Bush really, really, just didn’t like black people, even if he himself didn’t know it. I already knew everything that Q-Tip tweeted to Iggy Azalea, because I’ve read “Can’t Stop Won’t Stop,” by Jeff Chang, which is, as the sub-title says, “A History Of The Hip Hop Generation.”
Look man, what I’m saying is that my engagement with Hip Hop didn’t stop at these articles, the Internet, or even the music. I read Chinua Achebe’s book “Things Fall Apart” after I found the source of The Roots album by the same name. I’m probably one of the few people who can name an anti-apartheid activist besides Mandela because of the Tribe Called Quest song “Steve Biko.” I read Malcolm X’s autobiography twice after so many rappers mentioned him, like on Run-D.M.C.’s “Proud To Be Black.” I actually know who and what the Zulu nation is, because Mos Def pointed me back to Afrika Bambaataa.
This isn’t to establish my cred with rap fans, or any demographics of the population, whatever the color of their skin might be. It’s to show that I truly, genuinely love this music, and I’m not just piggybacking off it for some kind of Internet popularity (as groundbreakingly important as that is to some people.)
4.) Do you even know anything about rap? What makes you so qualified to talk about rap music?
Good question! The answer is that I’ve studied rap music for years, as a job, and have built up my knowledge over that time. If you think money talks, well, people have paid me to teach them how to be better rappers, and colleges have given me freelance work to transcribe rap rhythms.
Think of it this way. You know how you went to school, in high school or college or whatever, and studied math for hours and hours? You went to class multiple times each week for hours at a time, where someone who had studied math for a lot of their life then taught you what you knew. You did homework every day, took quizzes, took tests, and studied a lot. Thus, by the end of it, you knew a lot about math.
Well, that’s exactly what I’ve done with music. It’s my job. I don’t doubt that you know a lot about rap music, and that you even love rap music. But it most likely isn’t your job to know rap music. You didn’t take tests on rap music. You didn’t transcribe rap music, and then study it for hours at a time. You would never tell a lawyer, “Hey, you’re not lawyering well!”, if you hadn’t been to law school. You wouldn’t tell a psychologist, “Hey! You’re doing it wrong!” So when someone who’s studied music for 15 years of their life, plays piano, plays guitar, tells you something about rap music, don’t be surprised if it turns out you might just be able to learn something from it.
So please, over all, I’m begging you to please think before you speak. Do your research on my articles, just like I’ve done on Hip Hop, so you get the full picture, not just some title and the first paragraph after browsing through.