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Monday, January 13, 2014

Critical Acclaim and artist Anger

Every year we get several hip-hop lists and they always cause controversy. Most of the time I feel like publications are doing so to create some buzz about their content. Most of the time when an artist goes on a rant, they degrade and denigrate the publication while simultaneously claiming that they don't care. Look, we know you all care, if you didn't you would not get so worked up about it. But honestly, it's not a problem that you get so excited as an artist, after all at the end of the day, most of you are making money and you want to see the respect for your work and how it stacks up against others. Sometimes you have a point, sometimes you don't. That brings me to the catalyst for this blog, Wale vs Complex.


Now Wale doesn't get a lot of respect in the general rap circles. There are people who consider him whiney or they don't respect his skills and that is the opinion of some people though I happen to disagree. The main thing that bothers people about Wale is his Kanye-ish antics at regular intervals. These are followed by periods of reflection and promises to not make the same mistakes again. This time, while he over-stepped with his threats, Wale has a valid argument against Complex which failed to include his latest release "The Gifted" in their top 50 albums of the year.




Now, this is 50 albums of all genres so I wasn't really expecting him to be number one, though I feel it is way better than Yeezus, but more on that later, there are at least 5 rap albums on the list that are way worse. For instance, Juicy J and Big Sean both make the list but even and almost ridiculously surprising was Birdman and Rick Ross' album(?) The H which didn't even move the needle on the hip-hop radar. I mean The Migos makes the cut....wtf is this ridiculousness.


At this point let me say this about a lot of publications that are more than hip-hop related, they often have odd tastes in what they consider to be good hip-hop or rap albums. You see while at the same time, they can have hardcore rap like Rick Ross and Jay-z, straight pure rap music, they also love the experimental stuff like Kanye's Yeezus which for some reason has become this 'glorious masterpiece' in the months since it was released. I wouldn't say it was a bad album but it wasn't great at all. It feel like some mags feel as though they need to reward things they don't understand or that are majorly unlistenable for various reasons such as being too grimey and having odd sounds and production. They overly reward risk without the added value of measuring success. How do you measure that, by the fan reaction. Huge mixed reactions are not a measure of success, but love  and respect for the record from multiple directions. When the vast and caried groups of critics can agree something is great, then it truly becomes transcendent. Any time I see a list with three or four of the worst albums I have heard in a year on a list I question it's validity.




That's really what Wale and all artists need to do. They need to take a close look at who else is on the list and use that to determine if they should even care whether or not they make said list. Some lists, like this one from Complex, are so ridiculous that you have to stop thinking about them moments later. Remember the absurd Vibe bracket 3 or 4 years ago? No one really took it seriously and they couldn't because of who was on it. It was generally something fun to laugh at and talk about for a minute, but artists took it seriously, and in some ways I guess I expect them to be serious about something like that if they want to be taken seriously, but it created so many more headaches than it was worth especially because it was intended just to be intentionally angering.

You see in 2013, it's not good enough to be serious if there is no controversy. You are better off just throwing some stuff together than putting together a comparison that makes some sense. Now I will admit I am pretty biased because once I don't like something I get confused as to how anyone would, but at the end of the day i ask for consistency. If there is a southern rap reviewer on staff, they don't get the 4th pick. I would think they need to bring their own top 10 with the other segment editors or reviewers and look to find common ground which is why I often have a problem with these lists. It just seems as one person rules and everyone else gets to just throw something out there, and they often go by what they think the public wants and not what the public may need to see and hear.

Hip hop has a love hate relationship with journalism, if what passes for urban writing can be considered that. That's not to knock the professionals too much, but it always seems as if real writing and critical credibility is secondary and sometimes tertiary in the level of requirement. Hip hop artists don't respect writers and critics as lovers of the culture and the music and it leads to those people who may butt heads being forced out. That, along with the rise of blogs who (unlike this one) just post blurbs and half hearted reviews and editorials with little in the way of true explanation or exploration because they figure the reader won't get too far past 140 characters and seem to be incredibly lazy have damaged an industry that had just began to get it's legs.

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