|"I got a piece under the seat for any Oliver mark ass Twang" "The Outrage", People Under the Stairs
"Personal bitch ass award winning shout to Oliver Wang. You don't know what gangsta is." Liner notes, Jean Grae
It's been a strange year, beginning in spring of 2002 when PUTS put me on blast on their O.S.T. album. Then Louis Logic penned a love letter to moi on "Fair Weather Fan" from this summer's Sin-O-Matic. Most recently, it's been Jean Grae who fires away at yours truly on both a freestyle from Bootleg of the Bootleg as well as in the EP's liner notes.
Ego Trip's Book of Rap Lists compiles "16 Songs That Assassinate the Media" - but there's never been a time when three different artists have all taken on one writer, i.e. me. It's an inauspicious honor and though I've been flattered in a way, I'm also confused too. It's astounding that at a time where Bush and Rummy are rolling out the New World Order and right-wing pundits like Bill O' Reilly are hatefully attacking hip-hop culture, the most feared target out there for these rappers is a journalist of very modest influence.
I've been asked "why has this happened" by many, including myself and despite soliciting an answer from some of these artists point-blank, no one's coughed up a clear reason. PUTS claimed they were mad over something I wrote about them which is odd since most of what I've ever done about the group as a writer and editor has been supportive. I've championed Jean Grae for six years, especially in these very pages, but in her EP dis, she alludes to the fact that I didn't give her Attack of the Attacking Things "a thumbs up." Louis Logic was more forthcoming, simply stating, "I just don't like you" though without proffering more.
What artists hint at but seem unwilling to just come out and say is this: they don't like negative press. Anyone who reads my work knows that I'm no Mr. Invective-Spewing-Ranter but really, it doesn't matter how constructive the criticism or balanced the opinion when some equate any critique with an attack.
Their sensitivity is a product of trying times. It's rough out there for independent artists, especially with new competition sprouting like weeds. If you're indie, the whole industry seemingly posts up against you from retail, to radio, and yes, even press. Most mainstream music rags run a numbers game the more you sell, the more space you get. If you're an indie release, barely breaking 10K on Soundscan, Rolling Stone, Vibe and The Source usually aren't fucking with you. That leaves the URBs of the world to take up the slack and even if we're not doing XXL units, this is still one of the few mags where you can read about a PUTS, or a Louis Logic, or a Jean Grae, etc.
What gets written in our pages becomes amplified by the fact that the underground swims in a small fishbowl that the industry relegates us to. Believe me, it ain't prettier on this side of the desk either. Working as hip-hop writers and editors can be a shitty job it's not for the money, fame or game (since there is none) but like artists, we slave at this because we believe in what we do and that is this: we give shine to artists otherwise left in the dark that's not a brag, that's reality flip through any mainstream glossy and see if they cover who we do.
So yeah, it's a slap in the fucking face when rappers diss any of us for daring to write anything less than sycophantic, especially when we rarely get a "thank you" when we say something positive. It's not our job to blow smoke up artists' asses (that's what they pay managers and publicists for). It's our job to write intelligent, honest and critical commentary. That is what our readers depend on and what any rational artist should expect and demand.
This all said though, if any artist ever feels like I, or any other writer, crosses a professional line, they're welcome to reply on record this is hip-hop after all, we're not hear to slow anyone's roll. As folks who make a living off of scrutinizing other people's work, it's only fair that we should be under the microscope too. Ultimately, I leave it to the readers and listeners to decide who's fair and who's foul.
As for me, I have no beef to keep. In fact, I want to encourage people to go out and buy as many of the records I've mentioned as possible. Not only are you helping to support your local indie rapper but hey - you're only helping blow up my name even larger. The hate only makes me stronger, now I get my columns longer.
Big hugs to all the sensitive thugs from,