Inherent in my interest in hip-hop is storytelling, which I see as the most effective way to promote engagement from an audience. Many of the pieces on this blog are analytically sound, but lack a story with which the reader can engage. For that reason I wanted this post to tell a story, or rather multiple stories. I chose to enlist the help of five of my friends who I see as hip-hop fans from different backgrounds. I asked them to tell me why they love hip-hop, and I was very pleased with not only the breadth of the answers, but also the depth of the answers. I believe that the video is strong in that it fills in where this blog is lacking, and it displays the transcendental ability of hip-hop. Anyone can listen, anyone can enjoy. Those I interviewed love it for its danceability, its wordplay, its history, its evolution, and its posturing. I only lament that I could not fit all of their responses into the video.
Being able to tell these stories and give these perspectives has allowed me to add a level to my blog that goes beyond the analytical and into the personal. This blog is not just about hip-hop as a genre, it is about hip-hop as it is to the listener. I greatly appreciate this video’s added value alongside my own writings.
Jeff Weiss is a writer by definition. By vocation. His work is a product of passion when he has time, and a work of dedication when he doesn’t. He doesn’t claim to be an expert, but he does have experience. He was a staff writer at a business blog. He worked for free for the now-defunct Stylus magazine. He writes a weekly column for LA Weekly, and his articles have appeared in publications such as the Washington Post, Noisey, Pitchfork, and Rolling Stone. He has a podcast with rapper MC Nocando. He runs his own music blog, Passion of the Weiss, which has grown to have about twenty-five contributors. But please, God, do not call him a music writer. The only thing worse would be to call him a hip-hop writer. He enjoys writing about music, but focusing on one subject isn’t interesting to him, “fuck specialization…I want to write about everything…it’s not just music and it’s not just rap. I didn’t work hard enough to learn how to be a writer…just to fucking write about rap music.” Life is too big to write about one thing, he says.
Perhaps only politicians could give hip-hop a run for its money when it comes to degrading rhetoric about women. At least politicians experience some sort of pushback. Hip-hop, it seems, is impervious to the sporadic attempts to address issues of sexism; a war of words is hard to win against the genre that invented the rap battle. Perhaps this is because of the one-sidedness surrounding the issue. Discussions about perceived moral depravity in hip-hop are often written from the perspective of those not involved with the genre or its socio-political landscape. Therefore, it is necessary to be discerning when discussing misogyny in hip-hop. Addressing the issue should not be a practice in teaching what is right and what is wrong; it should be a discussion surrounding both the rhetoric used and the matrix in which this rhetoric is accepted and allowed to grow.
Before I continue with substantive posts about hip-hop, social issues, dope tracks, fire mixtapes, and entertaining rap beef, please allow me to spit a few clarifying words about my own position in the socio-political blogosphere.
*Let me clear my throat*
On Tuesday of this week I received a text from a friend of mine asking if we could talk about one of my posts. The post, dealing with homophobia in hip-hop, had been extremely well received. Yet this friend wanted to discuss, among other things, word choice. I have yet to talk to him (it’s midterms week here at Dickinson College) but I feel that his concerns about my word choice, whatever they may be, warrant a quick post about how I write and what I write.
A poster hanging in my college’s student union reads, “[I]n 2012 critically acclaimed songwriter Frank Ocean changed the face of hip-hop when he came out two days prior to the release of his second album, ‘Channel Orange.’ ” This is a loaded opening statement. Frank Ocean, in an act of bravery and strength, “changed the face of hip-hop.”
At first I was ecstatic. I was excited to see an amazing artist, one who has collaborated with hip-hop artists from many sub-genres, coming out. Yet as I thought harder, I felt uneasy. In coming out, Ocean certainly took a step forward both personally, as well as for the LGBTQ community as a whole. For someone so well known and respected to come out is both powerful and progressive. Yet it is a great leap to say that Ocean “changed the face of hip-hop.”