x CB » A Labyrinth, A Maze (3): Debunking The Myth Of Blog Payola

A Labyrinth, A Maze (3): Debunking The Myth Of Blog Payola

This is now an officially reoccurring series highlighting my continual attempt to document the rapidly crumbling and redeveloping rap/blog/industry complex. It’s inside baseball talk that is probably lost on the type of person for whom the names Charles Hamilton or Eskay or Best Of Both Offices are meaningless, so if you are in that vast minority of internet users simply interested in dope music and ideas about it, do not click to read more.

Where does blog rap come from? It seems like most names on the lips of my peers belong to a bunch of no hit having major label artists that rap fans who only use a computer to check their email and movie times remain blissfully unaware of. How can the critical consensus of the dozen or so limelight bloggers be so dramatically out of tune with the average rap listener? Surely there must be some palm being greased to keep these 90210 villains above the fold of your favorite rapp site?

Nope. Blog Payola is as much a myth as the Easter Bunny or Big Daddy Kane AIDS or the good Charles Hamilton tape. If it existed you would be staring at a giant Asher Roth album cover in this space and I’d be on a yacht with my favorite albums. As far as I can tell no money is exchanging hands and publicity scientists haven’t yet figured a way to slip a zip of cocaine into a .rar file. What you are witnessing is simply a wants and needs circle jerk between a confused industry and clout hungry kids. Follow for now:

1) The industry is milking the cult of FIRSTS. Like people who buy ugly sneakers, rap bloggers want more than anything else to be the first to the party. The blog cats [1] love to plant the flag. Then they sell you, the reader, on their regularity and, especially, their ability to break artists. But, bloggers, introducing readers to a hot new artist is simply, cue Bring The Pain, what you’re supposed to do. Being up on new rap songs and artists is your job. You do not get bragging rights or a fucking cookie when you break a record. (Though conversely, you definitely deserve a smack when you are completely oblivious to the most obvious of trends.)

2) Favors beget favors beget fear. Bloggers are deathly afraid of losing their conncet. That if they ignore the call for Asher Hamilton pub in the name of quality control they will fall a few notches on the almighty BCC:[2] totem poll. Then when Interscope actually drops a record from an artist that matters (let’s say Eminem) they might not get the attachment or the invite to the crucial listening party or the exclusive and awkward 15 minute interview. Offended by the blogger’s insolence label man will pass these valued exclusives onto the next best blog. [3] That blog will draw the traffic while Blogger #1 is left penniless and irrelevant, eating uncooked ramen on his momma’s couch.

These implied fear tactics would have been ineffective in the print era because there were rarely more than four or five hip hop magazines in print at any given time. They could and did reject trash because the labels would still need to get their flagship artists on the cover the following month. Now that the blogs are chasing those name artists, the checks and balances have fallen out of alignment.

3) Rappers will cosign anything. Frequently bloggers are sold these new acts on the strength of collaborations and cosignatures from more established rappers. But these mergers are ultimately empty gestures, less crew love and more corporate synergy. The first wave of Asher’s calculated buzz came in the form of youtube cosignatures from actual rappers who were probably backed into a corner with a flip cam at a 4 am studio session and just wanted to get home to their kids. Drake and Tyga aren’t even signed to Young Money. They got separate major label deals independently of Wayne’s camp – Drake just happens to be a Canadian teen soap hearthrob and Tyga cousin to the guy from Gym Class Heroes. Their Lil Wayne alliances are strategic cosigns, likely orchestrated by executives who know that Wayne would probably give Eli Porter a Young Money chain after emptying a few of those styrofoam cups.

Besides, my research has shown that all famous rappers exclusively listen to Coldplay so do we really want to trust their taste?

4) Quantity > Quality. A lot of bored day job motherfuckers are wasting company dollars, hitting refresh, waiting for something new. Whether they hate it or love it at least they get to voice their opinion. The internet is a democratic utopia where everyone can call a nearly anonymous rapper a fagg and feel like they are contributing. And every comment is another ad impression. Bloggers throw everything they can at the wordpress dart board to keep these fruitflies flapping and the boosters boosting. This is why there are hugely successful rap blogs whose front pages almost perfectly mirror my email inbox. Forwarding chain letters from Asher Hamilton’s publicist is the fastest and easiest way to generate content, completely bypassing the need to know or even care about music.

Related: “Warner’s Tryst With Bloggers Hits Sour Note.” This reads like it was written in some strange galaxy where integrity is valued more than an evite to an open bar Fat Joe listening party. And that galaxy is called… 2004? It was Earth all along?!

[1] Especially the blog arm to one particular print publication of fading relevance.
[2] Uh that’s blind carbon copy, not Boot Camp Click.
[3] Or, hell, start their own. Let’s play guess which long time rap bloggers hold 9-5s at major labels.

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27 Responses to “A Labyrinth, A Maze (3): Debunking The Myth Of Blog Payola”

  1. eskay Says:

    I’d say this post is pretty accurate except for #2. Of course, I can only speak for myself. I don’t do interviews, I rarely attend listening sessions, and I can count the number of times a major label has actually sent me a big single or song before I obtained it from other sources, on one hand.

  2. Thun Says:

    Well said.

  3. nail on the head Says:

    “…there are hugely successful rap blogs whose front pages almost perfectly mirror my email inbox.”

  4. J DIRRT Says:

    I really don’t feel that bad about being unpopular after reading this.

  5. MAYNHOLUP! Says:

    dis sum rill talk noz. aldoe de title had mah hopes up dat dis wud be anudder remix or sumthin uv dat Lost joint by zoe!

  6. Paine Says:

    Accurate. Thank you for writing it Noz.

    This is what the system has wanted to see happen, and in my opinion is… I visit sites with opinion, with voice. Those stay in my bookmarks, such as Cblunts, NahRight, Grand Good, Philaflavor, so on and so forth…

    My beef with all this is that, after 10 years in this of interviews, reviews, news, research, and new media in a traditional format, a lot of these newjack label folks, weed carriers and self-appointed “marketing consultants” aren’t interested in real press content, or real strategy. It’s just “post this, post this, post this,” and so much of the promotional content is being controlled by the people who are trying to sell us the album. I hate “webisode” and “trailer” and “snippet.”

    Think this is why few new artists have any lasting power, or audience interest?

    Not to mention I can’t even get an album, a promo, anything from half of them anymore, but they think they Hip Hop lives in a Sendspace file… and collectively (blogs, online magazines, print) do more for 90% of these projects than anybody – radio, TV, outside media.

    Asher Hamilton must have been made for computer speakers and earbuds. Says a lot.

    I applaud all the blogs, writers, and thinkers that are being original, opinionated and making this shit fun in between the cracks of blasts, leaks and all these really un-interesting label action verbs.

    Maybe they’ll love me when I fade to black.

  7. Tree Frog Says:

    Solid, solid set of thoughts.

    And that Maynholup comment is hilarious.

  8. Jay (d)eff Kay Says:

    “A lot of bored day job motherfuckers are wasting company dollars, hitting refresh, waiting for something new.”

    HEY, I WAS ON BREAK, OK?

    great read. I gotta ask though: what do you think is really breaking these artists? or maintaining their work for that matter? TV doesn’t seem to doing much. Print every now and then seems like it might be doing a little with legitimate journalism, but it doesn’t seem to be selling as much. Radio?? Maybe. I’m in Canada (Degrassi fans, stand up), so my opinion of hip hop radio is severaly meh. Its obvious its much better over in the states in terms of coverage, but how much better in quality coverage?

    Is it good old fashioned touring and street promo? (again canada, permanent parka weather, Degrassi: the next generation’s on, I wouldnt know)

    I completely recognize the disconnect between the rise of actual rap careers and their blog umm fame, but there’s great stuff out there on blogs celebrating both new and old artists with a certain degree of depth that I personally haven’t seen radio or tv doing.

  9. Aqua Says:

    Has there ever been a “blog rapper” to find genuine success outside of the Internets? I don’t mean having a record in store or even getting corporate sponsorships—but an artist that’s become a legitimate star where people who aren’t necessarily fiending for the latest “exclusive” won’t give you the *blank stare* when you mention said artist?

    I ask because most rap stars, or simply artists who are actually talented, release dope material and eventually register with says cats in barbershops, corners, outside of class, etc. aren’t going to be stuff in the Internet bubble, unlike most “blog rappers.”

    And like Paine said many of these New Media cats just don’t get it. Maybe it’s too many bloggers going for the okee doke or label reps just trying to get a check (probably both), the result is a flooded inbox.

    Hopefully they’ll actually read Noz’s post and take heed. Doubtful…

  10. Werner von Wallenrod Says:

    I agree with all this; but I think there are some blogs that are just waiting, hoping desperately for some payola offers. ;)

  11. david Says:

    NO MONEY IS EXCHANGED ..BUT MASSAGING OF BALLS HAPPENS QUITE OFTEN (YES HOMO)

  12. deej Says:

    “The internet is a democratic utopia where everyone can call a nearly anonymous rapper a fagg and feel like they are contributing.”

    why u gotta call out the transient like that

  13. barns Says:

    thats whats up noz. right on to the real.

  14. deej Says:

    ahaha that ny times article is hysterical

  15. brandonsoderberg Says:

    Excellent post. I think the days of payola are long gone and yeah, it’s been replaced by this circle jerk, but still–and this is a genuine question– what makes Asher Roth the big-name vs. other assholes? It’s not exactly payola but it’s something…how’d he get to where he was so that his name and music became important to blog about…

  16. tHe tRaNsIeNt Says:

    u need 2 fall back david drake
    i dunt call rappers faggitz
    i call bloggaz and comment section regularz faggitz
    u see whut im sayin?

    dunt make me put an end 2 yo career
    i got dj drama’s scalp when i run him off xxl
    and i knocked faggit ass tray outta tha game last week
    one mo’ word outta yo fingaz and u gonna be next

    sergdunn tha real brainz at somanyshrimp anyway
    u just a flunkie
    a faggit ass former sage francis board member flunkie at dat

  17. Baltimore Says:

    NAHRIGHT IS WACK…They be hating on the south…I like CBRAP and BLVD ST the best

  18. barns Says:

    when we gonna get that secret machines track?

  19. Drizzle Says:

    “The internet is a democratic utopia where everyone can call a nearly anonymous rapper a fagg and feel like they are contributing.”

    one of the best descriptions of the internet i’ve come across on the internet

  20. dave quam Says:

    Liking these write ups a lot Noz, but I’m a bit confused what you mean with the link to the best of Gucci?

  21. Travis Says:

    Girl, what do you mean you don’t recognize me? I’m only the most famous blogger in your apartment complex….

    Nice write up Noz. I feel so out of the loop, I didn’t realize I was supposed to be getting paid for this shit, silly me.

    And #4 hits it right on the head.

  22. noz Says:

    “Liking these write ups a lot Noz, but I’m a bit confused what you mean with the link to the best of Gucci?”

    The point is that Gucci has pretty much been the most popular rapper in most of the country for a long while and mots of these blog cats only recently began to acknowledge his existence.

    “Girl, what do you mean you don’t recognize me? I’m only the most famous blogger in your apartment complex….”

    You’d be surprised how often that works.

  23. dave quam Says:

    i dig

  24. deej Says:

    “sergdunn tha real brainz at somanyshrimp anyway
    u just a flunkie
    a faggit ass former sage francis board member flunkie at dat”

    lol where do u think i got to know serg

  25. deej Says:

    & btw fuk u transient, what are you contributing to any of this shit

  26. deej Says:

    u e-stalking creep

  27. THE HOBBYSHOP HERO | DUTCHMASSIVE Says:

    This was A good read of stuff the crosses the minds of well……. Bloggers

    From 92-97 The TV (Yo MTV RAPS, The Box, Rapcity) were supportive of dope music, and A pretty diversified and abundant amount of videos would be played during a show.

    The Radio Stations werent the greatest, but when the sun fell, Collage radio and Community radio would play hours upon hours of classics

    Even the Magazines were full of dope content…..

    97-2003 Dope hiphop went pretty much internet only….. Sites like Sandboxautomatic, hiphopsite.com, Ughh, Atak , etc were filled w/ amazing Records

    But it seems w/ the rise of Myspace, also came the rise of the the superbloggers and the past 2 years alot of cats recycle the same posts w/ the same “cool crowd” artists just to generate traffic.

    I’ve actually have gone from Fan, to Recording Artist, to Producer, to Doing everything myself, (except Djing) which led to me starting A website (Blog) ….

    But instead of busting off 12 posts a day of all the stuff thats new or “cool” I specifically post only content Im personally feeling alot. Which leads to longer and more beefed up and feature filled posts and less quick notes w/ 1 song and picture that everyone has and the same headline…….

    I’ve noticed the blogs or websites that seem to be more so involved w/ their personal taste rather than whats just hot for the moment (or second now that we are a society of tweeters) haha

    Like this post was personal, w/ quality content and now its generating comments (detailed comments) but honestly……..

    There are sooooo many Blogs, Sooooo many Recording Artist releasing music and now just random kids making music as well….. but the thing ive learned over the years is this, Play what you like, listen to what you like, Skip what you dont, and move on to something else you do like..

    ok, well its 8:39am and Ive now just broke 26 hours and need some sleep…

    To sum it up, your heading to dead on…..”A Labyrinth, A Maze”

    Pe@ce

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