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