David Hepworth: Why the revolution in digital distribution has made delivery of news, music and entertainment more significant than the content
This is almost total horseshit - a lot of third-hand observations about social media, some of which are sometimes true about some things, wrapped around a really TERRIBLE example, a record that was the subject of passionate, sustained conversation among its main audience, with major ripples beyond. And maybe - just maybe - a 50something British white guy isn’t part of that audience, isn’t the best placed to judge how much “impact” the record had or how “important” it was to people. (Though simply by virtue of being on Tumblr this 40something BWG managed to twig that SOMETHING was up.)
No, the problem here - and I’m not even talking about Hepworth here, bad as the article is it’s a symptom, a symptom of something I suffer from too. An open letter to me, then.
The problem is that you hit a certain age and you stop doing the work. You assume that if conversation’s not happening amongst your ossifying set of professional contacts, it’s not happening anywhere. You imagine that your contributions are such that you will know what’s up by right, by licking a finger and sticking it into the air and sitting back down on your arse and re-typing something you once read about the internet.
Though, OK, “The revolution happened in distribution”, that’s a fair starting point. You can work from there. You can think about what that means for how stars present themselves, for how people become stars, for whether “singles and albums” are the best way of thinking about what a pop star does, about the art, the presence, “the content”. Though in this record’s case, there is content to spare. Maybe get specific and talk about how Beyoncé in particular is a really fascinating figure in this shift, coming up in the CD boom heyday and adapting (unlike almost any of her peers) partly by trying new things out.
What does it mean - just looking at the simplest, most public facts - that musicians dominate Facebook and Twitter fan scorecards, that music is so enormous on YouTube? You could take the analytic route - try and work out what the half-life of a song, or a video, is these days. Or you could take the journalistic route, find the people who Beyoncé means something to - something bad, something wonderful - and bloody ask them.
It’s not just lazy. It’s fine to get lazy. I can’t keep up any more, that’s just a fact. You don’t stop being useful - I hope! - you become more of a historian, turning your eye on the past a little more. Maybe use your experience as a scalpel on the times you lived through, not as a weapon against the present? No, fine, you don’t have to do that at all, if the present sucks people should say so. But not so ahistorically. When distribution shifts, exciting things happen. We can look at the history of radio, Dansette record players, sheet music, MTV, as evidence for that. Look for what’s changing. People aren’t mugs, or no more than they ever were. Look at why they care. Don’t trust yourself so much.
The Sri Lankan founder of Murder Dog tells how a small Bay Area magazine became one of hip hop’s most influential reads.
Iggy Azalea stans were all up in my Twitter feed yesterday, pissed over the 4/10 review I gave The New Classic in NME. I wasn’t the only one who found TNC lacking. Rolling Stone gave it 2.5/5, the Guardian dubbed it “hit-and-miss” and Spin dismissed it as a “stone cold dud”. Ouch. I don’t know if she’s responded to the crits, but she clearly felt a way about my review:
So, for complete clarification, here are the facts.
Firstly, despite what Azalea says, the idea that I harbor any “extreme hate” for her is laughable. I just think she’s a weak rapper with shady race politics. I made this plain back in 2012 and I wasn’t alone. Plenty of critics, WoC and PoC in particular, have called out Azalea’s abuse of [and refusal to address] her white privilege in this post-Macklemore rap age.
It should be no surprise that people are doing this, given her epic list of fuck-ups: the faux dirty south accent; that ridiculous spat with Miley about who pioneered twerking [umm, that would be PoC, right?]; the exploitation of women and children of colour as props in that hella problematic rebooted video for Pu$$y; the appropriation of Indian culture in the video for Bounce; the straight-up racist Tweets about Indian, Asian and Mexican women; the unforgivable lyric about being a “runaway slave master” that had Azealia Banks up in arms. Azalea has messed up plenty, and cried white tears every time she’s been called on it. EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. Just own yr ish, ma!
Secondly, some of the stans demanded I delete http://piggyazalea.tumblr.com. I can’t, because its not my account. They also complained I spent most of the NME review talking up the drama rather than the album. Its called context, fuckwits. This is her debut, so her origin story and all that infamy is key.
Thirdly, believe it or not, I genuinely hoped that she’d up her game on TNC. Contrary to this dude’s laughably uniformed opinion, I’ve been a hip hop fan since day, and have hustled hard to rep for female rappers, be they rising or established. I event wrote a column, How Many Mics, dedicated to celebrating women in hip hop. My rule as a critic, which should be universal, is simple: no bars = no love. The fact that Azalea’s a white rapper isn’t an issue for me. The fact that she’s a mediocre rapper who’s been dragged over her abuse of privilege and still plays the victim is.
Azalea’s whiteness grants her a privileged otherness in her adopted rap world, yet she’s consistently claimed there are “no cheat codes” to rap success, complains that the homeland she’s so publicly disavowed shows her no love and whines about being made to feel the outsider when veterans like Eve refuse to give her props:
“I’m not mad at [Eve] for not understanding it. How could you if you’ve never been ostracized or loved something you weren’t suppose to love? Everything you’ve loved you’re allowed to love, so, how could you understand me? Thus, how could you know if it’s real?”
Azalea trying to school a WoC about barriers is peak whitesplaining. Her whiteness is a privilege in hip hop because it is a privilege everywhere. Especially in this rap sphere, where it has worked to her advantage, because white girls with whooty are not the new classic – they’re the new exotic. Word to Kara Brown. For someone who has had to “defend her work” and fight for “acceptance and credibility” because of her whiteness, Azalea’s done fine: a major label record deal, a modeling contract, co-signs from a T.I. and the accolade of being the first female emcee on the XXL Freshman cover – and all before her [wack] debut dropped! Her whiteness hasn’t hindered her at all – it’s made her a commodity. She is a minority in hip hop because she has chosen to operate in a traditionally black sphere. This is what white privilege means: CHOICE. It means being free to move between spheres at will, to choose where you exist, where you play, where you make bank. It means having the power to capitalize on the artistic legacies of oppressed minorities, knowing you can exit that sphere on your own terms and rely on the safety net of your white privilege should you tire of your adopted minority status.
Until Azalea comes correct – with solid rhymes and a respectful, nuanced understanding of this world she wants so badly to be accepted by – she’ll continue to fail.
“Bitchy" by Gangsta Boo & La Chat ft. Mia X
Lord above, this bangs! It pains me to even admit that this is a reality, but at 34 and having already enjoyed a first tour with Three Six Mafia, Gangsta Boo and La Chat are considered rap retirement age. Mia X is 44; even Missy Elliott isn’t 44. This makes “Bitchy” even more salient; a rare glimpse at what rap sounds like after a woman has lived in it for nearly two decades. “Bitchy” is universally relateable lyrically, but all three women are obvious vets - Gangsta Boo spins her flow tight and loose, indecipherable in moments where the sound of her voice over the beat is just candy, but clear on lines like “I got my own money but I’d rather spend his,” Mia X growls with authority and it’s no pretense. These women rap and they rap like professionals because they are professionals.
As MG says, “Bitchy” sounds incredible, but what puts it over the top is the tremendous sense of camaraderie between the three artists: group cuts can be a great way to bring different voices and styles into a single song, but they also risk sounding like each verse got recorded in isolation and spliced together in the studio. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, I admit - “Fucking Problems” is incredible, despite the fact that there’s no sense any of the artists involved even made eye contact while recording their verses. But there’s a charge that comes from a song where the artists seem to be bouncing off each other the entire way through, where they’re as in sync as they are in “Bitchy.”
It’s in the way Boo, Chat and Mia shout out each other in their respective verses, in how each has a distinctive take on the same theme that complements but doesn’t overlap the others. And producer DJ Paul deserves credit here too, as the layered vocals foster the sense that you could be hearing this recorded live, the lead on each verse echoed by the other two on key phrases. “Bitchy” is a powerful song, an authoritative one, but it’s also undeniably fun to hear these three working together.
‘With its foreboding prom queen on the cover, accepting her award just before you presumed the blood would hit from above, Hole’s second album was the logical conclusion of their first: Love had been “pretty on the inside,” but now that she had become “miss world”.’
Julianne Escobedo Shepherd’s reading of Hole’s Live Through This cover [in Flavorwire’s 20th anniversary retrospective] got me thinking. It wasn’t so much the threat of an upturned bucket of pig’s blood I felt, hovering dangerously out of frame, but rather the beauty queen’s own madness – hidden and secret like wild, coarse hair pressed and lacquered into so many shiny, perfect pincurls. To me, the image of the teary-eyed girl clutching her prize spoke about the cost of respectable femininity and good-girl validation. This is the moment that all that obsession – the dieting, the purging, the plucking and shaving, the bleaching and whitening, the tanning, the clothes, the make-up and hair, the smiling, the curtsying, the rivalry, the swallowing of her rage and true self– is acknowledged and rewarded. This is the moment where she is queen of the high school pageant – better, prettier, more beloved than all the other girls – and it is in this moment, perversely, that the mask slips. Witness the hysteria burning at her eyes; the mascara streaking her cheeks; the mad yell of triumph spilling out of her mouth, drowned and silenced under a tide of applause. This is what it means to be Miss World – (ugly) pretty, (messy) perfect. This is the mad, ecstatic joy of the girl with the most cake, crazed in her elation. This is the lie of the reward system for good girls, the tiara and bouquet, the rot behind the polish. To win at femininity means a special kind of suicide. “I’m Miss World, somebody kill me.”
In the decade since releasing seminal punk record Coral Fang, former Distillers star Dalle has survived more than her share of hardships. Now she’s back with her first solo album – and a newfound maturity, writes Charlotte Richardson Andrews
My interview with Brody mthrfkn Dalle, in today’s g2Guardian. On rebelling, aging and surviving (or, “meth and motherhood” as the front page standfirst has it).