Today I had a little conversation with the homie Amir in which we were talking about the “old” New York. You know, that scary place where people sold crack on corners and mugged people and shit. All that stuff that still happens rather rampantly in the farthest reaches of the outer boroughs, aka East New York. Sure, rich model broads and stockbrokers still do drugs I can’t afford, there is still a “peep show” sign here and there around Times Square area, and apparently prostitution is still a thriving and widely accepted business. But the city is definitely a happier, safer place, where people like me can walk home through previously warzone-like neighborhoods with relative ease. Not to say that I’m a wimp or even look very out-of-place, but I’m not exactly the type that looks like they’re going to fuck someone up.
My partner in conversational gem dropping then said this:
Say. Fucking. Word.
Rememeber when Suge Knight was dangling Vanilla Ice from a balcony? Or when Tru Life was on the streets running up in Mobb Deep’s studio and pistol whipping muhfucks? Actually, remember when Tru Life was on the streets at all?
Just like how there are good and bad sides to the gentrification and crime clean-up that NYC has seen in the recent years, there are good and bad sides to this twinkie softness creeping up not-so-subtly on rappers and their resulting rap shenanigans. I like to draw the metaphor of hipsters moving into Bushwick being the same shit as the internet changing up the music industry.
Once upon a time, Bushwick looked a lot like this:
And the people here looked like this:
Yeah, mad gangsta, and mad dead. In fact that’s a photo from 1979 at Joe and Mary’s Restaurant in Bushwick of the murder of noted Italian mafia associate Carmine Galante.
Anyway, Bushwick pretty much still looks like this. The main difference is that now the people that live here, especially in its western half, look like this:
And they opened businesses like Beauty Bar on Broadway, where the hip folk descend to drink cheaply and take photos like this:
A far cry from the drug wars and blight that was happening here a few decades ago.
Once upon a time, rap looked like this:
Come to think of it, pretend Ja Rule’s face isn’t on that, because I can’t forget about this song:
The utter irony in this is that he’ll be on his way to jail next month for two years on a gun charge. Someone give that man a hug (unless you’re his cell mate, please). I think he’s confused. Not that you can’t be a loving man and own a gun, I know a ton that do, but romping around as 2nd string talent to Jennifer Lopez in a music video to a song that conjures up images of butterflies and daffodils in my head? Not exactly Israeli-made desert eagle material.
Anyway, now rap looks like this:
With a dash of this:
And just as I enjoy being able to hit up Mr. Kiwi’s at Myrtle and Broadway 24 hours a day for vegetarian, organic, and overpriced goodness as much as I enjoy being able to kick it in music studios with little worry that I might catch a stray bullet in an elevator on the way out (“sick leave” doesn’t exist for a freelancer anyway so that would be extra, extra unfortunate), there is some extra soft shit going on now that could use a proper 1980′s style ass kicking.
Twitter didn’t exist in 1998. Neither did Worldstar, or if it did it wasn’t nearly what it is now. Messageboards were the vintage counterpart to comment threads. What was a nahright? Hell, what was a blogger? Picture messaging? Skype? All those picture/video/messaging services that give people like Kat Stacks ammo with which to fuel their fame?
Life was different. If you wanted to call someone out, you had to do it the normal way: in person. People got made examples of to teach them lessons. Now, in the present, on any given day I can go to my inbox and see a new email blast from VladTV about the latest C-List celebrity “Twitter beef.” If your beef can be contained in 140 characters, your beef ain’t beef. I’m callin’ you out like Taco Bell’s faux-beef. If your beef requires multiple tweets, your beef is actually a phone call you were too lazy to make mixed with a desperate need for attention. I think the latest one was Nelly and his old manager. Or the guy who was never really his manager. Or whatever the fuck they were saying. Hell, just a little while ago our favorite bald headed female Amber Rose took to the tweets to say “fuck Vibe magazine.” And what did Vibe do? The EIC released an official statement on their website, and then of course, twitter blasted it out. If this was 1998 you know what she would have done? Ran her bald and sexy ass into the Vibe offices and slammed that issue down on a desk and caused a fucking scene, behind the scenes. Or something. It wouldn’t have involved running straight to Twitter and hiding behind the safety blanket of public support in the form of retweets and the ability to delete something after you write it. If she wanted to take shit public, what she really would have done is run to one of the competing magazines and aired out her feelings about Vibe through a story with their journalistic foes.
Oh yeah, that’s so menacing and scary, and I’m sure they will retract the whole article and apologize to her. Except they didn’t, they stood by the article, so all this accomplished was drawing more attention to an article she doesn’t agree with. Way to go.
Bloggers have it out for eachother, one day I will refer to this era of the music industry as “The Keyboard Wars,” rappers who talk a tough game are getting aired out courtesy of direct messages by video vixens thirsty for some limelight to accentuate their baby oiled frames, and the worst enemy to record labels is now the advent of file sharing websites. And what does anyone do about it? Talk. Tweet. Email. I’m not saying that the era of violent rap beef should be reinstated, because killing people over the entertainment industry of all things is just ass backward. Killing people over anything is really a pretty shitty solution in most cases. But if people begin to think that they can just pop off at the mouth, in public at that, without getting properly checked for acting out of pocket? Shit is only going to continue to spiral more and more out of control.
In fact, when shit does hit the fan and some furniture starts getting thrown around and people are getting their ribs kicked in, people find it comedic now. Oh, these internet chumps finally got mad and stepped away from the mouse pads, eh? What a bunch of clowns, right? Nah. The clown shit is popping off at the mouth and using the internet to stir up problems. Maybe Suge Knight does need to come back through and regulate some of this shit. I don’t know. Just like the residual bad shit that still remains in Bushwick can have a plus side (like still being able to buy caffeinated Four Loko on the block and coming up on a $10 iPod deal from a crackhead), some of the sketchier shit in the rap business was keeping this recklessness out of control. Can you imagine the day when Sean Price shows up at some blogger’s door ready to punch their nose into the back of their neck for trashtalking him or leaking his album, or when Lil Kim actually girlfights Keyshia Cole off of Twitter on the streets of New York? Exactly.