Internet Hangover: This Dude’s Book is Hip-Hop Album of the Year

Every Monday, FADER editorial director Peter Macia will ease in to the work week by writing semi-extensively and somewhat incoherently about something that is making his head hurt. This week, he calls for the dissolution of the hip-hop nation in favor of a loose coalition of independent parties, including one that includes David Shield’s Reality Hunger: A Manifesto.


Someone somewhere on the internet recently said that FADER should have put Mos Def or Fashawn on the cover of our new issue instead of Nicki Minaj. Someone else wondered, after seeing Drake and Minaj on the cover of two of the last three issues, why we were paying so much attention to Young Money. We get these kinds of criticism pretty regularly, no matter who’s on the cover, but rather than try to appease the protestors, or even answer their complaints, our move has always been to ignore them and do whatever we want.

In this spirit, I would like to propose that we officially separate hip-hop, rap, Auto-Tune, whatever Waka Flocka’s doing and anything else remotely related to Kool Herc and create some new genre so everyone can lead separate, happy lives under the same roof, much like Woody Allen and Mia Farrow did for many years. I’m not the first to suggest this, but I’m happy to be the latest. We the people who listen to music descended from original hip-hop have reached an impasse not dissimilar to the current one being experienced by the conservative movement between moderates, right wingers and the lunatic fringes who think we should go back to the way things were under the founding fathers. The golden age! But where the latter deadlock can only lead to a sad reflection of our political landscape, hip-hop might actually benefit from some splintering. For too long, we’ve all tried to hold rappers and producers to subjective criteria that have very little, if anything, to do with the genre’s modus operandi—experimentation, appropriation and innovation—and it’s made the whole thing less fun. No one should ever be called a faggot for listening to Gucci Mane rather than Young Jeezy, that doesn’t even make sense. In fact, let’s just stop calling people faggot in general. Herb is funnier anyway, and I say that having several members of my family named Herbert, none of whom are herbs.

I’m old enough to have owned a brand new copy of Raising Hell on cassette, and I remember when DJs on the radio would actually argue over whether Kool Moe Dee or LL Cool J won a battle. Fuck that makes me sound old as fuck, but it was fun. Having some anonymous person on the internet refuse to acknowledge that Lil Wayne can rap is not fun. It is, in fact, not even worth responding to, so why even put us in the same imaginary website room? Isn’t this what niches are all about? Dividing us into our happy little places where we only have to care about what’s in front of us, the same way babies or puppies do? Let’s take it back to the essence, y’all. I want to be a baby hip-hop puppy. Put me in my pen and let me listen to Juelz and Juiceman back to back to back to back to back to back. A! AYE! A! AYE! A! AYE! A! AYE! A! AYE! A! AYE! And everyone else can sit in theirs and do what they like to do, and then every once in awhile we’ll wander out into the yard and chase beach balls around (pause… no NO PAUSE FUCK THAT).

I really do believe that this is the answer. We all must become our own verticals. Only god can aggregate us. To that end, here’s what I would like in my pen: everything. Alley Boy to the Wildcats end credits song, it’s all the same to me. T-pain: hip-hop. Big Daddy Kane, the current version: hip-hop. Paul Barman: hip-hop. The 40-something dude on the A train with the dirty purple faux mink bomber: hip-hop. Every time a little kid accidentally rhymes the last words of two consecutive sentences: hip-hop. And not in, like, it’s all part of the same culture and we should appreciate it: what I mean is that I actually really like all of this and don’t really care what anyone else thinks. And I’m pretty sure everyone else at FADER thinks the same way. There are people here who spend weekends downloading the entire Jacka catalog, who know can rap along to Project Pat songs that most people never wanted to hear in the first place, who think it is proof of divine intervention when an actor from Gossip Girl raps an entire Nicki Minaj verse for James Vanderbeek’s cell phone camera. Clearly, there is room in this world for many definitions of what does and what does not constitute hip-hop, or, per my proposal, whatever the new umbrella genre is.

I’d like to add the category of printed manifesto to this new genre, with the first entry being David Shields’ new book Reality Hunger. The first sentence: “Every artistic movement from the beginning of time is an attempt to figure out a way to smuggle more of what the artist thinks is reality into the work of art.” And then, for 224 pages, he collages personal anecdotes, unattributed quotes from other books and magazines, rap lyrics, critical reviews, answers from interviews, blog posts and many other things and isn’t afraid to manipulate any of it to fit his point, which is, this is how we think and consume art and culture now and our art and culture should reflect it. Everything used is credited in the back of the book, and like the liner notes of a sample-heavy album, you can flip back and check for every sample or you can just read through it and enjoy not knowing if it came from his brain or someone else’s because even it if it is sourced, Shields’ brain still sourced it. One of the longest entries in the book is a dissection of reality through Mobb Deep’s “Shook Ones Pt II.” At the end of it, Shields writes, “Realness is not reality, something that can be defined or identified. Reality is what is imposed on you; realness is what you impose back. Reality is something you could question; realness is beyond all doubt.” The entry before this is about Proust.

Reality Hunger is not a hip-hop book, though, not at all. It’s 617 entries of varying length, from single short sentences to page-long meanderings. It touches on everything from Survivor to Shakespeare to Shield’s own childhood. It’s all over the place, but its point and purpose is clear. The third-to-last entry pretty well sums it up:

Once upon a time there will be readers who won’t care what imaginative writing is called and will read it for its passion, its force of intellect, and for its formal originality.

Thank you! This is basically what I feel like typing in the comments section of every Lil Wayne song posted on TheFADER.com. When did rap fans become such formalist assholes? No offense. Just saying, it used to be a lot more fun to argue with you guys about whether 50 Cent was a bad rapper or truly great performance artist. Whatever happened to Gabe Said “We’re Into Movements” or, more generally, the days when the only people who actually expected what rappers rapped to be 100% true were parents and old people? Shields’ manifesto is a call to arms not just to the artists to be more creative, more innovative and more daring, but to art fans, as well, to be more daring consumers.

This doesn’t mean everyone has to like the way Nicki Minaj or Mos Def raps, it just means you have to do better than calling someone else an idiot and then saying what you like is better to prove that one is better than the other. You have to actually make an intelligent, or at least intelligible, argument. It can’t be, “Pizza is better than hamburgers.” No it’s not! You have to say, “I like pizza better than hamburgers because my grandmother is Italian and when I was five she made a Napoletana in the brick oven that my grandfather built for her by hand. Ronald McDonald makes hamburgers.” And then someone can come back and say something about hamburgers. Pizza and hamburgers both hold a very generic image in every human’s brain: in a flash, if someone says the words, you see “a hamburger” or “a pizza.” But almost every human, if given a moment to reflect, has a distinct memory of a very specific pizza or hamburger that informs his/her opinion of pizza and hamburgers, in general, and that specific pizza or hamburger is what they are referring to when they say “I love pizza” or “I love hamburgers.” So imagine for a second, that you’re sitting around with a bunch of people, some you know some you don’t, and some nice old lady brings out a platter of hamburgers and a pizza pie. You take a slice of pizza and out of nowhere some random dude yells super loud, “OH DUDE YOU ARE SUCH A FAGGOT.” That would, without a doubt, be frowned upon, and it would not only ruin the pizza/hamburger party, but IT WOULD RUIN YOUR SPECIFIC MEMORY OF PIZZA FOREVER.

So you see how being the dude who yells at people for no reason not only doesn’t prove why your something is better than something else, it actually makes everything worse. Except for books, because nobody reads them.

POSTED February 22, 2010 7:03PM IN INTERNET HANGOVER Comments (16) TAGS:

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COMMENTS

  1. Prill Prill says:

    Well played. Keep doing you, thefader.com, keep doing you.

    Prill Prill

  2. Whiz says:

    Aye, Peter these spoiled bitches are getting to many pizza and hamburgers for free now. This is shit is great, the realest shit you ever wrote! And yeah, fuck “guilty pleasures”, i don’t believe in them bitches. everything is everything, SLAP is SLAP!

  3. el rolio says:

    “We all must become our own verticals. Only god can aggregate us.”

    classic.

    And i agree. You guys helped me get away from my shame of Gucci Mane. But then again, I always told em that from 04 I was all about that ignorant music, cuz they got the best beats. And no one can stop me from Juelz. But you know, 2010 and peeps still talking this way? intelligent, eclectic tastes people? shocking.

  4. Steven says:

    I agree But it still doesn’t change the fact that most mainstream artist suck. Some of these artist aren’t even pushing for creativity. And you go and put Ms. “Lil Wayne writes all my songs and freestyles” on the cover. What you said is true but there gotta be a standard somewhere…

  5. Peter Macia says:

    But Wayne doesn’t even write his own songs and freestyles. I have to take Nicki at her word, which she gives us in the issue, that she writes her own lyrics because they’re too fitting of her personality to be written by someone else.

  6. Well played!
    The dirty secret your average hip-hop fan holds is that he/she can listen to both Gucci Mane AND Lupe Fiasco, and see the merit in both. They just feel like they cannot say so out loud, for fear that someone (the golden age police maybe?) will take away their ‘i’m-a-real-hip-hop-fan’ card. It is analagous in many ways to how a republican cannot be effusely pro-environment lest he be labelled not conservative enough. but he won’t say so. You are right to compare this o te struggles going on within the conservatives.
    The sad thing is, those poor sods are missing out on what is great about music in the first place: just enjoying it!
    Personnally I plan to keep one foot in the past (that’s what I grew up on after all), one foot in the present and a close eye on the future.
    Great article.

  7. Michelé says:

    Expecting eThugs to stop hating is like waiting for Dr. Dre to release Detox. It just ain’t gonna happen.

  8. Yeah! Though David Shields seems like a not so good place to start this (if it’s anything like his unfortunate book, “Black Planet”, I’d prefer he never discuss realness, etc again).

    Anyways, the sense I get from discussing rap with the type of people described in this essay is that I’m looking at the sky and I see it as one color and they see it is as another color altogether. Maybe not even a color but like some harring bone, polka-dotted pattern. To put it in perspective: I had a professor in college who said rap ended with Public Enemy. Nothing after that was good. Certain circles Kanye is cool and in others he isn’t. Wayne is, Nicki Minaj isn’t. etc. etc.

    One more thing–this sense of “better beats” or whatever, as the reason to like Gucci more than I dunno, Johnson & Johnson or something, is kinda missing the “it’s all hip-hop point” and catering to the “content” arguments made by a certain kind of rap commenter.

  9. DJ Bubonic says:

    Hip Hop is and will always be about the 4-elements. DJs, Emcees, B-boys & B-girls, and Graffiti. A rapper isn’t always an emcee. If your songs lack creativity or your own words you are a poser. A poser is not “realness,” therefor a poser can’t be real Hip Hop. Sorry Wayne…

  10. kevin says:

    i’m very opposed to creating new micro-genres. the unspecificity of “hip-hop” is very productive. it enables lots of weird connections, cross-overs, collaborations, and – yes- tensions. we don’t want to lose that!

    hip-hop classicists enjoy arguing about the 5(4?) elements. let them have their fun.

  11. Jim Jonze says:

    Maaaaaaan, this the shit I’m talking about. I’m w/ ya all day Peter. I’m into 90% of the hip-hop you guys post up here. For some reason though I’m only into 10% of the “rock” stuff. I don’t know. Maybe it’s b/c I’m not from NYC, but as I open-minded as I try to be, I just can’t relate to ‘Yeasayer’/'Animal Collective/’Vampire Weekend (although their new song giving up the gun is pretty good, but fucking Horchata? Jesus H. Christ)’.

    It sucks to say but even Lil’ Wayne will be here/stay relevant long after all these buzz bands fade away. Like will our kids care about the Strokes? Go back and look at past Coachella lineups. Bands that were a big/serious deal 2-3 years ago, and now no more than an industry joke. The closest thing we’ve had to a ‘Nirvana’ the past 10 years are the White Stripes, whom although I have much respect for, just don’t doing it for me as much as I wish they would. So……keep them rap shitz banging and try and in terms of the ‘Rock’ Shitz you guys feature – try for a second to open your horizons a little more and instead of featuring what’s hot on twitter this very second and in primarily in NYC clubs, think more timeless/sceneless/regionless and plain ol’ more authentic and less contrived. (somebody gotta dig up old high school yearbook pictures of all these dumbfuck indie bands dressing up in indian gift shop attire. someone gotta dead that trend quick).

  12. Peter Macia says:

    See, we were about to be comment friends until you doubted the importance of The Strokes. I could go on forever about that band. Who do you like that you’d like to see us be more openminded about?

  13. David Ryder says:

    For bands, check The Maldives (from Seattle).

    PS great post my man. I love hip hop.

  14. Anthony says:

    so having read this entire article, I have to say this does hit on one issue that plagues music in general, and yet is really not one of the larger problems plagueing hip hop as a singular entity. in fact this is really about pop music, and his argument seems to be that art-is art-is art, which is a viewpoint i would have to fully disagree with. and that’s not to say that everything doesn’t have it’s place (or that a person should be ostricized for their preferance), but not all things are created equally…and far too many “artists” really are not as such. not to clown on the south, but we’ve all seen waaay too many “artists” from the south creating songs with little, to no creative value. in this case it is not expression which is at the forefront but rather celebrity and fortune. as far as the author (and supposedley everyone at Fader) liking everything they hear, I would have to question how much they really love music, to where they listen to anything indiscriminantly. And while I am not inclined to judge a person’s character by their musical preference, I am more than happy to say that some music is complete crap