Why do fans of independent music – or “real hip-hop”, as they like to call it – get so upset at people who enjoy listening to mainstream music? Why is it so bad that people like to listen to Gucci Man?
These fans will say “there’s no substance”, or they’re “not really saying anything”. Music is entertainment. It’s whatever a person wants it to be. Not everybody wants to study their music.
Let me ask you – do you watch Family Guy? How would you feel if someone called you “stupid” or “sheep” because you weren’t watching documentaries? What if they told you that you should be watching the Congressional Hearings instead of the Yankees-Red Sox game? You’d reply that you aren’t interested in politics and that you work all day and just want to come home and relax and laugh.
Yet, then you’ll turn around and tell someone that they should listen to MF Doom instead of Waka Flocka Flame or else they’re ignorant. Starting to see the hypocrisy? Music touches people in very different ways and serves a unique purpose for each individual person. Some people listen because they want to connect with the words. They want to hear the struggle and feel the pain. They want to dissect and analyze every line. They follow the artist’s life. They search for artists with whom share a similar struggle so they can connect.
Other people listen to music simply to, well, just listen. Crazy concept, I know, but not everybody wants to analyze lyrics or even think about them. They want to bop their head to a good beat, recite the last few words of every few bars and sing along with the chorus. Guess what? That doesn’t make them any stupider than you are for watching Simpsons reruns and laughing at their ignorant jokes. My wife doesn’t study lyrics. She likes throwing on whatever’s new and singing along in the car. Does that make her “stupid”? There are a lot more casual listeners than there are hardcore fans who’s study the music. It’s the same reason why Friends gets way higher ratings than the History Channel.
Yes, some people become part of the music. They connect on an intimate level, and it’s a beautiful thing. Just like some people watch television to learn, not just to pass time. There are many people who feel like watching comedies and fictional shows are nothing more than a waste of time. They’re entitled to that opinion, but should they judge you for not feeling the same?
Like I mentioned in a previous blog – making a hit record isn’t easy. Those that can successfully do it have a completely different skill set than the rapper who’s lyrically superior, but only touches a niche audience. It’s a skill that isn’t necessarily respected by everyone, just like Lupe’s lyrics probably sound like babble to people who would rather listen to B.O.B.
But who are we to tell the million plus people who pay for a Lil’ Wayne album and call the radio stations and fill the stadiums that they’re wrong for liking him. How can we realistically say that when our favorite artists have trouble selling out small local nightclubs because we won’t pay to attend? When the majority of us are downloading their music for free? What makes the opinion of ten thousand people who might buy an Elzhi album more important than the million of people who financially support the artists that we love to condemn?
To blame the labels or radio is a copout. Why does radio play Drake more than Black Milk? Because Drake generates revenue. He drives ratings, which increases advertising buys. They know they can promote a Drake concert on-air and it’ll sell out. It goes back to what I said in a previous blog – look at things from the other person’s perspective, not yours. Sure, you like listening to Saigon. Well, the great news is you can. You no longer need turn on Hot 97 and wait for them to play your favorite artist. You can load up all his songs and listen on your iPod. You can stream it from Spotify. You can create a Pandora playlist.
See, that’s where the root issue is. It has nothing to do with wanting to hear your favorite artist. It has to do with you wanting to feel smarter than everyone else. You want to feel like you’re the smart one for listening to this intelligent artists instead of what all the sheep listen to. You want that artist to become mainstream just so you can say “I told you so. I knew it all along”. It’s about ego. You want to be right. You complain about the radio being terrible but then celebrate when your favorite artist signs with a major label or lands a collaboration that might “get him spins”. It’s 100% about ego and zero about wanting to hear him. It isn’t like if your favorite artist gets a song spinning on mainstream radio, you’re suddenly going to turn on Hot 97 all day waiting to hear it.
If you want the landscape of music to change, then change it. You’re the consumer, you have all the power. Call radio and request an artist. Buy their music. Attend concerts and buy merchandise. Write letters requesting them and support them on every website and blog that you can find. Invest time into the artist. Show that there’s a strong interest.
Or don’t – but then don’t complain.