What is the world without social media networks? Ask this to a teenager and they might tell you they can’t envision such a place. It could very well end their world. Ask this to a current Hip Hop artist, and they may tell you the exact same thing. Social media, most notably twitter, has provided hip hop artists with an omnipotent platform to promote not only their music but their thoughts and opinions. This medium serves as the golden key of promotion for artists of all genres. Not only can they garner their fans attention through posting new music, but they could also spill their thoughts into 140 characters and make headlining news. Of course, this doesn’t come bulletproof either. Many artists may find themselves at the center of a controversy due to one simple tweet. However, it usually isn’t a career suicide situation due to the existence of the delete button. The explosion of exposure has enabled many artists to grow their fan bases to unparalleled heights and connect to their fans in a way that had never before been possible.
These revolutionary outlets were never available to artists of the past. Could you imagine the Notorious B.I.G or Tupac with a twitter account? The answer is most likely no. So how was it that these MC’s were able to garner everlasting notoriety without logging on to twitter? Well, it’s because they spoke through their lyrics. In today’s day and age we look to see what our favorite MC has tweeted if we want their opinion on a mainstream issue. Back in the day fans would patiently await lyrics that expressed the artist’s soul or an interview which would have their ears glued to their radio. When an MC spits fire lyrics that depict a story, it is easier to remember because we are actually interested in what they have to say. Most of the artists today are expressing themselves via social media which has aided in the desecration of lyrical prowess, replaced by simple rhyming over catchy beats. So where is the line drawn?
Hip Hop culture has invested itself in the twitter world. A great example is the world of Hip Hop beef which has taken a virtual turn with the emergence of the World Wide Web. Rather than sparring over war drum beats with fiery lyrics, beefing MCs are more prone to take to twitter rants to air out their frustrations with another artist. This is all wrong. Hip Hop beef was farmed for the purpose of creating great adrenalin pumping music. Twitter beefs have only filled the Hip Hop game with unnecessary drama that emulates something out of the Bad Girls Club. Could you imagine Tupac and the Notorious B.I.G sending shots at each other through 140 word tweets? Never. The OG’s were upfront with their disapproval. During that time, subliminal shots reduced your credibility as a real Hip Hop artist.
At the same time, Twitter has done great things for the game as well. Hip Hop’s rising popularity in the world can be connected to attributes such as social media. An unhappy following is an unsuccessful artist. By staying connected to their fan bases more intensively, artists are now able to receive feedback quicker, which results in positive readjustments in their music. Some artists, with millions of people subscribed to their tweets rely heavily on their followers for advice. Just today for example, Nicki Minaj recruited 12.5 million of her followers to decide whether she would release “Va Va Voom” or “Pound the Alarm” as her next single and music video. Both songs went on to trend world-wide with scores of users weighing in on the question. In this sense, the artist is able to draw upon their fans and rely upon them for the course their music will take. Some find this beneficial while others see it as a way for artists to lose touch with their own instincts.
When everything is said and tweeted, the fact of the matter is that social media isn’t going anywhere. My only hope is that artists will stop solely relying upon these outlets to convey their emotions and rather will pump some of those feelings back into their lyrics. If artists can find a way to apprehend the promotional benefits of social media and discard the negatives such as over-exposure, they will be back on the path towards a real hip-hop culture. Although evolution of any culture is inevitable, the values of old school should never be lost or forgotten
~ S.J DiBenedetto (@SaysSal)