Call me “Dr. Dre” from now on
Josh Levin compares rappers to bloggers in Slate: Essentially, blogging is sampling plus a new riff. Political bloggers take a story in the news, rip out a few chunks, and type out a few comments. Rap songs use the same recipe: Dig through a crate of records, slice out a high hat and a bass ...
Essentially, blogging is sampling plus a new riff. Political bloggers take a story in the news, rip out a few chunks, and type out a few comments. Rap songs use the same recipe: Dig through a crate of records, slice out a high hat and a bass line, and lay a new vocal track on top. Of course, the molecular structure of dead-tree journalism and classic rock is filthy with other people’s research and other people’s chord progressions. But in newspaper writing and rock music, the end goal is the appearance of originality—to make the product look seamless by hiding your many small thefts. For rappers and bloggers, each theft is worth celebrating, another loose item to slap onto the collage. Rap music and blogging are populist, low-cost-of-entry communication forms that reward self-obsessed types who love writing in first person. Maybe that’s why both won so many converts so quickly. If you want to become MC I’m Good at Rapping, all you have to do is rustle up a microphone and a sampler. If you want to blog as AngryVeganCatholicGOPMom, bring a computer, an Internet connection, a working knowledge of Ctrl-C and Ctrl-V, and a whole lot of spare time. Although bloggers and rappers are free to write about whatever they damn well please, they mostly talk to each other and about each other. That’s partly because it’s so easy to communicate with your fellow working professionals. If Nas disses you for not having a moustache, it’s easy enough to come right back and tell him you slept with the mother of his child. When Markos from Daily Kos offhandedly admits that he doesn’t read many books, Little Green Footballs steps up to hammer the softball. But rappers’ and bloggers’ self-importance also has something to do with the supremely annoying righteousness that rides along with those who believe they’re overturned the archaic forms of expression favored by The Man—that is, whitey and/or the mainstream media. Ninety percent of rap lyrics are self-congratulatory rhymes about how great the rapper is at rapping, the towering difficulties of succeeding in the rap game, or the lameness of wanksta rivals. Blogging is a circle jerk that never stops circling: links to posts by other bloggers, following links to newspaper stories about bloggers, following wonderment at the corruptions and complacency of old-fashioned, credentialed journalism.
Sampling, cutting, pasting, and then writing a few short words of commentary? That b**ch Levin don’t know what the f*** he’s talking about. [Fo’shizzle!–ed.] [Did Levin get the “circle jerk” meme from Bill Keller–ed. Beats me. Speaking of Keller, however, Jeff Jarvis has posted his ongoing correspondence with the New York Times Executive Editor. Oh, and Slate has added a new feature, Today’s Blogs — which appears to be a useful compliment to their equally useful Today’s Papers feature.] UPDATE: South Knox Bubba has his own retort to Slate.
Daniel W. Drezner is a professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. Twitter: @dandrezner
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