In Hip-Hop, when it rains, it pours. Lately, there have been flood warnings in YMCMB’s neck of the woods. They’ve endured one indignity after another over the past few weeks. Pusha T recently put a huge dent in their credibility with “Exodus 23:1.” Ever since the release of Take Care, Drake has become Hip-Hop’s favorite whipping boy. Now comes the coup de grace: Blatant disrespect from a gatekeeper at a major radio outlet. While on stage at Hot 97’s 2012 Summer Jam, DJ Peter Rosenberg dismissed Niki Minaj’s current hit “Starships” as “bullshit.”
Young Money’s fearless leader, Lil Wayne, took exception to this. He then accommodated Rosenberg’s sentiments by pulling Young Money completely from the Summer Jam line up. To be clear, Rosenberg’s actions were tactless and mean spirited. They reflect badly on Hot 97, and Nicki has every right to be offended. Furthermore, Lil Wayne had every right to stand behind his artists and pull them from the show. Why invite a popular artist to perform at a major event, only to slander them in front of the crowd an hour before they are to appear onstage and perform?
That being said, I agree with Rosenberg’s sentiments 100 percent. YMCMB sucks, and it’s high time that Radio DJ’s and journalists stopped being so bashful about saying so. I am not a fan of the Young Money camp. You might even call me a hater. I think Lil Wayne is easily the most overrated rapper of the last 15 years. Drake and Nicki have yet to apply themselves in a way that makes their skills truly undeniable. When focused, Minaj is a damn good battle rapper. Unfortunately, she’s opted to be Hip-Hop’s answer to Madonna and Lady Gaga instead.
To add insult to injury, there is also YMCMB’s collective reluctance to truly engage in that most basic of Hip-Hop rituals: Beef. Nicki answered Lil Kim back with a scathing verse, but let’s be real: The Queen Bee hasn’t been relevant in a dog’s age. She was on Dancing with the Stars, for Godsakes. Wayne’s light verbal sparring with Jay was anticlimactic. Both parties deny the existence of a true rivalry, only to play it up with subliminal taunts whenever convenient. Drake initially engaged Common in battle, only to back out upon realizing that the 40 year-old bohemian meant to make a swift example of him.
Now take all of the prior observations into account when considering the status that YMCMB has achieved in popular culture. This is the same crew that has dominated radio for the past few years. They’ve graced the covers of publications such as Rolling Stone. This is the same crew that has continuously labeled itself as the future of Hip-Hop. For better or worse, they’ve become the face of the culture to the larger world. Now, people are mad at Pete for pointing out the fact that the emperor has no clothes. What a damn joke.
Much of the anger directed at Rosenberg’s actions stems from his racial identity. He is both White and Jewish. In the eyes of many, that automatically negates any opinion he may have about the music. That notion is utter bullshit, especially in light of the fact that Rap music’s audience has been mostly suburban for the last 20 years. As long as white Hip-Hoppers are both respectful and knowledgeable, I see nothing wrong with them making their opinions known. It’s very telling that V-Nasty can call us Niggas with impunity, yet Pete Rosenberg can’t voice a negative opinion on Niki Minaj.
There is also the notion that no one, especially not a white guy or some salty old school New Yorker, can dictate what “real” Hip-Hop is. Granted, a culture should never be defined by the whims of self-styled critics and commentators. It should be allowed to remain free flowing and organic. However, I also don’t think that there is necessarily anything wrong with denoting certain songs and artists as not being “real” Hip-Hop. In fact, the overly liberal application of the term “Hip-Hop” does more damage to the culture than any number of elitist critics ever could.
I am reminded of George Carlin’s observations on the misapplication/misuse of the word “special” in regards to children: “Every child is special. What about every adult – isn’t every adult special too? …And if every adult IS special, then that means we’re ALL special and the whole idea loses all its fucking meaning!”
Pete Rosenberg’s comments, as well as articles like this one, won’t have any measurable effect on YMCMB’s bottom line. The music-buying public loves them. However, that shouldn’t be used to discourage anyone from speaking the truth as they see it. Neither does it place them beyond reproach. It’s time for YMCMB to put up or shut up. Prove your worth, or be regarded with the likes of every other immensely popular rapper or crew that has zero credibility in this culture. Respect, just like success, must be earned and maintained. One never negates the other.
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