Once upon a time in a universe far, far away, HipHopDX used to host blogs. Through Meka, Brillyance, Aliya Ewing and others, readers got unfiltered opinions on the most current topics in and beyond Hip Hop. After a few years, a couple redesigns and the collective vision of three different Editors-In-Chief, blogs are back. Sort of. Since our blog section went the way of two-way pagers and physical mixtapes, Twitter, Instagram and Ustream have further accelerated the pace of current events in Hip Hop. Rappers beef with each other 140 characters at a time, entire mixtapes (and their associated artwork) can be released via Instagram, and sometimes these events require a rapid reaction.
As such, we’re reserving this space for a weekly reaction to Hip Hop’s current events. Or whatever else we deem worthy. And the “we” in question is myself, Omar Burgess and Andre Grant. Collectively we serve as HipHopDX’s Features Staff. Aside from tackling stray topics, we may invite artists and other personalities in Hip Hop to join the conversation. Without further delay, here are this week’s “Stray Shots.”
Why were people so interested in Solange’s elevator attack on Jay Z?
Andre: Well, in short, because Jay Z is the coolest kid in Rap. Check that, the coolest business man in entertainment today. So to see him reduced to a one sided flurry of blows courtesy of his sister-in-law is not only hilarious, but culturally important. He’s always the straight man. Always Sinatra. So this incident changes the narrative a bit. It humanizes him in a way only a wayward fight can. There he is wearing Tom Ford, in an elevator with his wife who looks stunning in a garment hand made by old Sicilian seamstresses and even he is not immune to someone else’s fury.
In that way, it was glorious. But it also proves how close he will always remain to his brand. The man’s prophetic. “Look,” he said in typical Jay Z braggadocio “If I [assault you in an elevator], I’m brainless. If you [assault me in an elevator], you’re famous. So what’s a [man] to do?” What is a man to do? Especially since he called it some 17 years ago on a song aptly titled “Streets Is Watching.” So, even though he was caught off guard, he still played it cool. He nonchalantly caught her foot when she kicked at him, mostly out of concern for his Tom Ford suit, but still! With Jay, it’s always the ends that matter, not the means. And this was no different. So, yes, it was satisfying to see Hov get a little scrappy. In the rarified airs he travels in, a good old-fashioned close encounter is something he hardly ever has to worry about. I’m just glad she didn’t muddy the white tux. Now that would have been trouble.
But what was Solange thinking? Why was Queen Bey so cool about it all? And if we sent this to you in a script you would have ran us out of the room. The truth, as it stands, remains stranger than fiction.
Omar: Who knows what she was thinking? But this is going to go down as one of 2014’s most bizarre stories in Hip Hop. I think the prurient interest stems from a few things. First, this was peculiar to me because Jay Z has been going out of his way to project a regal image over the last six years. There have been events with President Obama and plenty of Basquiat talk to belie Jigga’s crack-peddling past. But all that took a backseat when some leaked security footage revealed the Carter Administration behaving like the main characters in a Tyler Perry flick. Solange was serving up Chun-Li-style kicks, while Jay alternated between trying to keep his cool and defending himself. And Beyonce stood there looking sedated like a Stepford Wife. It was weird, and that’s before you factor in the dozens of memes and litany of rumors speculating on what initially caused the elevator spat.
People like seeing Jay lose his cool because he rarely ever does so. I don’t think I’ve seen him genuinely agitated since “Super Ugly,” when he referenced skeeting in Carmen Bryan’s child’s car seat. Oh well. The trio of Beyonce, Solange and Jay has released an official statement through the Associated Press, and life will go on. The countdown has already begun as we wait for the next time a rapper does some dumb shit. It won’t take long.
What about the Kendrick Lamar sophomore album that never was?
Omar: I won’t pile on RapRadar for erroneously reporting on a Kendrick Lamar album named United States of A.L.A.R.M. that doesn’t exist. My evil twin, Rashad Phillips, once fell down an Okayplayer rabbit hole and falsely reported Little Brother was reuniting with a newly christened Def Jam deal. Oops. A few people did some actual reporting, got Phonte to go on record shooting down the rumor and made sure to shake a condescending finger at me during their victory lap. Shit happens.
Aside from the collective thirst for a new Kendrick album, I thought the most interesting part of this story was how TDE moves in what is a fundamentally flawed major label system. Top Dawg Entertainment touts their independence and autonomy, and the numbers from Isaiah Rashad and SZA’s latest projects support those boasts. But like any artist or label with intentions to profit from music, the marketing muscle of a major label partner (such as, I don’t know...Interscope) always helps. It’s a trade-off. The major label system is painfully slow even if said label is just a business partner and you don’t have to answer to them. It makes everything from single titles, artwork, radio placements and release dates a royal pain in the ass.
If Top Dawg’s statement of six new albums in 2014 is true, I’d be a happy and pleasantly shocked music consumer. SZA’s Z and Isaiah Rashad’s Cilvia Demo were dope, and the nature of their independent releases allowed the crew to avoid the snail’s pace at which the big three major labels move. But can that same strategy be implemented for the respective members of Black Hippy? Will we really see another Kendrick album before the ball drops on 2015? Does allowing fans to name Ab-Soul’s next album fall in line with the business strategy of the partnership between one of Hip Hop’s most interesting independent labels and the monolith that is Interscope? To me, all of those are more interesting questions than if someone bothered to verify K-Dot releasing a project entitled United States of A.L.A.R.M.
Andre: Internet media is so often about being first that it becomes a race to cover the story already broken. And rightfully so. The news cycle is furious and it demands your 24hr attention. Of course you can’t accommodate that beast, so sometimes stories slip out that are so hot you have no choice but to post it post haste. But your momma was right. All that glitters is not gold, and sometimes you bend down to pick up roses and you just find yourself with palms full of dirt. Such was the case when Rap Radar reported that Kendrick Lamar would be dropping the follow up to his classic debut LP in the fall called United States of A.L.A.R.M and everyone jumped on it. When Complex updated their story they reported that Rap Radar got wind of the story from a Kanyetothe forum, and Karen Civil dropped on Twitter that she remembered that hat from a Vibe magazinephoto shoot from some time ago.
Honestly, in a business where victory is almost completely dependent on speed these things are bound to happen. So let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water. It was a story we all wanted to believe was true: an new album from one of the most vaunted song maker’s and lyricist’s of our generation. So it turned out to be on untrue, but it did prove the thirst for the new Kendrick was at code Orange and climbing. So you know what? It worked. There’s a palpable buzz in the air about a possible new Kendrick project, and all it took was a pin prick of blood in the water for the frenzy to get going. So although T.D.E’s retOne had this to say:
— retOne TDE (@retOne) May 10, 2014
“I just look at is as a positive,” TDE Terrence “Punch” Henderson told XXL. “It builds anticipation. You know what I mean? If you’re not getting those types of things, the album not getting leaked and all of that, it shows that there's no anticipation.” Which, I think, is the better way to look at it. So is the Internet media perfect? Of course not. And always striving for accuracy is the goal of all journalism, but for me I was reminded that a new Kendrick Lamar album is supposed to drop this year and so we can’t be too upset.
Omar Burgess is a Long Beach, California native who has contributed to various magazines, newspapers and has been an editor at HipHopDX since 2008. Follow him on Twitter @omarburgess.
Andre Grant is an NYC native turned L.A. transplant who’s contributed to a few different properties on the web and is now the Senior Features Writer for HipHopDX. He’s also trying to live it to the limit and love it a lot. Follow him on Twitter @drejones.