The Fight to Put a Hip-Hop Blog on the Map
In 2007, during the great blog creation period and also when rappers still thought ringtones were going to be career savers, multiple blogs sprouted up across the country with each one aspiring to become the next big blog. Problem was, out of the hundreds of rap blogs that sprouted, only ten or so truly matter when you open your Google Reader in the morning, looking for either new content to read or poach.
The rap game and the blog game are fraternal cousins, one of whom looking for the other to prosper and vice versa. Some bloggers decide to write up rules for posts, why they choose to cover certain artists and maintain a holier than thou mentality. By indirectly working in both fields, one as the blogger who writes this column on a whenever I can basis and as someone who notices rappers burgeoning inside of a rarely covered area, there really is no true answer to success in this industry.
Look, female & Hispanic rappers have it the worst in the genre based upon the fact that A) even as diverse as it is, rap fans still feel that rap belongs to black people (when white people have owned it since they started signing rap acts to labels) and nobody trusts female rappers unless they’re selling sex and B) female bloggers will infinitely get ahead of your typical male blogger because rappers like females who ask them interesting questions.
But how does one get ahead?
For a blog to get noticed, it has to curate the same sort of appeal a rapper would and that starts with home base. Since 2009, I’ve slowly found myself walking from venue to venue eating up gas mileage and the like to make sure an unreported area of hip-hop that once flourished seemingly gets the same sort of brand and appeal other major blogs spotlight. That city? Houston.
Like anybody who feels the need to be entitled in certain moments, I walked into a popular Houston haunt and began to look directly at the people I cover on a daily basis. They’re just like us; visit the same rap blogs that dominate ad space and bandwidth across the country while also hoping to be on one of those type sites. There is no real formula to be noticed as a rapper, much like there may be no real formula to be noticed as a blogger. It’s simply a case of attempting to find your niche in an already crowded market where in cities such as Houston – everyone feels like they should be famous already.
Most artists from Houston feel they’re under represented on the blogosphere and even in national radio. For argument’s sake, you can call Houston hip-hop the NBA player who was once a superstar after having a few under the radar years of solid productivity and then in a contract year put up monster numbers (2005) and had a steady decline ever since. Not a Gilbert Arenas before $100 million type of decline but the sort of decline that makes you wonder, hey, remember when that guy was good for 25+ a night?
The player will consistently tell you he’s still considered one of the best even though his trade value may not be as high as some areas (Chicago), his potential may be believe to be completely shut while others seemingly blossom every day (Los Angeles) and it isn’t the superstar who may be fading but can still will his team to a decent run in the playoffs (New York). Houston is Houston, plugged into the conscious but thanked merely for its past contributions and one breakout season rather than spoken of in a current state.
Even when it attempts to adapt to the current climate of hip-hop which is blog dominated and cherishes difference, Houston maintains its ground that a single niche (car & screw culture) will carry a would-be rapper to stardom. In reality, even the one artist (Kirko Bangz) who seems destined for life outside of the Lone Star State got there because of a gimmicky lead single and is now attempting to cut into a fan base that appreciates actual rapping as opposed to sing song hooks.
It’s scary to even mention the words “I’m from Houston” to anyone outside of its borders, namely for fear of the same old, same old that has been pressed and plastered in various national magazines as if that is all Houston has to offer. Is it regional bias? Can’t be considering that one Trae Tha Truth who is essentially using NWA tactics in promoting an album with national appeal to it (features from the likes of Scarface, Lil Wayne & more) has appeared all over the blogosphere even if he’s banned pretty much among Radio One’s national chain of stations.
Unlike California (2Dopeboyz) or New York (Nah Right, UHTN, Rap Radar) or even Atlanta for that matter, Texas doesn’t have that number one blog that has its artists filter in with new content day in and day out. Still relying on old school tactics of street value over net value, it becomes an interesting occurrence when you attend a concert in the city and 95% of the time, it’s filled with rappers who you didn’t even know were rappers to begin with.
Houston and Texas in general still is one of the rare places where the internet isn’t needed to become a success, which makes it more ironic when you hear artists wanting to get out of Houston or get out of Texas to make it. There may be no true way of ever defining success, especially in a day and age where everyone believes their successful on even the smallest of plateaus.
Maybe that’s what Houston loves its underrated nature now, its rappers continually mention past greatness and hope for the future to look the same but it’s the same story in other rap beds across the country. The more people recognize that Houston is making a dent then the obvious wave of appreciation shall come and then the ones who have been watching the gates will have those “I Told You So” faces for the world to see.
It won’t take just one single or one rapper to open that door, otherwise Big K.R.I.T.’s arrival from Mississippi would have let the world into the Sip with A&Rs and others walking over the Mason-Dixon in search of gold. Houston is active – it’ll just take a voice bigger than mine for the rest of the world to realize it.