|When a person decides to become a writer, an intense humbling of the self usually occurs. Depending on the path the writer chooses to take, personal opinions and thoughts may be suppressed from the onset. However, some readers may rely upon your words - often to the point of law. It places the author in an awkward position. Do you write from a personal stance or do you make it technical? For the music writer, the decision alternates between being having a clinical or whimsical approach. More specifically, the writer who chooses to wield the pen for either hard facts or fun has the delicate task of making a readable, acceptable product either way.
I don't know what possessed me to take up the craft. I think it has much to do with the fact that I'm quite lazy. I don't move for hours sometimes when I'm writing. Truthfully, I like using my gift of words to say what I feel. I like the fact that my editors allow me a space to let my experiences and thoughts take a life of their own. I don't profess to attempt to change the world by writing Confluence, but I do enjoy giving a small part of myself and making something I'm told people enjoy. The joys of being a columnist!
I struggle with telling people that I write sometimes. I hate to come off "snobbish", as if my being a writer makes me a bit cooler than the next person. It really doesn't. Other people make more of it than I do, not that I don't appreciate it. But what's bothering me lately is the "I'm an authority/I'm critical" writer. You know this character. He or she usually lambastes other writers for sport. It happens amongst black writers most of the time it seems. Perhaps I'm not attending enough coffee shops, but I can't think of too many black writers that aren't critical of one another. I've even groaned at an article or three (or six) in my day. However, I would never charge the writing community I'm part of to change their ways. I know how difficult it is to put words onto the paper. The battle with your critical self is enough; you never factor in the outside critics.
I'm a hip-hop fan - scratch that - I am a hip-hop proponent. That's not a big secret around these parts. Much of that comes across in my writing and lifestyle. I don't think it influenced my decision to become a writer as much as it inspires a lot of the content of my writing. I've had the good fortune of making several attempts to "find" a voice as a writer. I've done my fair share of interviews of hip-hop artists and the like. I've had plenty of pieces that ended up being rants. Either way, the opportunity has been valuable. However, I do not enjoy the title, "Hip Hop Writer". It sounds so silly to me. Who died and made you ruler of the B-Boy Kingdom? I simply write, so that's what I am - just a writer. Nothing ahead of that, please.
Talib Kweli once said to me in an interview that artists don't need to dumb down their content because people aren't stupid. I agree fully but I think some writers provide the content they're expected or instructed to do in regards to the reading audience. Many music magazines are filled with writers of varying talent levels. You can thumb through Vibe or the Source and just play "point out the flaws" with ease. I try to just appreciate the articles that I want to read and keep it moving. I don't do the usual F*#! The Source!" routine that's become the fly thing to do when you're a young black writer. I used to read the Source religiously. I don't as much now but not because I don't like it; it's just that I discovered that the Internet has plenty of free content and I'm cheap. (The inner frugal b-boy wins again.)
The hip-hop fan wants his or her information quickly and matter-of-factly as possible. I'm finding that not all fans of the hip hop genre look to be schooled into a higher consciousness by a writer's piece within these magazines. Yes, some writers tend to be as zealous as the fans or write a piece that misses all the points. I think that people realize it is a music magazine they're picking up and not the Washington Post. You expect strong, hard-hitting and ethical journalism from a paper like the Post; you don't pick up Vibe and think that it will be water-cooler discussion material. You're fine with the fact that this is a glossy, glitzy, high fashion and musically influenced magazine. You don't use it for notes on your exit thesis. You read it because you simply feel like it. Yet there are some snobs who would think you're the filth of the earth for reading mainstream music magazines. They will hold lengthy debates with you on why you shouldn't support the magazine and what needs to be changed within it - to their own lofty standards. I don't have to tell you that most of these folks do little to subvert the trend beyond complaining.
To ask music writers - whether the focus is hip-hop, rock or otherwise - to change for the public is taking away their basic freedom of speech and expression. Why can't we trust the people's choices to read and be affected by what they want? Why must there be some music writers "hall of justice"? I hope that any person who decides to declare themselves an authority on music writing better full well know what legs they stand on. Analysis of the music writing craft is a bunch of hot hogwash. Why won't we just let the words be what they are without long-winded exchanges? It's not nuclear science. Then you have folks commenting on the craft that either make "insider" claims (usually known as the "I used to be so-so's cousin's roadie" character), or just come off so painfully out of place that it's baffling. Some of them don't even focus on music yet still feel as if they're entitled to change our views.
What do I offer? I don't offer anything because I don't think anything is wrong. Just like there are certain types of purchases a person will or will not make, the same goes for music publications. If someone wants to read about how many pairs of shoes MC Blab-a-lot owns, it's on them. If you don't care, then you don't concern yourself with it. It's that simple. As far for writers, all we need to worry about is our next sentence. Other writers aren't policing our journals so why should we want them to stifle their craft? Diverse voices are a good thing; we all don't want to sound like those "authorities". But what do I know? I'm just a writer.
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