What Happens To Talent When Listeners Ain’t Listening

In a recent discussion with the rapper formally known as Chaundon, a nostalgic hush fell over the conversation upon mentioning some of the amazingly talented artists that we no longer hear from on a regular basis. It led me to wonder, what happens to the gifted ones when people can no longer find them in the muck and mire of the current algorithm era. Where do they go and are they gone for good? Inquiring minds want to know…I want to know.

During what is now affectionately referred to as the “Blog Era” of music, there were unlimited amounts of phenomenal spitters surrounding us. The sweet spot of give and take between writers and artists allowed for artists to not only be discovered but to be championed as well if they were dope. Everyone understood their position and we all played them well. So, what the hell happened? How did we go from a strong supportive role for the underground and independent cats to a silence of sorts that sent them away?

And for that matter where did the writers go? I can sit here and recall all of my colleagues from that 2011 through 2015 or so era, but I’ll be honest, I don’t know what a bunch of them are doing now. We used to see one another at SXSW and A3C and it was like seeing your friends at Summer Camp as a kid. We looked forward to hanging out at shows and discovering new talent together. It was a blast and we looked forward to it every year. Upon further thought, I can’t remember the last time I was in a room with these people all at once. What happened? I decided to turn to some friends and colleagues for their best educated guesses on what became of the whole scene.

Former writer Jocelyn Noelle said, “We got pushed out for Influencers with a bigger following on social media.”

Current writer and Hip Hop historian Jay Quan agreed stating, “The power that bloggers and independent writers had in the 90s and early 2000’s was snatched by social media which gave everyone a platform, despite their qualifications or lack of.”

Still another former writer, Laurence Bass, chimed in and like the previous two, concurred that socials were the problem. Said Bass, “Social media cut out the middle man when it came to getting a story. Artists started speaking for themselves via their own emerging platforms and gained rapport (or disdain) from their fans with likes and shares ushering them into the limelight. Most bloggers have lowered the standard of good journalism as they print hearsay for clicks with very little research done before posting. As for the great indie artists, they’re still around. It just takes more time now to find them. Some, I think, just got tired of pouring themselves into their art with no results when the marketing of trending rappers who were heavy on image and featherweight in talent saturated the industry. It’s the age-old tale of style over substance, I guess. DatPiff was an outpost for the Curren$y and K.R.I.T. fans. I was able to get good music within and outside of my region for a while. I think another thing too is that local stations not in NYC, Atlanta, Chicago, Houston, LA, and The Bay failed to connect with local talent as they played what was poppin’ nationally.”

Former Rap writer Quibian Salazar-Moreno had some interesting takes saying, “I think many of us, or at least for me, couldn’t afford to be doing this thing “for the love” or low pay. We have families to support. And many of these outlets, aren’t paying living wages or rates, and honestly, probably can’t afford to. That’s why I pivoted to the video game space for so long. I passed the baton down to younger folks and cheered them on, but they went through the same thing. No matter how passionate you are, it’s unsustainable. Even if you try to launch your own thing, it takes time that sometimes you don’t have. And I’m talking about the type of writing I fell in love with in the 90s that I saw in The Source, VIBE, XXL, even Rolling Stone and Entertainment Weekly. Not gossipy Shaderoom, TMZ type of stuff.”

My brother Dart Adams had a few words to share as well. This conversation could never move forward without his two cents! Said Mr. Adams, ,”I was writing for Hip Hop Wired, The Urban Daily, The Boombox, The Stashed, etc. for between $50 and $150 dollars per piece for years working on a Net30 pay cycle. I got $150 from NPR in 2013 for the biggest piece of my career up until then. I got $600 from Okayplayer in 2015. When I was getting paid in excess of $2000 per magazine article and fact checking book fees a few years later and more working in film/television, I laughed when Okayplayer offered me couch cushion money.

Plus, covering indie rap was too time consuming by my mid to late 40s. I was in a new phase of my life and evolution.”

Artist William JS Tramontozzi felt that it was, “Mainly, social media destroying damn near everything, along with Serato and new DJ technology. 

First, Napster/Limewire stuff then Serato crushed sales of physical product. It absolutely destroyed the indie scene and forced the stores that catered to indie Hip Hop to close. In the ’90s and very early 2000s when you went into a record/CD store, you had several albums and singles there. Anyone who went in the store would see my albums and there were only a few dozen other choices from indie Hip Hop artists and DJs. I sold a ton of my 12”, and LPs. Today, we are forced to sell way overpriced, shi*ty color vinyl, and limited edition nonsense. Where I used to sell 5 K – 15,000 copies, now I’d only move like 300. Do not listen to idiots who say vinyl had its biggest-selling year. NOT in hip hop. 

This is NOT the indie scene we fought for. Anyway, I could rant for weeks. No one cares.”

I beg to differ with that last part, people care. They just don’t seem to know what to do about it. We all sit around and complain but can we do anything to change it, can it be salvaged? I sure hope so.

So, I’m sending up the proverbial Bat Signal to those who have a voice that we are missing. We need you! Brownbag Allstars, Chaundon, YC the Cynic aka Kemba, Homeboy Sandman, Tanya Morgan, RoQy TyRaiD, L.A., Lyriciss, Senica Da Misfit (posthumously), Soul Khan, Son Real, Writtenhouse, The Bodega Brovas, Murs, Bishop Lamont, Top $ Raz, DaShawn Supreme, Prince Po, Fashawn, Eric Sosa, The Audible Doctor, Jeff Spec, DMNQ LNDN, Signif, Blax, St. Basil, Koncept, Silent Knight, J-Live, Warren Britt, Otis Clapp, Nitty Scott, Roc Marciano, Final Outlaw, Black Milk, Big Pooh, One Dae, Psalm One, Rasheed Chappell, KENO, Joey Bada$$, Natural, MoRuf, JohnNY UniteUs, Jasiri X, Dee-1, Charmingly Ghetto, Reks, Torae, Gilligan Gatsby, Yamin Semali, Wildelux, Action Bronson, Blu, R-Mean, Political Animals, and so very many more, I miss your voices. I hate that you aren’t being heard from like you were back then and I, along with others, selfishly want you to come back to the pedstal where you belong.

To my colleagues, those writers who were in it for the right reasons, who were willing to get dirty in the trenches with me, you are missed and sorely needed as well. I challenge you to pick your pens up again even if it’s just every now and then. The culture needs you. I need you. The competition was fun and we used to sharpen each other’s metal with our words and questions. Without you the silence is palpable but the noise is worse.

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