Hip Hop and sensationalism are no longer distant cousins. They’re basically siblings in the new millennium. To be totally honest, interest in the genre has been waning more than ever in recent years. So what’s the best way to try breathing some new life into a form of music that’s losing steam? Simple. Attach more dramatic intrigue to it. The evidence can be found throughout the way the music media covers, portrays and perceives Hip Hop, from the most gossip-laden Hip Hop music blog, website or tabloid to the ratchetness found in Hip Hop reality TV, the greatest example being Love & Hip Hop.
But this isn’t to say that artists and the art form don’t shoulder some of the blame, the latest example coming from SXSW this past week when Odd Future front man and emcee Tyler The Creator was accused of inciting a “riot” at his performance only 24 hours after a fatal accident outside of another of his performances at the annual Austin, TX music festival. Now…do the two events honestly have anything to do with one another? Nope. Was the first incident a tragedy and should we lift the families of the people that lost their lives as they go through what might be an extremely traumatic time? Absolutely. But have both parties, in this case Tyler and the music and news media covering him and his performances, have to take some of the blame on this one.
On one hand, beyond what we’ve been told by news outlets, Hip Hop and otherwise, we can’t fully surmise what happened with the auto accident outside of Tyler’s concert on Thursday, March 14. And Tyler had little to no knowledge of or control over what was happening in that instance. Therefore, connecting the two events in news reports can be seen as a bit irresponsible. The truth is, we know why it was done. It’s a matter of the news media business model. Whatever is going to get the most views and garner the most traffic is what will get written about, posted and shared. And many of us in this business know that very well. But it’s still an unfortunate that, in this instance, two events that were both unsavory and unfortunate, yet still had little to nothing to do with one another, got connected for the purposes of reporting a news story.
But on the other hand, can we really say that Tyler helped his cause at all by his actions on the video released by TMZ showing him inciting fans to push their way into a venue past security? Not in the least. Many of us know Tyler The Creator to be a willing participant ruckus and a sensationalist in just about everything he does, seeking continuously to go against the grain. But did he potentially take things a little too far this time? Yup. Never do we as music fans and workers want to see anyone hurt, injured or even have the potential for it. And when it does happen, it’s a drag to report and talk about it. Hell, I have a niece back in my hometown of Detroit that actually called me the day of the incident to see if I was ok because she thought I was back down at SXSW since I went last year.
Overall, both Tyler The Creator and the news media have to be held accountable, the first for potentially endangering the lives of festival goers, and the second for trying to use two unrelated incidents for the purposes of gaining traffic. And though we probably can’t expect that either actually WILL be held accountable, at least we can try to take a lesson from both incidents and try to do better in the future. As a music journalist that loves what I do, my only hope is that both of them, and all of us involved in this thing called the music business, actually WILL take the time to try doing better.Google+