“Producing one’s visibility through technological and digital tools, across multiple media platforms, is a primary way to create a saleable image of oneself, one that can circulate in a competitive marketplace. These new, social media enhanced, visible selves, are no longer just versions of who we are, but they have become the essence of who we are. Increasingly, individuals are producing a self-brand not to promote one’s work or accomplishments, but to promote their very presence as a commodity in a market society. Indeed, those various reasons one might garner public attention based on what one does, rather than how one is packaged, now seem almost antiquated, old-fashioned ideas in the contemporary economic context. I worry about what this means for a new generation of students and scholars who have been taught to value domain names and retweet campaigns over books and articles and ideas, perception and hype over content and substance, when what we promote becomes the very act of promotion itself.” – Sarah Banet-Weiser, “The Importance of Building Your Own Brand”
I am still not always sure how one develops the sorts of cult followings that allude other artists with similar or more developed talent, but it happens. I attempt to avoid the expectation that comes with youthful thinking–or for the likes of some artists, “wishful thinking”–but, I do anticipate particular reactions from the fan base and reactionary crowd dwellers that believe that absolute devotion to whomever is being doted on is somehow a testament to their “realness” or their “loyalty” as a person. Not sure how concretized I wish my appreciation of any human being I am not intimately or financially involved with to be — especially given the human being’s propensity toward self-preservation. Now, from time to time, Owl will allow him Self a portion of appreciation for art. And of course, it is always foolish to expect a guy with my history and thinking to plunge into any creative person’s catalog with an obsequious interest;in fact, you can probably anticipate my usual calm and analytic faculty slicing through the works, measuring trajectory, seeking out impact, and making sure the lyrical content is righteously funky enough over the hypnotic groove for me to allow my soul to nod along with my head.
With that being said, I visited a few websites looking for new hip hop music. As anyone that knows Owl will tell you, I will pretty much give anybody a listen. Without attempting to settle into my old listening ways, I did find my Self slightly partial to West Coast artists in my audial perusal. What I often have to contend with in my listening, particularly when using the internet to scour content, is my nagging preoccupation with avoiding the popular. It is just as narrow minded of me to avoid what is a trending piece of artwork as it is to avoid art that is not so appealing to a mass audience. Just like Owl is not the type of habitué that purchases art from unsigned artists peddling there wares in the thoroughfares without actually listening to the disc or reading the book, Owl is also not the type to overlook an artist because of who is listening to them. I do not take issue with the popular, per se, but I do feel the need to be mindful of the human propensity toward a herd mentality that causes us to need to gas the engine of “popularity”.
One of the more popular artists that has come through my ears is Kendrick Lamar. Now, he features on a track with the highly worshiped(could we call him “worshipful”?) Talib Kweli, which immediately made me wonder if the track was overrated. Irregardless, I gave the piece a listen, and I was pleased with Curren$y, who also appears on track. I am still not getting the Lamar thing, but I can appreciate that the “average” West Coast rap artist is back.
Now, when I was growing up, back in a land far, far, far away, where the people did not download albums or stream songs for free, you had to either purchase the album, dub it(an ancient alchemical practice of recording music onto cassette from another cassette tape or radio), or buy it from the bootlegger(yeah, even in those days, there was the bootlegger with their box of cassette tapes for a dollar). And that made being an aficionado in an urban environment a little easier, because you always had a wide selection to choose from and didn’t have t depend on the popularity of an artist so much, or the hip hop journalist and their opinionated ratings(yeah, even back then you had bloggers “hating” on artists, they just did it in printed form). So, even before The Pharcyde or Del The Funky Homo Sapien was on MTV raps, I had the bootleg. And it was cool listening to a regular Black guy, as opposed to his cousin Ice Cube(yeah, the guy that does family movies), or fifty million other “acts” that seemingly portrayed them Selves as larger than life on one scale or another. I enjoyed all of Blu’s work, and I feel like Blu sort of ushered in this appreciation of the regular guy type artists. And as stated, although I might not always like the voice of the regular guy that Kendrick Lamar is, I can appreciate what his work represents in a time where Jay-Z is escorting Beyonce after lip-synching for the head of all militarized forces under the United States government’s inauguration.
Blu & Exile – “Maybe One Day”
Ab-Soul – “You’re Gone”
Another guy with a strong cult-like following that I listened to was Ab-Soul. Sure, the song I listened is his newest release, “You’re Gone”, and I am completely not feeling this track. But, although I am completely not feeling this track, Ab-Soul’s earlier tracks remind me of a late 1990s Ras Kass – that West Coast regular guy rap artist with an extremely knowledgeable palate and not afraid to write from it. I suppose might offend some, but Ras Kas was not always getting socked by The Game and doing macaroni picture art with bullets on the ground. The pro’s and the con’s of immediate access to one’s fan base, I guess.
Ras Kass – “The Nature Of The Threat”
Ab-Soul – “Terrorist Threats”
Which is what I believe is driving more and more of the deep seated fan appeal. The culture of the sycophant is much more stronger now that the stanbase(coined it first) can inject their favorite artist into their lives with such alacrity and consistency, I mean, hell, even at the workplace it has become almost assumed the worker is some how plugged in the online world, either via their phone or their mp3 player or even possibly a tablet, depending on the job. With the need for the regular guy to contend with the “superhero” follower, I can understand how certain rap acts have become something like ideologues that provide the average person a favorite character to champion and siphon style clues from.
Owl just will not be joining the clubs.