24 August, 2010@7:25 pm
I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately. I’m not going to lie, I (allegedly) pirate shit all the time, and so do you. I kind of have my own set of rules concerning the practice though, just like you. For instance, I might (allegedly) download a movie illegally, but only in the case of something I’m not sure I want to see on the big screen. However if I love the movie, I will pay the exorbitant price of $30 to own in high definition on a Blu-Ray disc. And guiltily, I will probably upgrade my Blu-Ray disc when the Special Double Dip Edition comes out. The same goes for any album I love; I’ll definitely spring for the deluxe vinyl edition or oh-you-fancy-huh CD box set.
However I think as far as the music industry goes, things have gone too far. The last straw for me, which made me shake my head in disgust was watching the aftermath of the Dr. Dre “Under Pressure” leak. As you may have noticed, we did not post the song here. Why? Because we respect the artist. And that is not just in the case of Dr. Dre, but pretty much anyone, even if we don’t like them as people (i.e. Benzino). We’re not in the business of fucking up people’s careers or artistic vision for a few extra clicks. That’s not how we play. Any music that is released here is with the consent of the artist. We didn’t sell 2Pac bootlegs right after he died, either.
But the general attitude of the rap blog community seems to be “well, once it’s out there, it’s out there and there’s nothing you can do about it”. That statement is true, but on the same token, it is a fallacy that suggests a crime is okay because everyone else is doing it. Hey, everyone else here at this party has raped the 15 year old girl in the back room, so what’s the difference if you do it too? Yes, that is an extreme comparison, but pretending like your actions don’t contribute to the big picture is incorrect, because everyone is thinking that way.
I was pretty disgusted to see a blogger (and I don’t remember which one or who, or I would name them here) try to tell Dr. Dre in a blog post that he shouldn’t have made us wait so long for Detox anyway, so that justifies his leaking of the song, more or less suggesting it’s Dre’s own fault. Is this Alice In Wonderland? What the fuck has the world come to where some dude in his apartment tells Dr. Dre what’s what? It kind of like “Hey Picasso, don’t be mad that I broke into your home and stole your unfinished painting, the world wants to see it now, so fuck whatever plans you had for it”.
And if you really want to get into why it’s fucked up, beyond the fact that it has interrupted the creative process, business strategy, and fucking release date for Detox, it’s this: essentially, douchey bloggers are collecting checks from ad dollars made from the non-permitted downloads of a song that Dre probably will not release now, because of the leak. This makes our type seem like the cockroaches of the industry.
As many may remember, I went in on Shake of 2 Dope Boys a couple of months back for being shocked – shocked – that he didn’t get a warm response from Lupe Fiasco, who was mad at him for leaking his music, and then threatening to never “support” Lupe on the site again (yeah, that panned out). The backlash we received from members of the blogging community – many of them who engage in similar practices, was not surprising. Again, my issue with this situation (despite some erroneous reporting on my part) was the privileged attitude of a young blogger that believes himself to have every right to leak an artist’s stolen, unfinished music whenever he chooses, and then expects to get a hip-hop hug from said artist backstage. Too bad you fucked up, dummy.
The third episode I witnessed that inspired this article was some idiot on Twitter telling El-P that he downloaded all of his albums illegally, and that if he didn’t like that, it’s his own fault for not having a better business plan. This, clearly, like the two examples before it, is another lame excuse by someone who wants to justify their stealing of something directly to the artist’s face, for some reason. Guilty conscience, maybe?
But there are a few positives to piracy. The first is, FREE SHIT! Everyone loves free shit! You never have to buy anything, ever again! Now you can steal it! And there’s no leering Tower Records employee watching you while you do it. Dope! This one comes with a price, sure, but for the fans, it is a positive. The only downfall here is that you don’t get the thrill of the heist that you might get from walking out of Tower with a pocket full of $10.99 tapes.
Another positive of piracy is that, in some cases, it removes the prospect of certain artists being forced to try to make a “hit single” for today’s audience. Take Raekwon or DJ Shadow, for instance. Both artists found themselves trying to cross over, in some respect, with albums like Immobilarity or The Outsider, which downright offended the fans. While the artists will probably stand by even their worst works, the bottom line is that they made records like these in order to please the major label system, in hopes of carving out a hit record that would help sell an album that sounds nothing like the single. This stopped being about the longtime fans, and more about the disposable ones. But, once music itself became a “worthless product” – meaning something you can only make money on if you have a massive ringtone hit – many artists stopped even trying to achieve this. Guys like Raekwon could now focus on making albums, not singles, and he released his best album in years with Only Built For Cuban Linx 2. If there is no money in it either way, then why not make it the way you want it? Ironically, Rae making the realest music ever landed him gigs with Kanye and Justin Bieber, which we’re sure got him a pretty penny. Thanks, piracy!
The other positive to piracy is that it allows music to travel much faster and get into the hands of more people. Artists like 50 Cent, Lil’ Wayne, and Drake owe their careers to piracy of their mixtapes (which they allowed and controlled), leading them to much bigger, lucrative things like Vitamin Water companies and million dollar world tours.
But the negatives far outweigh the positives. Realistically, the above examples are almost flukes and are not indicative of the industry as a whole. Method Man will never be able to recreate the sound he had on Tical and will probably continue to release wack albums that will not make him any money, to which the bloggers would respond, “he doesn’t deserve it!” Despite the quality of the music, if it sells (or had potential to sell in pre-MP3 world), he deserves compensation for the work put forth, just like the guy who mops the floor at Showgirl Video. And Saigon is another artist that has released a shit-ton of mixtapes that led him to nowhere. How do you think he feels about people downloading his music illegally?
People often complain that “hip-hop is dead”, which to me, is one of the most ridiculous statements, usually said by folks that haven’t paid money for music in five years. So let’s get this straight, you want an artist to perform for you, maybe even do a little tap dance, but you aren’t willing to tip him? Not only that, you want him to perform it the way you want it, according to the rules handed down on two stone tablets in 1987 by KRS-One on top of Mt. Sinai, but you still are unwilling to pay a dime? Got it.
Money makes the world go ’round, and without it, you aren’t going to see much “keeping it real” from artists, except in the rare cases of guys like Raekwon. What motivation does someone have to create music that applies to the rules of classic hip-hop if they aren’t going to make anything off of it? Sure, one could argue that a true artist does it for the love, but this is America. Eventually that artist is going to have to get a job at McDonald’s and will disappear into obscurity if his art cannot support him. And no, 50 year old Chuck D does not want to be touring and hocking Public Enemy t-shirts, he wants to be at home with his family, collecting royalty checks. Piracy will not allow him to do that. So, don’t be offended when you see your favorite rapper doing AOL commercials, he has no other choice.
And lets not forget the labels and the record stores. The independent hip-hop movement is dead, as labels like Definitive Jux and stores like Fat Beats (and HipHopSite, actually) eventually succumbed to nobody buying anything, and in turn, nobody is releasing anything. If you cant see that happening, you are in denial.
Coming back around to square one, this is unfortunately the way it is now, so we must adapt. The once flourishing music industry is broken thanks to piracy, so everyone that wants to remain a part of it must find a new way to get their hustle on. While it may not sound like it, I do embrace piracy, and don’t support RIAA lawsuits against twelve year olds, but I think there needs to be some respect given to the industry, the artists, and at least some way of giving back. The solution is unclear, but please don’t pretend piracy hasn’t killed this industry.
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