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On Stalley, Twitter & The Rise of the Entitled Mixtape RapperPosted by Nathan S. on 06/16/12 | Filed under Features, Opinion, Stalley
To think that anyone else in the world wants to listen to anything you have to say demands ego, and to then think that people should listen to you, and one of the other eleventy-billion rappers out there, takes some real ego. But that level of confidence is only a short hop away from, in the words of President Obama, acting like " ajackass", and every rapper alive is in a state of constant struggle to find the right balance. (For the record, the same goes for interwebs rap writers.)
The line between having the necessary confidence and ego to succeed, and acting like a complete d-bag is so thin it's easy to trip from one side to the other. And, much to the delight of gossip blogs everywhere, Twitter has proven to be a painfully easy and immediate way for rappers to cross that line. Case in point, Stalley's mini-rant last week. (It's Twitter, so you'll have to start at the bottom and read up for it to make sense.)
To be sure there are absolutely some valid points to be made there. The "mass media", whatever that is, absolutely pushes material from established stars before they'll touch better quality material from lesser known acts. That tendency creates a vicious circle that can feel impossible to break through:
Rapper: "Will you play my shit? It's better than anything else you're playing."
Mass Media: "We'll play your shit when you're famous."
Rapper: "But you get famous when the mass media plays your shit. You've created a logically contradictory closed system."
Mass Media: "That's your problem." (Goes back to doing Illumaniti, mass media conspiracy type stuff.)
Is Stalley objectively better than some of the over-hyped shit that gets play on MTV? Absolutely, let's not forget that Lil B gets play on MTV. If he didn't look at the hip-hop landscape and think "I'm better than these dudes" then he wouldn't be doing his job. At the same time, I think we can all agree that if, for example, he thinks he straight up dropped the two best free projects in the last two years, he's on crazy pills. One of the top ten projects over the last two years? Debatable, but it's a debate. The best? I literally don't know a single person other than Stalley who thinks that "Lincoln Way Nights" was better than "Return of 4Eva," and that's just the first project that came to mind.
But a claim like "I had the best mixtape!" isn't necessarily a problem, that's just some good old fashioned boasting that makes for a good rap debate. The problem here is an increasingly common phenomenon I'm calling The Entitled Mixtape Rapper. In an age when the line between "mixtape" and "album" is thinner than ever, it's easy for an artist to drop a popular mixtape and suddenly think they're in the same class as the game's heavy hitters. Worse yet, they seem to think that said popular mixtape means that the rest of the world has to treat them like one of the game's heavyweights.
Stalley decided to name names in "Mercy" and "Jay-Z Interview", so let's compare names. Kanye is inarguably the biggest artist of our generation, a man who's sold millions of albums, made several classic albums, won Grammys and has done more to influence hip-hop culture over the last five years than anyone. And your video deserves to be watched over "Mercy" why?
Hit-Boy created hands down the most popular track of the year, a track that's been purchased over 2 million times, downloaded illegally at least 2 million times more, and played in the biggest arenas in the world. And you deserve a post over Hit-Boy why?
Ironically, the biggest anti-entitlement crusader is probably Stalley's MMG boss Rick Ross, who's "Self Made" motto demands that artists are solely responsible for their success and failure. If you're not succeeding, that's your fault. Not any other artist's fault, not the mass media's fault, not the label's fault, your fault. (See also: Pill.) And if you do succeed, that also means that you're solely responsible for your success, not anyone else.
This article isn't about Stalley specifically anymore than Stalley's tweets were about Kanye and Hit-Boy specifically. It's about a rapper culture that's come to expect the world to pay attention to their every Tweet, Instragram pic and Facebook post. A culture that is so ready to defy the haters and censors that they've become haters and censors, ready to blast anyone who dares criticize them. A culture that seems to think they deserve the world's uninhibited praise for even the most moderate of achievements.
Stalley's made some truly dope music, and all indications are that he'll continue to do so. As time goes on I'm sure that, like every rapper, he'll continue to struggle to walk the the line between confidence and sounding like a d-bag, between promoting himself and tearing down others. Or at the very least he'll learn to stay away from Twitter rants. Frankly I'm not worried about Stalley, the #BeardGang representer should keep doing his thing.
It's really Entitled Mixtape Rappers that I'm worried about. Left unchecked, they have the potential to do just as much damage to hip-hop as the "mass media," and it's not nearly as easy to hop on Twitter and blame them for hip-hop's ills.
See Also: Stalley & Scar Take An Audibly Smooth Ride On The “Volley Express” (Listen & Download)