Did you find yourself talking about the Billboard list of the top 10 rappers of all time? Have you had to roll up your pants another cuff because of the flood of debate about the list in your Twitter feed?
Have you stopped talking to your East Coast family members because they actually agree that Tupac should have been left off the list? If you have found yourself in a tizzy about the list, you might want to wipe your mouth, because whether you know it or not, you just bit the bait right off of the hook.
The subjective list doesn’t help preserve the legacy of the artists or keep Hip Hop relevant.
So, you might be thinking to yourself: A media outlet would NEVER post a story for the sole purpose of getting attention and views. Well yes, faithful reader, that is what I’m suggesting. And we’re all playing into it by talking about this. You’re playing into it by reading about this. I’m even playing into it by writing this. I’m essentially saying “See that? Don’t look at it.” But I mean it. Don’t.
Because while we’re all sitting here, cherubic faces innocently staring at our screens, two madmen are twisting their mustaches in glee, while all of us are arguing about the list as if it were some type of anticipated, definitive list, as if it were actual news. The two authors of the piece are lighting Cubans with hundred dollar bills as they watch the clicks roll in and the page views skyrocket.
We live in a time where the profile of a website takes priority over the archaic idea of journalistic integrity. We see newspapers, which are supposed to be hard news, running tabloid-like, attention-grabbing, water-cooler-talk headlines. The logic is clearly that they need to sell papers and advertisements to stay relevant and pay their bills. They are forced to compete with tabloids and thus become them.
Snoop Dogg’s Instagram response to the omission of Tupac:
Websites are blind to whether people agree with an article or think it’s absolute garbage. Billboard doesn’t care if you are thanking them for their genius list or saying fuck them. In fact, they might even prefer that you say fuck them, because our feelings of vitriol and animosity are often stronger than our feelings of acceptance or agreement. Everyone who is saying “I can’t believe what Billboard wrote” is playing into the narrative, because we immediately have to go rush and see this crazy thing on their site.
It’s a systemic issue, and the article is simply a reaction to that. The dudes who wrote it know that. The comments and shares of the article are exponentially higher than they would get on a regular hard news story. And the comments and shares are exponentially higher than a down the middle, consensus piece about the top rappers of all time.
We have to be conscious about the narratives we recognize. We have to be conscious about the things that make us argue. They wanted to get us talking. And it worked. But they didn’t want to get us talking about hip-hop. They wanted to get us talking about them, their list, their article.
When they omit a polarizing figure like a Tupac or like a Kanye, they are introducing a narrative before they even publish the piece. They know we will argue about it. It’s a calculated exercise in virility: starting an argument about something objective that can’t be conclusively settled upon.
So bravo, Billboard. It worked. You wanted to get us talking and we are. We can’t unsay what we’ve said about it, or un-think what we’ve thought about it, and if you’re still reading, we’ve gotten this far thinking about something we shouldn’t be wasting time thinking about.
All we can do is swim forward. There will be more bait dangled in front of us. It’s just our job not to bite.