“Hey, have you heard that new (insert artist’s name) cut?”
“What?! How’s that possible?! Have you been living under a rock?!”
You might have had a similar exchange with a friend, family member or lover recently. You know how it goes. It’s basically a conversation that results in you feeling slightly stupid for not knowing something that the other person knows. Don’t feel bad, though. This is partly linked to the ugly downside of the internet, where everything and anything can become common knowledge within a matter of seconds.
So, not knowing that last song so-and-so did is less of a testament to you not being in the loop and more of a phenomenon of there being so much music on the internet to choose from. This even goes for specific genres, like hip hop music.
Of course, the beautiful thing about the internet is that we can find artists we otherwise would not even know existed. These same artists have the means to put themselves out there without paying record executives, labels, advertisement, etc. to do it for them. However, these artists do not “eat”—if you will—off hip hop. While they can pretty much upload their music onto the web for free, or considerably inexpensively, they do not get the fancy exposure that comes with being “big time.” In other words, they can put their name out there but it does not necessarily mean that name will stick around long in people’s mouths.
What’s curious to me is how this explosion of hip hop artists that can be found on the internet is occurring during a time when very few of them are actually “blowing up” in the mainstream. As more hip hop artists gravitate toward putting their music, their passions out into the internet world, the mainstream music industry seems to be becoming more centralized and limited. It’s like a push and pull, with internet artists reaching and pushing up at the glass ceiling—if you will—and the mainstream music gods yanking, pulling that ceiling higher and higher.
The plight of female hip hop artists on the internet is of special interest to me, as it seems that they have even fewer means than their male counterparts. For example, while in my last few articles I could find various videos from South African, Aussie, Native American artists, I found it more difficult—if not impossible—to find corresponding videos for female artists. At best, I tended to find songs with pictures, sometimes of the artists and sometimes not.
The same can be said of internet hip hop artists from the LGBTQ community, as my searches for South African, Aussie, and Native American LGBTQ hip hop artists left me wanting. Rather than even a picture to go with a song, I found nothing.
Of course, this is reflective of the mainstream hip hop industry, as few hip hop artists are actually female or from the LGBTQ community. But what makes things problematic, is that the internet is supposed to be democratic, diverse, giving people a chance to optimally express themselves. If female and LGBTQ hip hop artists are not given adequate exposure in the mainstream or on the internet, where will they be seen, heard?
You can probably find us under a rock, really. Or we can even be found between one and a hard place, understanding that while it is difficult to become big in the mainstream, the proliferation of hip hop artists on the internet does not necessarily signal our welcome.