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"It Can Really F*ck You Up Mentally": How Our Favorite Rappers Handle Online Criticism

We talked to Freddie Gibbs, Alex Wiley and Locksmith about making music in the age of the comment thread.

To be alive and on the internet is to subject yourself to the onslaught of strangers. That's true for kids in high school getting slammed in the comment section of IG posts, Moms who post a cute video of their kid dancing on YouTube and then had to disable the comments, and yes, even music writers who receive the occasional death threat from Eminem stans (true story).

Being able to deal with a constant flood of feedback from the internet is a necessary life skill in 2016, but it's a particularly important one for artists. Your favorite rappers not only have to figure out how to deal with a massive amount of criticism, but have to be careful not to let that feedback affect their art. Even chasing positive responses can be an equally dangerous game. 

How do artists manage to navigate the internet's dangerous waters without letting criticism affect their music? We went straight to the source and asked Freddie Gibbs, Locksmith and Alex Wiley for their thoughts.    

Freddie Gibbs on the Balance Between Ignoring Haters & Accepting Feedback

"When you're in this business you have to really have tough skin. You need to know you're not going to please everybody. Immediate feedback and criticism can be helpful to people who know what they're doing and it can be harmful to people who don't have that tough skin." 

Having that tough skin allows Gibbs to be able to see the benefit of feedback without letting any criticism affect him. 

"I let the music change peoples minds. I try to stay versatile and make music for everyone [to enjoy]. Who am I to argue someone else's opinion? I use it [feedback] to gauge where I'm at in the game. You have to cater to the youth and if you're not doing that you're going to start not making money." 

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Alex Wiley on Not Letting Negativity Affect the Music

"I've definitely thought of people and their comments while I was writing music, and that shouldn't happen. Someone will say something to you, and you shrug it off, but it's still in there. It's in your head. You saw what someone said about you and it can stick with you. If you want people to enjoy your music, I've learned to just focus on the people who already enjoy it. Otherwise it can really fuck you up mentally, like, severely. Where your whole creative output is centered around trying to please who don't fuck with you."

Locksmith on Believing in Yourself, Understanding Where Negativity Comes From

"We all have our insecurities. But when I release new music, I try to get in a confident place, where when I was done making it and completed it, I was like, 'This shit is dope.'" 

Of course, it's far easier to deal with criticism when you have some perspective on where it comes from. After all, no one bothers to criticize someone they don't care about. 

"A lot of the time it comes from people who think they know what you should be doing. Remember, if they're leaving comments that means they're checking for you in the first place. If someone is clicking on [what you shared], 9 out of 10 times they actually care. Most of the time when people say wild and crazy shit it's just to get attention. They want to get a reaction. It's not because they think you're a bad person."

Whether you're an artist yourself or a 9-to-5 construction worker, we're all now on the internet, and being on the internet means opening yourself up to the thoughts of strangers. How you handle that feedback can quite literally affect your mental health, and so a big thanks to these artists for stepping into the spotlight and opening up a space for us to talk about how to find value in that feedback without letting negativity affect your work and real life.   

Be sure to cop Gibbs new album Shadow of a Doubt, Wiley's Village Party 2 and Locksmith's Lofty Goals. If you love the music be sure to tell them, we promise it won't go to their heads. 

[By Nathan S, the managing editor of DJBooth and a hip-hop writer. His beard is awesome. This is his Twitter. Art via Manzel Bowman.]



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