Growing up, my family always ate dinner together. My mother would come home from the grocery store with bags of ingredients—which my brother Aaron and I would have to unload from the trunk—and together, as a family, we would cook our meal in the kitchen before sitting down to the dinner table to feast on our hard work. Homemade pizza, chicken pot pie, apple pancakes, fettucini alfredo—you name, we made it.
As I grew up, though, afterschool activities started to dominate my schedule, quickly replacing the time we spent as a family making meals together. Instead of baking lemon bars for dessert, I had trumpet lessons. Instead of chopping up carrots and onions for soup, I had basketball practice. My mother wasn't upset, she encouraged me to participate in as many extracurriculars as humanly possible, but the shift in our routine had an effect on our relationship with the food we were eating but no longer making.
As a result of being separated from the creative process—so to speak—eating meals became less enjoyable. I ate because I was hungry and because it's what you're supposed to do at least three times a day, but not because I had a desire to taste my creation. Subsequently, I started to complain. A lot. I'd tell my mother that I was sick of all the staple menu items we once made together as a family and requested that she spice it up (pun intended) and try something new.
Most mothers would have told their kids to shut up and be grateful for the food that graced their plates, but my mother, one of the most amazing people I've ever met, wanted to please her kids. She listened to my request and started introducing new items to her weekly menu—swordfish, tuna potato boats, and veal burgers were all added.
Unfortunately, a few short weeks after our dinner menu went through the car wash, I realized I was much happier eating our original rotation of dinner options, regardless of whether or not I had a hand in making them. But the truth is that I never really gave the new menu items a chance. I was young, impatient and loved to complain, often thinking that the grass would be greener on the other side. And it might have been. I'll never know.
OK, so what does any of this have to do with hip-hop? Great question, here we go...
Over the past few months, I've seen a noticeable uptick in readers complaining about the artists that we choose to cover on DJBooth. Every time we run a news brief or feature story on Drake, Kendrick Lamar, Kanye, J. Cole or Chance The Rapper—arguably the five biggest names currently operating in hip-hop—our social media channels are flooded with comments like "Oh look, another Kendrick Lamar article," "There DJBooth goes, dickriding Drake again" and "You guys need to feature some new artists!"
The most frustrating part about reading this "feedback"—and I'm being very generous in labeling it feedback—is that, yes, while we do cover the aforementioned artists a lot, particularly after they release new music that can be dissected and discussed among our writing staff and audience, we also run a large number of artist discovery and independent spotlight features.
Not to mention, complaining about a hip-hop site’s coverage of the genre’s biggest stars is like complaining about the NBA Network’s coverage of LeBron, the NFL Network’s coverage of the Patriots or CNN’s coverage of the President of the United States.
Do you see where I'm going with this?
A-list artists who receive a massive amount of coverage online are your staple dinner menu items. They are popular, enjoyed by many and, for the most part, they are easy to consume. However, if you consume these artists too frequently, it's not only possible but also very likely that you'll tire of their work or desire something different to satiate your hunger. This course of events will usually lead to exploration, which, thanks to modern technology and streaming platforms like Spotify, Apple Music, SoundCloud, and Audiomack, is now easier than ever before, but for the vast majority of music fans, a return to that original menu is inevitable.
Hip-hop fans might love to complain about the coverage Kendrick, Drake and like receive, in particular, as compared to a plethora of "equally deserving artists," but when it comes time to eat that alternative meal, mom is silently being asked to prepare a different dish.
Since the beginning of May, we've published a combined 11 features on Drake and Kendrick at DJBooth. You know how many features we've run on independent and newly-signed, up-and-coming talent? Let's count.
- Anik Khan
- Ash Riser
- Beat Billionaire
- Brother Ali
- Darrein Safron
- DJ Khalil
- Jazz Cartier
- Jimi Tents
- M. T. Hadley
- Money Makin' Nique
- Rejjie Snow
- Sampa The Great
As you can see, that's 16 artist/producer discovery features—five more than the two more popular artists in hip-hop combined—in the last 25 days. (That number also doesn't include Under 1k, an ongoing series that profiles artists who make outstanding music but currently have a SoundCloud follower count under 1,000.) But just like I never really gave those veal burgers a chance—and I should have, they are excellent if you add the right spices and use egg as your binding agent—hip-hop fans would rather complain instead of pressing play, asking their mother (us) to whip up pizza or chicken pot pie (the proof is in the page views and the social shares).
So, what can be done here? First, actions speak louder than words tweets. Instead of complaining about the artists who are being featured on our pages and the words being written about them, dare to dance with the devil and click on a feature for an artist you've either never heard of before or who you're only vaguely familiar with. Don't want to commit the eight-to-10 minutes it might take to read through an entire story? That's understandable, time is a precious commodity. Instead, just press play on the artist's embedded song or video and let the music speak for itself. If you like what you hear, great, you can stick around a while, read the article, and maybe even bookmark their artist page for future browsing. If not, you only wasted 15 seconds and your life will be no worse for wear.
At 33 years old, I've long learned from (some of) the mistakes of my youth. One of those mistakes was asking my mother for something that was already being provided to me but that I wasn't patient enough to appreciate or enjoy. Don't make the same mistake, friends.
Remember, momma loves you.