It's Friday night. I'm sitting in a circle of friends discussing the comments Kid Cudi made surrounding the state of hip-hop. (What do you do with your Friday nights?) A few hours earlier, I wrote an article on the subject that wouldn’t be published until Monday, and I decided to pre-trial my opinion.
As much as I thought about what I had written, not once did I believe the article would reach Kid Cudi, and it was almost unimaginable that he'd respond. He’s pretty famous, million-plus followers on Twitter, and probably a plate full of business to deal with to start the week.
Fast forward to Monday, the article is out and I’m on the way to my parent's house to give my mom a ride up the street. I check my phone and notice a Twitter notification with a mention from Kid Cudi. Admittedly, I’m excited; he’s acknowledging the article and potentially has something to say.
My excitement turned to a surreal shock when I read the message:
I didn’t know what to say. Do I hit him with a meme? A gif? If there's a protocol here, I don't know it. I decided to be respectful and say, “I disagree, but thank you for sharing your 'opinion'.”
I RT’d his comment, so immediately, my followers are beginning to lose their shit. For some reason, I thought that would be the end of our conversation.
To my surprise, Scott had more to say. “Like I said, your words hold no weight here. Not anywhere on this planet. Know this about yourself,” he tweeted.
When it comes to my craft, I’ve never been so disrespected. Kid Cudi wrote that. Kid Cudi. The voice of all the lonely, depressed and outcast kids told me I’m worthless. This is the same guy that made A Kid Name Cudi and Man on the Moon, two tapes that I held dear because of their impact during my high school years. I watched his come up, cheered for his success, and supported his releases.
What was I supposed to say? I honestly had no idea.
Before walking out the door I replied, “Words are my medium. So again, I completely disagree. I’ll continue to use them to get my point across.”
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I RT’d his second message before getting on the road. My phone is face down, shaking enough to be diagnosed with Parkinson's. Twitter is going crazy, my text messages are filling up, but mom is in the passenger and would have a heart attack if I attempted to text and drive. My mind is racing faster than the traffic, trying to comprehend why he was so obviously irate. Maybe I wouldn’t have been shocked if the piece was slanderous; an attempt to get a rise out of him for pageviews, but that wasn’t the case. I was sincere in my rebuttal, and yet my thoughts were met with belittlement and utter disrespect.
By the time I had dropped off my mom, Cudi had deleted the tweets. I can only guess this wasn’t the “message” he wants hip-hop to receive.
Well, I heard it loud and clear.
His message is that my words are meaningless. His message is that his fame makes him omnipotent and his opinion shouldn’t be questioned by a “sideline nigga.” I was such a fan of his story, but that was when I was a just a listener and he was just an artist. Now I feel like his music is ruined for me. I can’t separate the man from the musician; he just took a giant shit on my art form, my self-expression.
I’ve always been pretty fearless with what I choose to write, my fingers are moved by passion, not by name or stature. Now, though, I see how a reaction like this can change a writer's outlook. Especially in the age of social media, when the barriers between writer and artist are so small (case in point), writers can profit by getting on the artist's good side, keeping them in a positive light, and reaping the benefits. I couldn’t do it, not without feeling dirty and vile. I’m not for sale, no amount of RTs or pageviews can change that.
The relationship rappers have with writers has been more like a dysfunctional marriage for a long time. The closer a writer and rapper are the more they will love you when the words are in their favor, but the moment you write something displeasing, it’s a sign of disloyalty. You become a Brutus, and they react accordingly.
After reading articles like, “Irate Rappers Give Journalists A Combat Beat” and “Mad Rappers: Wale, Complex and the History of Violence in Hip-Hop Journalism,” it gave me a glimpse at how unpredictable the publishing of a story can be. This was before social media and before artists could email in all-caps and send out their frustrations. We see more dialogue now because of the digital platforms that connect us, but a few petty words on Twitter are nothing compared to having an irate rapper in your face, challenging you on your perspective, or beating you for it. This was certainly not that.
But who wants to feel like their opinion is being held at gunpoint? As a writer, you’re cheating yourself and your readers if you decide to be biased for the sake of relationships and comfortability. If a piece is written without being disrespectful to the artist's craft, that artist doesn't have to agree, but they do have to respect the writer's craft the same.
I understand that trolls exist and artists could be on edge because of how much negativity they receive every day, verbal or otherwise. Same with bloggers who will write pieces to ruffle feathers in hopes of a traffic increase; they’re playing in oil while smoking cigarettes. Honestly, not every submission will be met with acclaim, not every review will be five mics and not every thought piece will shine your shit and pamper your ideals. But in today's current climate integrity is being strangled.
As I told Kid Cudi, my words are my medium, and I’ll continue to use them to get my point across. No one is here to stroke egos or babysit feelings; we are here to deliver our perspectives and further discussions that surround the genre and culture that we love so much.
My only vow to rappers and readers is that my mind is open, my ears are open, and my words are honest. No tweet, amount of money or famous relationship will change that, and I know my fellow DJBooth brethren all carry the same sentiment.
By Yoh, AKA I’m G.O.O.D., aka @Yoh31