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The Powerless Pen: Why Hip-Hop Journalism Sucks


“Dull, void without substance or content/ You need to slow your speed/ Stop the nonsense” –
“The Power”, Chill Rob G

It had the potential to be the story of the decade. Tired of the current state of Hip-Hop legendary Hip-Hop veteran, Ice Cold, was gonna expose the industry for the illegal and immoral tactics that they used to manipulate rappers in an exclusive interview with Scoop Newsworthy, star writer for “Hip Hop X-Tra Large Weekly.” For two hours, Ice Cold went on a tangent about how he was once poisoned at a strip club and forced to sign a 20-year contract to exclusively make murda music. He went on about how his infamous beef with the late rapper, Too Tall Short, was really an industry-orchestrated move to sell CDs. However, when the story ran the following week the headline was “Ice Cold Gets Tipsy and Starts Beef at The King of Diamonds…”

During the late ’80s, the power of Hip-Hop was not only evident in the music, but in the writings of those who exposed this rapidly maturing culture to the world. If Chuck D was right, and rap was the CNN of the Black community, then Hip-Hop magazines were the Time and Newsweek of the ‘hood.

Journalist Harry Allen

During that period, the bubble gum stories about Michael Jackson in teen magazines like Right On! and stories in Word Up Magazine, where a young Christopher Wallace used to read about “Salt N Pepa and Heavy D up in the limousine“ were being replaced by more aggressive, hard-hitting magazines such as The Source and Rap Sheets. Not to mention there were Hip-Hop journalists like Public Enemy’s “media assassin,” Harry Allen, who defended the culture against the naysayers. Even as late as 1997, newcomer, XXL Magazine came out of the gate swingin’, with an article on Black Nationalist Dr. Khalid Abdul Muhammad carrying an AK.

But somewhere, Hip-Hop journalism lost its heart.

Today, Hip-Hop magazines usually run the same ol’ stories over and over again about redundant beefs, makin’ it rain in the club, and how many blunts your favorite rapper smoked while in the studio recording his latest CD.

Not exactly groundbreaking stuff.

However, there are reasons for the cowardly nature of today’s Hip-Hop scribes.

Historically, being a writer has been a dangerous profession, especially if you were the type who was not afraid to speak truth to power.

It must be noted that David Walker, author of the extremely inflammatory, Appeal to the Coloured Citizens of the World, died mysteriously in 1830.

Behold A Pale Horse

During the early ’70s, Samuel Yette was, allegedly, fired from his job at Newsweek for writing the controversial book, The Choice: The Issue of Black Survival in America. Also, William Cooper, whose book, Behold a Pale Horse, is the sacred text of conspiracy theorists, was killed by law enforcement officers in 2001. And in 2004, Gary Webb, author of Dark Alliance: The CIA, the Contras, and the Crack Cocaine Explosion, allegedly, committed suicide by shooting himself twice in the head.

Though not to the same degree, Hip-Hop writers have also suffered their share of bumps and bruises.

It was not unheard of for a rapper to threaten a mild-mannered reporter for giving a bad review of his album back in the day. Also, one can remember the clash between the staff of The Source and the Almighty RSO during its early years. Female media personalities have not been spared, as Dr. Dre once punched “Pump It Up” host Dee Barnes, as immortalized in Eminem’s song “Guilty Conscience”. Also former radio host and now TV celebrity Wendy Williams was five seconds away from feeling the wrath of the Wu-Tang, courtesy of Method Man, a few years back.

Who wants to go through all of that when it’s so much easier to tell a rapper how great he is, pick up your paycheck, and head to the crib?

Perhaps the major reason for the lackadaisical attitude of Hip-Hop writers is the myth that people who listen to rap don’t want to be educated; they simply want to be entertained by mindless music and reality shows.

Although, Black Entertainment Television was once the home of legendary journalists Bev Smith, Tavis Smiley and Ed Gordon, their shows were canceled to make room for more music videos. And, although the network may come up with a new news program every presidential election year, the programs are quickly replaced by “Wayans Brothers” reruns, shortly after the election is over.

Contrary to popular belief, the streets have always been hungry for the 411. And because of the work of Hip-Hop online pioneers like the Bay Area’s Davey D and St. Louis’ B-Gyrl, who laid the foundation over a decade ago, the ‘net has largely made Hip-Hop magazines obsolete. YouTube and Internet Radio, etc. have provided a forum for up and coming writers, and provided a way to get around the gatekeepers of the more traditional media outlets.

A perfect example is that, although the talk of a “Hip-Hop Illuminati” has been written off by some as a conspiracy theory, what is not theory, but fact, is that it was not the traditional Hip-Hop media that created the hysteria, but a cheaply done, blogtalk radio interview with Professor Griff on Occult Science Radio. Although the interview went viral three years ago, it still has rappers like Jay-Z, Rick Ross, and Meek Mill mentioning it in their lyrics, today.

Hip-Hop needs its own version of “Wikileaks” that will expose what’s really going on in the entertainment industry. We need Hip-Hop journalists with the courage to ask rap artists the tough questions, instead of just repeating propaganda that was co-signed by their managers .

That’s why this column is called “This Ain’t Hip Hop” because it’s bigger than that. It’s about getting the truth to the people, by any means necessary, whether writing or rapping.

So, I rep for every truth-teller who has ever been banned, blackballed, or boycotted for standing up for his beliefs. Those who dare to speak about reality, when everyone else is living in a world of fantasy.

Like Lupe Fiasco said on his song, “Real”:

“That’s why I gotta give ‘em somethin’ real/ Somethin ‘they could recognize/ Something they could feel.”

TRUTH Minista Paul Scott’s weekly column is “This Ain’t Hip Hop,” a column for intelligent Hip Hop headz. For more information on the upcoming “No Warning Shots Fired” lecture series, contact info@nowarningshotsfired.com. Follow Paul on Twitter (@truthminista).

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  • linkz b

    man dope read but thats why i read The Fader they give you a more in depth look at the artist and stay away from the bs all hip hop journalism doesnt suck you just have to look for it !

  • water_ur_seeds

    nice article, was good to read… rappers have such an image now you never get a real answer anyways though, i.e rick ross… his interviews are full of cliche, schitt, you never get good answer, half the time the interview tipy toes around them…

    i guess one reason is that writers are scared to speak their mind because artists have so much power, and can make sure a writer doesn’t cover them or their label which could be running rap again…

    another reason, is everyone is a writer of some sorts now, with a blog etc so the quality of writing has declined, bad grammar, spelling errors and writing the old schitt, no creativity or refreshing info or articles…

  • hoeyuno

    And in 2004, Gary Webb…. allegedly, commited suicide by shooting himself twice in the head. That’s phuked!! And I did not miss the point of your story. I think you guys have a job where you have to dumb yourselves down most of the time to appeal to the masses. For example what story would get more views; immortal technique fully supports occupation wall street or rock ross gets a really big chain?

    • Q.

      Junk food vs health food….The people only eat what they’re fed.

  • Ravishing Quinc Rude

    Listening to interviews and reading articles now is such a different thing than it was 10 years ago. It’s like no one is interested in the human parts of these artists.. instead focusing on these personas they build. water_ur_seeds mentioned Rick Ross… that c
    at been ducking that CO question for ages. Gets mad when someone mentions it… when he really should just stop being Ross and be William Leonards. People respect a person more than an idol.

    This article was a well written, to-the-point article. I enjoyed the read.

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  • Maybe the problem is Hip Hop journalism should represent something much more substantial than merely writing about Hip Hop.

    • Q.

      Agreed. Hip-Hop should be a mirror of society at large, right? It’s only natural we report on macro issues.

  • Bill Cooper? Wow, never thought the Truth Minista would take it there:
    Bill Cooper Predicted 9/11. That prediction was recycled by Alex Jones, in what has become “HIS” famous 9/11 prediction in July 2001.

    On 9/11 Bill Cooper was the target of a Swat Raid, but he wasn’t there, so they came back on election day & got him.

    Both on days that the news coverage would simply overlook his death, and the circumstances of his death.

    Gary Webb? 2 in the head suicide?

    This is really a good read & I thank AHH for letting Truth Minista Paul Scott keep the Hip ( Relevant ) in the Hop. ( Movement )

  • iamshellybell

    Maybe one of the issues is whether or not the industry is open to new writers. The days of taking rookies aboard and grooming them are over. Rookies have many more lanes to travel via technology. Maybe there has been a stunt in hip hop journalism because the journalist are individuals of the same school of thought. If we want to challenge Hip-Hop we need journalist that know how to frame things in a way that doesn’t seems so “gossip like.” Wendy Williams spill of Method man’s wife being sick had nothing to do with Hip-Hop. Is that what we are calling journalism? Has Hip-Hop gossip become respected as journalism? We must visit the writing, the opportunities, and the expectations placed on writers.

  • Carlos

    good article, hopefully, allhiphop staff read it.

  • Brian Andrew Smith

    didn’t read the article yet, but one obvious answer is “sydney lace has a job”

    • 7yoyo7

      Sh1t… You just beat me to it…
      I’m 2 days late.

  • Reblogged this on and commented:
    #GetThatGOOD

  • Slaughtr

    THE PROBLEM WITH EVERYTHING CONCERNING HIP HOP THESE DAYS IS THE CORPORATE ENTITY’S THAT ARE DESTROYING EVERY ASPECT OF THE CULTURE. tELL ME WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOU COULD RECITE A WHOLE RAP SONG NOT IN THIS ERA.REALLY WHAT THE HELL IS THERE TO SERIOUSLY WRITE ABOUT ANOTHER MC WHO COMES FROM THE HOOD WHO ENDURED INDUSTRY BULLSHIT JUST TO GET IN SO HE SO QOUTE on ” GRINDED. NOW ALL WE GET IS STORIES EVOLVED AROUND SNEAKERS, CLOTHES ADS, EVERY MC HAS A CLOTHES LINE,COLOGNE,ECT, BUT NOBODY TAUGHT THESE RAPPERS HOW TO BECOME A MANUFACTURER OR MAKE LONG TERM FINANCIAL INVESTMENTS AFTER HIP HOP. HOW ARE YOU GOING TO HAVE GOOD JOURNALISM WHEN THE ACTS DON’T AMOUNT TO NOTHING NONE OF THEM SAYING NOTHING SO WRITE ABOUT WHAT….. TRASH!?. ALLHIPHOP PROMOTES TRASH TOO SO THEY ARE NO DIFFERENT. THE FALL CAME WITH THE BLING ERA AND IT TRANSCENDED INTO REPETITIVE CRUNK.ONCE YOU TAKE THE HEART OUT THE CULTURE LIFE IS GONE AND TO ME HIP HOP IS DEAD.WHERE ARE THE MC’S WHO ARE NOT SCARED TO BE TARGETS BECAUSE THEY SAID SOMETHING THAT HEATED MINDS AND IDEAS, SINCE KRS ….VOID NO CHAMPIONS JUST HUSTLERS AND GETTING MONEY. THE PUSH TO WIPE THIS GENERATIONS MINDS CLEAN HAS HAPPENED, STUPID HOOKS IGNORANT RHYMES, AND TRASH FOR SUBSTANCE SO WHAT REALLY IS THERE TO WRITE ABOUT??????? TODAYS RAPPERS MODERN ANDROIDS.JUST LIKE THE TIN MAN THEY ALL NEED A HEART AND SOME COURAGE LIKE THE LION.

    • and a brain like the scarecrow

    • Q.

      A new crop of Hip-Hop artists exists. The mainstream (including AHH) fails to acknowledge them.

    • Sexy_Sabe

      #Preach

  • $18592567

    Hip Hop Journalism sucks, because these “writers” and I use the term loosely are hot garbage. How do you write an article about poor journalism and start it off misquoting someone? Chill Rob G never said “Dull void” he said “Null void” and I’m not saying that to say the writer isn’t good, but it’s just proof that we have too many experts and not enough cultural facilitators.

  • synergism

    good article i feel AHH should go to print

  • Bumpy Johnson

    what happend is rap moved out the hood. now its straight suburban rappers ..they have lose morals , dont care about no code or essense, they just want the fortune and fame. rap has gone the same route rock n roll went.

  • Q.

    This is an ironic article for AHH. These so-called venerated Hip-Hop media outlets are in bed with the machine now, so they barely touch on the aspects of Hip-Hop Griff was talking about, only in passing jest.

    The past 15 years in this entertainment culture have been a complete counteraction to the sharp rise in Black consciousness that Hip-Hop sparked in the 80s-late 90s. Disenfranchised Black youth rose too fast, talked too boldly, and made a little too much money via this vehicle called Hip-Hop music for the machine to tolerate. “Operation Dummy Down” has been a major success against Black youth in particular. As with all things positive (re: threatening) in Black America, TPTB had to corrupt, co-erce, and commercialize the movement. Selfish, lowlife niggas aided the takeover. The end is result is what you see/hear today, with the authentic artists on the margins just trying to survive.

    AHH, do you take any responsibility for your role in the current state of Hip-Hop?

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