Mr. Paine & Defari: An Editorial Reply

As a white guy working in the field of Hip-Hop music “journalism” I could tell you all kinds of stories involving what could be perceived as a general attitude of suspicion towards someone of a Caucasian background trying to break into a field that is dominated primarily by African Americans. But, in the end, who really wants to hear a white guy whining about how “unfair” life is? Culturally and historically speaking, this attitude is ridiculous. Of course, we all know there is a lot of bullshit baggage that goes along with this culture; all sorts of elitism and exclusivity that most people who aren’t on the inside would never even begin to believe. There is a lot of hater-ism that goes from the lowliest unpaid intern right up to the most powerful CEO’s and permeates through almost every aspect of this thing that we do. My own, personal opinion is that most of it is created, fueled and perpetuated by and through the so-called media.

Take journalists, for example who are pretty much the lowest form of sycophantic plankton that feed and grow fat off the unfortunate underbelly of our culture. If there is controversy to be had, believe me, some frustrated failure of a musician will inevitably be the first to dredge it up and publicize it any way they can under the guise of “journalism” just to make some noise. It is a phenomenon that is definitely not limited to Hip-Hop, or pop culture, but rather is present in every aspect of our modern day, spin-doctored, sound-byte, short attention span mentality. Controversy sells. You can ask Em, Bezino, R. Kelly, Bill Clinton etc.…anybody who’s ever lived a public life has, at some point, had their battles with negative press.

But here in the world of Hip-Hop these negative witch-hunts are commonplace and often met with eager, salivating excitement by the consumers. So those in charge of keeping the bullshit machine running at full, optimal speed (i.e. the magazines, websites, journalists, critics, publicity agents, managers, label owners) just keep cranking out the controversy. Why? Because it sells. It’s that simple, and this is no great revelation.

Take, for example, Mr. Paine’s recent “editorial” concerning an interview with Defari that had appeared at a respected Hip-Hop website. During this interview, Defari is quoted as saying: “…Yeah because I'm out here trying to get shows and a lot of these dudes are taking my money you understand? It's like a lot of these cats are taking my money. The Ugly Ducklings, Atmosphere, Aesop Rock, and all this shit that I ain't even heard of. I guess it's a lot of these young kids that always be on the computer that are into these MC's and these groups that kinda represent and look like them. When I hear these niggaz music I be like "damn that's horrible man." This shit is straight garbage…” From this excerpt of a long and pretty in-depth interview, Mr. Paine took this one quote and seemed to inject his own agenda. I am not sure if Mr. Paine has a problem with his reading comprehension skills, but he, in effect, went on to call out Defari (in a public forum, mind you) on some racial ish that just was not present in his (Defari’s) original statement. This is where I have a problem with Paine’s decision to write an entire editorial based on this one quote. While I completely respect Paine’s right to have this opinion and to voice it however he sees fit, I must question his journalistic integrity when he decided to write his response. I question it for several reasons. First and foremost, Mr. Paine states that he already has a previously established journalistic relationship with Defari. He says that he has interviewed him before. So then why is there no evidence in his editorial of having asked Defari himself to clarify his statements? Why is there no quote from the artist? I would find it hard to believe that someone of Defari’s stature would be difficult to get ahold of for interviewing purposes.

In his editorial, Mr. Paine states: “…Defari's attacks on the white role in Hip-Hop are both astonishing and hurtful to this writer. As a white man, Defari basically says, that my existence is good enough to buy his records but not share his stage…” Now, I ask you, do you see the words “white” or “Caucasian” anywhere in Defari’s original statement? Because I sure don’t. What I read was an artist expressing his distaste for a certain type of Hip-Hop that is gaining a small bit of popularity, in an underground sense. He calls artists like Ugly Duckling, Atmosphere and Aesop “garbage.” Nowhere during the interview did I read Defari quoted as saying that white people are good enough to buy his records but not good enough to share his stage. He may be implying that particular artists (specifically the ones he mentioned by name) are not good enough to share his stage, but he clearly states that it is because their music is garbage, not because they are white. What I took from Defari’s quote is that he is losing potential sales and publicity to what he feels are inferior artists. You can call his opinion “bitter” and you can accuse him of hating on these artists, but I hardly think that race has anything to do with it. Does anyone really, seriously think that Defari cares about what color the people who buy his records are? Not if they are paying cash, he don’t.

Besides the very glaring (and journalistically irresponsible and dangerous) error of taking one quote out of context and exploiting it for personal gain (i.e. just to have something to write about) there is the tremendous stupidity of just plain not getting what the man was saying. Defari said “…I guess it's a lot of these young kids that always be on the computer that are into these MC's and these groups that kinda represent and look like them…” I can see where Mr. Paine took the line “…kinda represent ad look like them…” as meaning skin color. I, personally took the line: “look like them” to mean the style of dress and fashion these kids represent. Certainly the line is open to interpretation, but that is for the reader to decide. Not for some “journalist” to use as a platform to express his dissatisfaction with his station in his life.

Ultimately, I feel that Mr. Paine’s response was irresponsible, careless, misinformed, lazy and just plain retarded. It sounds to me that he was scrambling for a last minute topic to meet his deadline, and what makes for juicier gossip than an artist being called out on some racially charged issues? Instead of further delving into what propelled Defari to make this statement, Mr. Paine just went skimming through someone else’s interview on another website and invented a nice little column for himself so he could fulfill his deadline obligations, as well as make a little noise for himself as someone “not afraid to confront the really tough issues.” The reality is, there is no issue here. Paine is confronting nothing, not even the man who made the statement. There is just one man’s opinion of music he feels is garbage and which is doing nothing to further the culture of Hip-Hop. And in the same breath I have to ask; what is Mr. Paine doing to further Hip-Hop culture?

For the record, I myself have contributed record reviews and the other site in question. And since my writing has been a labor of love, I feel that I can express these opinions with a clear conscience, as I have no obligation to either site. I have reviewed Ugly Duckling’s most recent release (which, I have to admit, IS garbage, probably the worst, corniest record I have ever heard) and the reason why I gave it a negative review has nothing to do with race and everything to do with the classic example of a terrible record. Regardless of personal preferences, I feel that it is a journalist’s responsibility to stop and think about what he puts out in public. The most dangerous thing in journalism is quoting out of context. Mr. Pain’s remarks are tantamount to the embarrassing PR stunt that Benzino has recently pulled on Em, and they make him sound like a whiny white guy crying about how “unfair” the world is to whites…