Rappers and bloggers—separated at birth!

Rappers and bloggers—separated at birth!

Rappers and bloggers—separated at birth!

Arts, entertainment, and more.
Feb. 23 2005 6:28 PM

Rappers and Bloggers

Separated at birth!

P. Diddy gargles Cristal as his yacht sails from San Tropez to Ibiza. Atrios stares at his computer screen and ponders the effect of "increased central bank diversification out of dollar holdings." Nelly takes in the NBA All-Star Game from the first row while gabbing on a cell phone made out of a giant shoe. InstaPundit digests the latest developments in the Dartmouth board of trustees race and takes note of an update to C-SPAN's early morning schedule. What, do I need to draw you a Venn diagram? Rappers and bloggers—they're the same!

Those of you obsessed with external appearances may think I'm kidding. What, you ask, could those champagne-swilling, "bitch"-shouting rappers have in common with those Jolt-pounding, "read the whole thing"-writing bloggers?

Josh Levin Josh Levin

Josh Levin is Slate’s editorial director.

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For starters, both groups share a love of loose-fitting, pajama-style apparel. Still not satisfied? Bloggers and rappers are equally obsessed with social networking. Every rapper rolls with his entourage; every blogger rolls with his blog roll. Women can't win an audience in either profession without raunching it up like Lil' Kim or Wonkette.

And don't forget those silly, silly names. Even if he didn't flaunt his devotion to pimping and pit bulls, you'd probably guess Snoop Dogg is a rapper. And Fedlawyerguy—yeah, probably a blogger. But the "blogger or rapper?" parlor game can stump even the nerdiest gangsta. Does uggabugga hate on wack emcees or wack Charles Krauthammer? What about Mad Kane? Big Noyd, Justus League, Uppity Negro, Little Brother, Cold Fury, and South Knox Bubba? (Answers: blogger, blogger, rapper, rap group, blogger, rap group, blogger, blogger.)

Essentially, blogging is sampling plus a new riff. Political bloggers take a story in the news, rip out a few chunks, and type out a few comments. Rap songs use the same recipe: Dig through a crate of records, slice out a high hat and a bass line, and lay a new vocal track on top. Of course, the molecular structure of dead-tree journalism and classic rock is filthy with other people's research and other people's chord progressions. But in newspaper writing and rock music, the end goal is the appearance of originality—to make the product look seamless by hiding your many small thefts. For rappers and bloggers, each theft is worth celebrating, another loose item to slap onto the collage.

Rap music and blogging are populist, low-cost-of-entry communication forms that reward self-obsessed types who love writing in first person. Maybe that's why both won so many converts so quickly. If you want to become MC I'm Good at Rapping, all you have to do is rustle up a microphone and a sampler. If you want to blog as AngryVeganCatholicGOPMom, bring a computer, an Internet connection, a working knowledge of Ctrl-C and Ctrl-V, and a whole lot of spare time.

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Although bloggers and rappers are free to write about whatever they damn well please, they mostly talk to each other and about each other. That's partly because it's so easy to communicate with your fellow working professionals. If Nas disses you for not having a moustache, it's easy enough to come right back and tell him you slept with the mother of his child.When Markos from Daily Kos offhandedly admits that he doesn't read many books, Little Green Footballs steps up to hammer the softball.

But rappers' and bloggers' self-importance also has something to do with the supremely annoying righteousness that rides along with those who believe they're overturned the archaic forms of expression favored by The Man—that is, whitey and/or the mainstream media. Ninety percent of rap lyrics are self-congratulatory rhymes about how great the rapper is at rapping, the towering difficulties of succeeding in the rap game, or the lameness of wanksta rivals. Blogging is a circle jerk that never stops circling: links to posts by other bloggers, following links to newspaper stories about bloggers, following wonderment at the corruptions and complacency of old-fashioned, credentialed journalism.

Sure, there are a few differences between the blogosphere and the blingosphere. Although bloggers have a certain buzz about them these days, they'll never be cool the way rappers are cool. The blogger lifestyle is dangerous—staying up all night and eating Cheetos will eventually kill you—but not sexy dangerous. Rappers can afford to be more conspicuous with their triumphalism because selling millions of records is more financially rewarding than getting millions of hits. But if that blog ad gravy train ever comes in, I guarantee you that Josh Marshall will pick up his mail in a gold-plated tank and Nick Denton will put a hit on any linkmonger who looks at him cross-eyed.

But don't get caught up in those piddling distinctions. Public Enemy's Chuck D once said that rap music was the black CNN. After busting a cap in Eason Jordan's ass, what are bloggers now if not the white CNN? If only the two schools recognized they could inflict more damage with a little teamwork. Today, Mickey Kaus sits alone in Los Angeles, valiantly spewing bile at hidebound East Coast elites. Just think how much more pungent that bile would be with a hot backing track by Dr. Dre. Hey, maybe that podcasting thing won't be totally useless after all.