Thursday, February 24, 2005

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Call me "Dr. Dre" from now on

Josh Levin compares rappers to bloggers in Slate:

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.

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.

Sampling, cutting, pasting, and then writing a few short words of commentary? That b**ch Levin don't know what the f*** he's talking about. [Fo'shizzle!--ed.]

[Did Levin get the "circle jerk" meme from Bill Keller--ed. Beats me. Speaking of Keller, however, Jeff Jarvis has posted his ongoing correspondence with the New York Times Executive Editor. Oh, and Slate has added a new feature, Today's Blogs -- which appears to be a useful compliment to their equally useful Today's Papers feature.]

UPDATE: South Knox Bubba has his own retort to Slate.

posted by Dan on 02.24.05 at 01:55 PM


According to Gizoogle, the comparison is more apt than even Levin describes!

posted by: Robert Tagorda on 02.24.05 at 01:55 PM [permalink]

That reminds me, isnt a one man circle jerk a contradiction in terms?

posted by: Mark Buehner on 02.24.05 at 01:55 PM [permalink]

A cirle jerk in an echo chamber

But seriously, I think maybe the whole blog thing is becoming a bit too intertwined in the prof's identity. I mean, he defends blogging's honor like Southerners used to defend their women's. Is Dr. Drezner 'calling out' this Levin character? Remember what happened to Tupac. I say -- old media, new media, one peace.

posted by: stari_momak on 02.24.05 at 01:55 PM [permalink]

The usefulness of Today's Papers has been greatly diminished ever since I stopped receiving the full article via email.

Yes it would be more appropriate to complain in their Fray, but I can't remember my username or password.

posted by: Tim Calkins on 02.24.05 at 01:55 PM [permalink]


Not if he's got multiple personality disorder.

posted by: Jim Dandy on 02.24.05 at 01:55 PM [permalink]

Blogger -- A person in pajamas who engages in circle jerking.

Commenter -- A person who may or may not be in pajamas who can't get it together to circle-jerk

posted by: Appalled Moderate on 02.24.05 at 01:55 PM [permalink]

Paging Reihan Salaam. This is right up his alley.

posted by: Independent George on 02.24.05 at 01:55 PM [permalink]

I can get down with "Judge Dre, the Man" a little more better.

posted by: Salt Lick on 02.24.05 at 01:55 PM [permalink]

Bloggers and rappers!! Of course!! Now it be all clear!! (Ooops)

How could we have missed the obvious similarity?

On the other hand, P. Diddy and Atrios - he may have a point.

(PS: blogs get a nice mention in Podhoretz' latest in "Commentary" ("The War Against WW IV"). Norman finds a little more of substance there than Josh.

posted by: Mike on 02.24.05 at 01:55 PM [permalink]

"Dr. Dre" is taken. What about Dr. Drez?

posted by: Munir Umrani on 02.24.05 at 01:55 PM [permalink]

Here I was thinking that blogging was more like Arena football, where athletes who don't fit the physical profile of NFL players can still make a living playing football or something like it.

Or maybe blogging is like cable television shows. NBC would never put a show about poker players or battles against aliens who take the names of ancient gods on Must-See Thursday, so cable creates a new paradigm.

Blogging could be like the California wine industry, which challenged the French belief in terroir and tradition with the idea that wine consumers are entitled to an affordable product of consistent quality: wine for the public instead of for the producers and the elite.

Or, blogging could be like Starbucks, hybrid cars, independent films, Jet Blue, the X Games and organic farming.

But rap music is just annoying at all times and in all forms. I mean, seriously. There are kids who like it because they're too young and undereducated to know any better, and blacks who endorse it as an expression of authentic culture, like giving children names such as Tawanisha, Dwaynetrelle, Pomodoro and Shiitake. Also there are some completely normal people who smile and cheer at rap stars while rolling their inner eyeballs, because they don't want to be thought racist. But most of us edge away from someone playing rap music the way we edge away from someone who hasn't bathed recently -- there's enough ugliness in the world without having to put up with that. This is the complete opposite of blogging. Mainstream media types read blogs but don't want their collagues to know.

posted by: Zathras on 02.24.05 at 01:55 PM [permalink]

Mencken is a funky ass antidote . Listen to how a motherfucker flow shit. Politically, he is often right but seldom correct by today's stizzern standards. In a cheery way, he dislikes mizzy minorizzles n if he ever had a good word ta say `bout tha majority of his countrymen, I have yet ta come across it , ya feel me?. Recently, whiznen his baller were published, it was discovered that He Did Not Like tha Jews, n tizzle he had said unpleasant th'n `bout tizzle not only as individuals but In General, plainly tha sign of a Hustla enthusiast. So shocked was everyone that even tha New York Review of Books ' unofficial de-anti-Semitisa, Garry Wills (he salvaged Dickens, barely), has yet ta come ta his aid wit An Explanation. But in Mencken's private correspondizzles he also snarls at bliznack Americans, Orientals, Britons, bitchez, n WASPs, particularly tha clay-eat'n Appalachians, wizzy he regarded as subhuman. But private irritability is of no consequence W-H-to-tha-izzen compared ta whiznat really shot calla public action.

posted by: MC Gore V Dolla on 02.24.05 at 01:55 PM [permalink]

Uhhh-aahh! Temper temper!
Mr. Dre? Mr. N.W.A.?
Mr. AK comin' straight outta Compton y'all better make way?

posted by: Factory on 02.24.05 at 01:55 PM [permalink] I was saying...

posted by: Zathras on 02.24.05 at 01:55 PM [permalink]

OK, blogging is a "circle jerk" that largely passes along ohter people's ideas. What about the op-ed pages of major newspapers? They've been doing it forever. And what about academics? How many of them have produced something new that isn't so esoteric nobody but other specialists care?

What bothers the establishment about blogging is that it weakens their role as gatekeepers.

Blogging = Rapping

OK. Let's complete the analogy. Mainstream media = Muzak

posted by: Carl Nyberg on 02.24.05 at 01:55 PM [permalink]

“Here I was thinking that blogging was more like Arena football, where athletes who don't fit the physical profile of NFL players can still make a living playing football or something like it.”

The blogging stars are usually far more talented than the second raters associated with the old media. The latter are merely whores of the liberal establishment. They are often nothing more than well paid sluts. The old media, by and large, deserve our unhesitating contempt.

posted by: David Thomson on 02.24.05 at 01:55 PM [permalink]

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