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    Success of ‘going negative’ changes campaign strategies
    [ # ] Blogs are the new hip-hop
    February 21st, 2007 under The Buzz about blogs

    By Nathan Rodriguez

    Blogs are to media today what hip-hop was to music twenty years ago:  misunderstood, edgy, a blend of old and new.  But beyond merely confusing and frightening many of the uninitiated, blogs and hip-hop seem to share so many commonalities that – hey, indulge me here – it’s worth reviewing.

    There are certain things you can dismiss with good reason:  Mike Tyson’s latest statement that he’s a changed man, for example.  But very few things are dismissed out of hand as quickly as blogs and hip-hop.  These uninformed repudiations generally come from the “old guard,” or someone with a vested interest in seeing the “fad” fail. “It’s not even real music.”   “Blogs infringe on true journalism.”  Without any further investigation, the mediums are castigated and discarded as substandard.     

    Both blogs and hip-hop tend to sample previously produced material.  A DJ may select a few seconds of a beat, loop it and toss some effects on top, but the rapper usually adds completely new lyrics to complement the selection.  A blogger generally utilizes the beat of the beat writer:  the highlight of a story, supplementing that with their own interpretation or commentary.  At the same time, blogs and hip-hop can be completely original creations that don’t redeploy any previously-produced work. 

    Both blogs and hip-hop are almost assumed to be static monoliths, when the reality is far more indefinable and fluid.  The mediums are being stretched, tested, and at times co-opted.  They are far from a singular entity.  Within hip-hop, there are different  rap styles – “conscious” and “gangsta” among them – as well as a variety of genres sampled, from classical to funk, soul and rock and roll.  Blogs may be political, spiritual, sports-related or personal.  They each cover more ground and specialize in more areas than detractors care to admit or realize.

    Then there’s style.  For bloggers and rappers the list is similar:  style, flow, sense of rhythm and humor are all desirable commodities.  One blogger actually fancies himself as the blogosphere’s Jay-Z, quoting a Hova tune:  “I lead the league in at least six statistical categories – best flow, most consistent, realest stories, most charisma, I set the most trends and my interviews are hotter.”  There’s something to be said for having a bit of swagger.  Anyone can blog and anyone can rap, but not everyone is worth listening to.    

    Both blogs and hip-hop are slightly ahead of the curve in some respects.  The Journal of Black Studies and a number of other sources have argued that rappers had essentially predicted–or at least issued warnings prior to–the Los Angeles riots of 1992.  Similarly, some in academia argue that bloggers often act as tipsters and trendsetters, lighting the way for mainstream media to follow.   

    Hip-hop was born in braggadocio:  rappers participated in battles with peers in front of an audience.  Part of the attraction is improvising (or at least rehearsing) a variety of put-downs to enhance one’s stature at the expense of another.  At stake is perceived status and respect.  A motivation for entering either a rap battle or the blogosphere may be a simple desire to be heard and make the statement “I’m here.”  Vitriolic ad hominem attacks are expected on many blogs– the content of which isn’t too far off the mark from what might be said in any run of the mill rap battle.

    Hip-hop is more than music.  It is a social and cultural phenomenon.  Is blogging more than just the blogs themselves?  It’s probably too early to say, given the amorphous nature of the blogosphere.  Then again, the Pajamas Media crew may be the start of the online commuter revolution.

    It took a solid decade or so before the majority of mainstream listeners accepted hip-hop as more than just a fad.     Some of the biggest names in the established media have claimed that blogs have already enjoyed their day in the sun, and will soon fall by the wayside.  Perhaps it will take a few more “slip-ups” of the mainstream media reported by bloggers before the blogosphere becomes a generally-accepted branch of the media.  

    One final note about the future of the blogosphere, as seen through the historical lens of hip-hop.  Hip-hop—or at least the songs on the radio—was co-opted by the music industry a couple decades ago.  As soon as it became evident that albums would be purchased, industry executives wanted in.  Clothing styles and slang went mainstream.  A similar fate may await blogs.  Leading bloggers are basking in the newfound glow of acceptance, and some vanguards of the old media brigade are now offering a seat at the table.  Losing this “outsider” status could rob some blogs of their soul.  Just as Eminem’s well-worn claim that nobody respects him can sound hollow after selling tens of millions of albums, the personal and intimate nature of blogs may also begin to evaporate after corporate interests filter and sanitize the thoughts of the author.  Or, maybe they won’t censor blogs in the future at all – they can just slap on a warning label instead.  I’ve got an idea for one: “Parental Advisory:  Explicit Lyrics.”


    Nathan Rodriguez is currently working toward his Masters in Journalism at the William Allen White School of Journalism and Mass Communications at the University of Kansas.  He graduated with Honors in Communications from the University of Kansas in 2002, during which time he was a member of the highly successful University debate team.  He also holds a post-graduate degree in Paralegal studies.

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    A Summary of the 2006 Blogger-Reader Survey

    Fall 2006 Blogger/Reader Survey Details and Research Reports
    In December of 2006 Dr. Dhavan Shah of the University of Wisconsin and his “Blogclub” of graduate students and Dr. David D. Perlmutterof the University of Kansas conducted a survey of major political blogs and their readers. The project was partially sponsored by a grant from the Knight/Carnegie Foundation’s Future of Journalism initiative. The summary of the results are posted here--please fully cite us if you refer to the findings.

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