I don’t think judging something’s relevancy based on a read rate on Medium — or anywhere else, for that matter — is really an accurate assessment of whether anyone cares.

Mostly because I think, when dealing with things like history, particularly music history, and more specifically hip-hop history, there tends to be a rather minor subset of people who want to check that stuff out in the first place. So, the numbers are always going to be kind of small.

Also, I think music and reading are almost complete opposites of each other — people who want to read, read. And people who want to listen to music, listen to music. But should those two subjects intersect, a reader will be drawn in by either a really good story, or a subject (i.e. a musician) whom they very deeply care about, probably because they love their music (or, these days, some other aspect of who they are).

Now, to your point about Shadez of Brooklyn, that song probably has more views just because people remember it and seek it out — very few people who liked it in its day have the vinyl (I, myself, think I only have it on tape somewhere). Whereas Nas, a lot of us either still have Illmatic on CD, or maybe we’ve got it in iTunes, or Spotify. Point is, nobody needs to find it on YouTube.

I do think you’re right though that the rap canon, at least the one from the 80’s and 90’s, is overrated and definitely over-weighted with material that came from points east and west, but rarely from the middle and south of the country, and certainly people checked for that stuff. Local people remember things that were hitting locally.

And it’s like that even today. Basically, artists build their fan bases very organically, and there is no center point around which the community — call it the rap community — really rallies behind. Maybe once, in the 90’s, we tricked ourselves into thinking we did, but the truth is, people then, as they do now, fucked with what they fucked with. Magazines printed shit, but really, nobody gave that much of a fuck.

A sad reality I’m willing to acknowledge.

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Wrote for the New York Times, New York Magazine, Esquire, Rolling Stone, Vice, Fader, Vibe, XXL, MTV News, many other places.

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