I’ve been talking a lot about politics lately, but this week, I have to call myself out. Despite being a fan of all the music coming out of Portland, I haven’t posted much about it in a while.
Even when I look back on a lot of my music related posts, how many were really engaged? In this sense, I know I’m far from alone. As media, our job is to get people talking, yet, with all the dope music coming out, we’re getting a lot of dead end conversations.
This is great. This is wack. You should bump it. Check out the new song.
No matter how authentic the commentary, it’s still hype. With all the music that radio hosts, publication writers, and bloggers are bombarded with, you can’t reasonably expect them to really delve into any song, never mind project, and put out a totally engaged commentary within hours or even a day.
However, we have a deeper connection with music than just, “I like it,” or “I hate it.” Good music evokes emotions, brings back memories, and tells (sometimes ongoing) stories. It utilizes techniques that force you to listen over and over again, just so you can “get it.” A lot of great music is polarizing. Even the most universal songs strike people differently.
These are the reactions that make for interesting conversations. The conversations that give fans and more importantly, potential fans, an opening to interact with music, post hype.
There’s a reason top 10 lists are always big hits, no matter when they come out. Sure, a lot of artists get in their feelings when one drops, but that goes with the territory when people are talking about (not blowing) you.
Engaging media goes far beyond top 10 lists though. This past weekend, I watched “The Otherside,” a documentary on Seattle hip-hop. What made it so great was that it brought the music alive. I haven’t so much as seen a video from most of those artists, yet the filmography had me really checking for them, as opposed to playing a song, saying, “That was cool,” and moving on. Then leaving the song to get lost in the sea of everything else I listen to.
I also stumbled upon Dead End Hip-Hop’s (no pun intended) YouTube channel this weekend. One of the fresh things about their album reviews was how they utilized four people, who would go back and forth, and sometimes get really heated, to break down a project. Normally, reviews are one person’s opinion, coordinated around the release date of an album, or in other words, hype. In this case, they were turning the hype into a conversation, which appeals to people like me who never read the reviews before we listen to anything.
Between “The Otherside” and DEHH, I couldn’t help but think, “I’d love to see more of this in Portland.” Generally, when these stories, roundtables, mini-docs, etc. do happen, they’re a hit. But of course, they take time, energy (much of it fighting editors and publishers), collaboration, and most often, money. They’re investments. Sometimes they require taking artistic risks. But they pay off and people love them. More importantly, they get people excited about the music. Isn’t that the goal with our media platforms anyway?
Right now, the most engaging Portland hip-hop stories don’t even feature artists. They star the police and the fire marshal.
People will get shoulder deep into that shit. And that’s cool. It’s another form of hype.
But maybe I’m crazy because I get more excited about this music. I don’t go to shows to see if the police will show up. I don’t fuck with an artist because I saw him in a “Hip-hop vs. the City” story. The music touching a nerve is more than enough.
Let’s be clear, hype has its place. In fact, it’s very important and integral to giving people exposure. At the same time, to the outside reader, hype alone doesn’t convey how much we love this music. When we talk about exporting interest in the Portland scene, a lot of that responsibility falls on the media doing its job: Getting people engaged and talking.
*Shameless but related plug* WOHM’s Mac Smiff and Dizz just started a program on Juice Radio