Most of what's below refers to Clyde Smith's idea of "the list
" of hip hop artists constructed for and by an indie rock audience's appreciation, as earlier noted on his ProHipHop.com. He uses an example at SXSW: "I directly experienced who's on the list and who's off at a SXSW Murder Dog showcase
," says Smith. "SXSW is indie rock oriented and hip hop acts that don't appeal to an indie rock crowd don't do well there."
Let me first say that I would be carrying on this dialogue with Clyde Smith via direct email if not for the nagging feeling that every time I put serious work into Promocopy-related topics--and Smith's posts concerning my blog have offered me a lot to chew on--Promocopy had ought to benefit through production. I'd also respond directly to his posts at ProHipHop if the blog allowed for comments. But here I am.
Secondly, and no news to anyone who pays a lot of attention to Promocopy: I'm pretty far out of my range on topics of hip-hop, and I don't want to give the impression that I should be understood as anything other than an outsider in a conversation about hip-hop, particularly with someone so informed on the matter as Smith (not to mention my construction of an argument isn't exactly an equal match for his). But fortunately for me, the guy has politely engaged me in dialogue and is (I'll be the first to admit) setting me straight on a few topics. And most importantly
, this dialogue (for me, at least) is not about hip-hop per se, but rather about how indie rock views hip-hop and whether or not there is a type of hip-hop that indie rockers are exposed to and gravitate toward (and whether that exposure and gravitation are two sides of a single coin).
Diplomacy and caveats aside, I'll concede to Smith that my mention of Nas, The Roots and J5 last time indicates three examples of what is essentially the type of rap artists that an indie rock fan would listen to, if for no other reason than the fact that I brought them up. Although, (naive as I may be) I seriously have to question lumping Nas alongside Jurassic 5, even in terms of both having (as Smith describes the two) "either an old school or a conscious hip hop identity." Nonetheless, the fact that I chose to cite Nas instead of (to use one of Smith's references) something on Swishahouse
clearly underlines Smith's point that an indie rocker wouldn't even know to look toward Swishahouse.
I think both Smith and I have a sense of which hip hop artists, as he puts it, are "on the list"--Smith recognizing the duality because he sees both who is on and who is off; me just recognizing the list. I'll slightly modify last time's gee whiz question to ask, "can I, informed primarily by indie rock, appreciate Swishahouse," and I'll set that one up as a premise. I'm really interested in whether this on/off-the-list binary is a matter of the list writers (ie, the indie rock community) being ignorant of hip-hop that doesn't make the list, or is it more about the list excluding such hip-hop as a matter of cultural taste (ie, is Aesop Rock just more palatable to the indie rock sensibility than--to again use Smith's example--something on Swishahouse)? I personally feel (seeing only one side of it as I am) like it's a little of both, although I can't help but think that my own distaste for certain types of music almost always comes down to a kind of ignorance on my part. But can that cultural divide that creates my ignorance be crossed, and does hip-hop want indie rock coming across? And here's where I get to use my favorite phrase
: hell if I know.
Again, big thanks to Smith for spending time on the topic. I find his insight informative and illuminating, especially as I suspect that he has better things to do than school indie rockers on the politics of hip-hop consumption.