Can Hip-Hop Keep a Journal?

on Tuesday, Apr. 12th

With the print media industry struggling to keep up with dropping subscription and advertising rates, and the rising demand of late breaking content provided by the internet, it’s no surprise that hip-hop journalism is struggling even a little more than its mainstream counterparts.  King Magazine, a popular hip hop lifestyle magazine, almost had to close its doors in 2009 after not even a decade of publication.  Dubbed by Hugh Hefner, “The Black Playboy”, King, which New York Times also credited for “redefining the pinup,” was a relative newcomer in hip-hop journalism, joining the ranks of established magazines, such as Vibe, XXL, and the Source.

The fact that the magazine was in trouble after barely getting off the ground raised a warning flag in my mind that hip hop media is in no way exempt from suffering fates similar to the established press.

Hip-hop journalism is also shifting focus to the web, as websites compete for hits, offering breaking news, exclusive footage, and the most juiciest of rumors.  I asked Illseed, rumor columnist for AllHipHop.com (founded by Chuck Creekmur), his thoughts on the state of hip hop journalism, and he had this to say:

It is in a shambles to be honest. You have a lack of real reporting going on in the game. Most magazines are glorified press releases. On the flip side, you have the readers, who have no attention span, nor do they seem to want to get in-depth information from their hip hop artists. Magazines are dropping like flies and several key rap mags are on the verge of extinction.

He points out that journalism is so ingrained in the culture of hip hop, that it can create a double edged sword, stating, “This means you have a knowledge and appreciation of the music like no other person. On the flip side, you might see a reporter smoking weed with a rapper or sleeping with them.”

While Illseed is confident that hip-hop journalism would never revert to a “web only” arena, stating, “At that point, somebody is going to start a magazine,” he does suggest that his colleagues within the industry step their “journalism game” up and provide a heightened level of reporting for their audience, which is as simple as remembering two things: “Have balance and REPORT. That does not mean cut and paste content from other sites or not to question the artists. You have to dig a bit and know the basics.”

Illseed hints at a need for more thorough reporting on the part of these publications. But I, as a consumer, feel I share some of the responsibility of keeping the craft alive by applying more critical thinking when reading articles, creating a higher standard than the “campaigning through coverage” reporting I’m used to in hip hop journalism.  It’s either that, or hold its hand tightly as it lay on its death bed and support it in its final hours.

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