Aside from the obvious benefits of chirping over you favorite celebrity’s tweets or trying to use “mupload” photos to piece together what happened on Saturday night, one gift the sharing media age has brought us is the ability to discover and download new music with never-before-seen ease. If you like hip-hop, there are several prolific music blogs that make finding good music easier than finding fake tits in LA. If you’ve got a techno house music fetish, look no further than Weinberg sophomore Coby Argain’s budding techno blog to satisfy the Avicii aficionado in you. But with the rise of social media and music blogs, the number of self-made college rap artists is rising faster than our national debt, and it’s made some people harshly critical of their work and upset by the Internet’s permissive nature of “talentless crap.”
Before all hell breaks loose, let it be known that the likes of Jay-Z, Eminem, Kanye West, Wiz Khalifa, Lil’ Wayne and (soon-to-be Northwestern guest) Lupe Fiasco are some of today’s most creative lyrical geniuses. Their positions atop the Mount Rushmore of modern hip-hop are as certain as gravity, taxes and death. They’ve got enough poetic brilliance to make Edgar Allen Poe’s words seem like DMV jargon.
But the success of these renowned rappers isn’t as admirable as the success of today’s new breed of college rapper (insert angry expletives here).
For the majority of these young artists, balancing music with college was a daily routine. Boston’s Sam Adams, whom I interviewed last year, attended Trinity College in Connecticut. The group Timeflies wrote and produced while at Tufts. The underground duo Kinetics & One Love graduated from Cornell, Mike Stud flipped his tassel at Duke, and Alex “Loggy” Lagemann did the same out west at Berkeley. There’s a good chance you haven’t heard of these rappers, and that’s exactly what makes them so admirable. The fact that they don’t have studios commissioning them to produce iTunes-ready albums means that they’re busy marketing themselves on Facebook, twitter, and music blogs, trying to sell out shows and fund their passion for creativity. The world doesn’t know much about their music, but they’re making a concerted effort to change that, and the effort is what earns our admiration for their work.
To this there’s an obvious objection: Jay-Z works hard. Wiz works hard. Kanye works hard. Opponents argue that effort isn’t exclusive to college rappers; rather, all successful artists work their asses off or they wouldn’t be successful. This is valid, but college artists have a strong social current working against them that professionals do not: the college culture.
The prevailing college culture on almost every campus from California to Connecticut (sorry, BYU) is one inundated with alcohol, drugs, sex, and complacency. The rhythm of life is monotonously cyclical: classes and libraries Sunday through Wednesday, bars, co-eds and frat parties Thursday through Saturday. Sure, students involve themselves in an amazing palette of organizations and clubs, but how many students are hard at work promoting their own music, founding their own record label, or recording music videos? Very few. It’s one thing to participate in an already existing group or idea. It’s another to create one from scratch. It takes balls.
The appreciation to be found in their work isn’t in their talent. None of the aforementioned college rappers are anywhere close to being invited to the Grammys or even making enough money to call music their profession. But it’s their ability to resist falling into the attractive college bubble sinkhole that makes them such an appreciative bunch. If you snicker at their ambition and convince yourself that you could create music too, realize that while you’re talking about what you could do, these guys are out there actually doing it. Even if you dislike Chet Haze and would sooner listen to fingernails scratch across a dusty chalkboard, the effort he’s exerting to see his dreams through to fruition is effort that commands respect. Even though he’s presumably wealthy and the son of one of the greatest actors of our time, neither his checkbook nor his father are sitting down and putting in the hours to write lyrics and find or forge beats.
So the next time you begrudgingly listen to one of them rap about a champagne toast you argue they don’t deserve, stop and tip your cap to the fact that they actually have something to be celebrative about: self-enterprising ambition.