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Sutures on your smoochers

Here’s a shocking bit of news: Kanye is acting up again. On Thursday night at the MTV Europe Awards, after being passed up for the best video spot, Mr. West bumrushed the stage in protest. “Fuck this!” he complained. “[My video] cost a million dollars, Pamela Anderson was in it, I was jumping across canyons and shit! If I don’t win, the awards show loses credibility.” Obviously Kanye is just being Kanye, but the incident got me thinking.

In the last couple of weeks, a similar story has dominated the music press up here in Canada. [1] Toronto rapper K-OS is famous for phoning up critics after poor reviews [2], penning passionate letters to editors, and generally kicking up a fuss when he doesn’t get his props. Most recently, K-OS has been beefing with Jason Richards, a rap critic with Toronto’s Now Magazine. In mid October, Richards panned K-OS’s third outing Atlantis: Hymns for Disco, arguing that the project “will only strengthen his detractors’ case that he’s a crossover pop artist disguised as a true-school b-boy.” [3]

In response, K-OS posted a heated missive on his MySpace page about Richards—who shares his Trinidadian background—calling him an “Uncle Tom” and claiming that the reporter was being manipulated by the racist agenda of his indie rock bosses. He has since expressed regret about the harshness of his comments.

A week later, rock musician Danko Jones joined the fray. “Take it from someone who has had his share of bad reviews: you can’t take bad press so personally,” Jones scolds in a letter to Now.  “If I spent time spitting back at every bad thing said about me in the press I wouldn’t have time to wipe my own ass!”

Richards also maintains that K-OS needs to get a thicker skin. “I write about music,” he notes in his response article. “If I like the music, I’ll say so. If I don’t, I’ll say so. I also won’t be deterred by the ravings of temperamental artists who can’t accept the remote possibility that everything they touch doesn’t turn to gold.”

Now Magazine—which is, of course, basking in the publicity that K-OS has generated—ran a commentary piece this week that attempts to draw some larger conclusions about the issue. The article (which should be posted on-line, damn it, but for some reason isn’t) poses the question: is it easier to get under rappers’ skin than other types of musicians? Which I think is a question worth asking.

Because, really, it’s not just Kanye and K-OS. Hip-hop culture as a whole is obsessed with respect. Across the board, rappers get seriously ass-hurt when they don’t get the love they think they deserve.

Pound editor-in-chief Rodrigo Bascuñán offered his thoughts to Now on why this might be: “You can criticize rock music from some distance because there is rock music and then there are [people’s] lives. When you criticize hip-hop, it’s like criticizing a culture. It takes on more intense meaning. You’re going against their livelihood—not against their music, but against their one opportunity in life.”

Are rappers more sensitive than other musicians? If so, why? Is it a case of getting fed up with uninformed (and sometimes ignorant) media coverage? Or do dudes need to get thicker skin? 


[1] You all have a deep interest in my country, and particularly in our rap scene, no?

[2] Which I think is hilarious. Honestly, there’s a few rap reviewers that are long overdue for an irate phone call.

[3] For the record, I happen to love K-OS’s latest LP. If you want to read my review, head over to Pound and download the PDF for the latest issue.

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