I finally got around to reading this weekend’s New York Times Magazine piece on the mixtape crackdown and subsequent arrests of DJs Drama and Don Canon. I thought Samantha M. Shapiro did a great job with the article. It’s refreshing to see a mainstream writer that’s skilled enough to speak to both general readers (who are going to need the nuances of the culture and the backstory explained to them) and hip-hop enthusiasts (who detest being condescended to by reporters who don’t know shiznit about rap).
One thing from the piece really stood out to me, though. The article closes with a quote from Ozone editor Julia Beverly, who argues that the arrest can only help Drama’s career:
Really, this takes him to a gangsta level. It gives him a little something extra. It’s messed up, but if someone goes to jail or dies, it elevates his status and just makes him more of a star than he was before. That’s the way the entertainment industry works in general. So, having cops at your door with M16′s at your head, and MTV News reporting on the raid, calling you the biggest DJ in the world? You can’t pay for that type of look.
Not, “yikes, he’s facing RICO charges,” or “they confiscated all his stuff and froze his accounts” or “his freedom is in jeopardy” or “his ability to support his family hangs in the balance” or “his poor mother must be worried sick.” Nope. Just: “Jackpot! Dude is getting so much free publicity.”
I’m not even going at JB either, cause she’s right on the money. Most of us in hip-hop look at extremely upsetting events–events that 99% of the population would see as traumatic–and simply see dope marketing opportunities. As a whole, we seem to get off on the epic sagas that play out before our eyes. The shootings, the beefs, the arrests. We’re addicted to the drama. And the sick sense of opportunity that comes with any foray into the spotlight.
So, if you hear that Obie Trice was shot in the head on New Years, you feel horrible for him and his family. But as soon as you hear he’s gonna pull through, dollars to donuts your friends will start in with the, “you know, this might not be a bad thing, dude could really profit off of this” crap. The guy is lying in the hospital with a bullet lodged in his skull, and the rest of us are busy calculating the boost it should give his career.
Obviously this mentality is so prevalent that The Sopranos felt free to mock it, and certain up-and-coming rappers have allegedly tried to create their own trauma-with-a-silver-lining. I wonder if it’s not time for an intervention of sorts.