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We’re One And The Same

I decided to check out Fat Beats on its last day which, admittedly, was stupid and actually very “un-hip hop” for me to do so. I’ve lived in this city for a little over a year now, and I kept putting off a trip to Fat Beats assuming that, when I did decide to make a visit, it’d be there. Little did I know the place would go under, so instead of taking a casual stroll to the shop one warm, lazy weekend I ended up standing outside the spot on a surprisingly chilly Saturday night, amidst the throng of over zealous zealots, aspiring rapsters desperately trying to network their mixtape into the hands of whomever was in earshot and digital camera directors hoping to get indoors, like a jackass.

Where was I when this place was open and thriving? I could have and should have stopped by the store as soon as I touched down in New York, as I had done at the store in West Hollywood many times in the past. Instead, I’m in a crowd of a pissload of backpackers rapping to whatever Flip Cam gets thrust in their faces, a bunch of backpackers trying to muscle their way into the way-too-small store and a couple backpackers who needlessly felt the urge to try to start a “Fuck Solar!” chant when DJ Premier – the final guest spin doctor for the night – wafted through the crowd.

To be honest, there’s no difference between this hip hop audience – the “realist,” North Face Jansport rocking indie head – and their bitter archenemy/antithesis, the club –attending, bottle-popping, “all-blank-everything” mainstream head. The indie head will remain forever mired in the underground culture, refusing to come afloat for some much-needed air. They will be the ones you see at the front stage of a Duck Down concert, covered head-to-toe in paraphernalia and desperately trying to get a pound from Sean Price, all the while refusing to purchase the guy’s album. They will support a talented underground artist with their all (while the mainstream crowd – unaware of who they are – will ignore them) but will be quick to turn on them once they hit a certain level of success, as if that’s not the reason why most rapsters exist in the first place.

The mainstream crowd shares similar ideals also, albeit in a more “force fed” way. While underground heads will try to make an effort to discover new sounds, the mainstreamer will simply wait until the video pops up on their favorite countdown show or radio station. They eschew the lyrical aspects of rap for a more melody-driven, call-and-response soundscapes, and some will actually purchase the artist’s album when it drops (in stark comparison to the backpacker, who’ll just wait for the latest working RapidShare link).

Aside from the obvious differences, I see virtually nothing wrong with either, and I wished that they each would recognize and acknowledge that. While both hate the other and will engage in wanton nignorance in a public setting both are also fans of hip hop, which is by far the most valuable commodity in the culture, and both will show some form of support in their own ways. Despite my self-disgust with going to Fat Beats for the first time on its last day, I can at least take some quasi-solace knowing that there were others who wanted to take the time out of their day to do so as well, which is essentially how hip hop is still going strong to this day.

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