5 ways for Twin Cities hip hop and press to work together

Categories: Rap/Hip Hop
Soundset_Fans_2013_Erik_Hess.jpg
Photo by Erik Hess
Fans at Soundset 2013

In front of a packed house Toki Wright, Desdamona, Guante, the Lioness, and Atmosphere's Slug came together at Intermedia Arts Monday night to discuss hip hop's relationship with the local press. Moderated by the Current's Andrea Swensson and Kevin Beacham, the conversation was aimed to spark ideas for a May 10 local hip-hop celebration at the Fitzgerald Theater. It sparked some venom too.

When asked to sum up how they felt about the press at the outset, the panel used words like "shallow," "biased," "pandering," and "disconnected" to describe Twin Cities music journalists. It was said that local scribes only write about their friends, "or friends of friends," and there's a lack of diversity among writers.

It's tough to hear these criticisms, but not altogether surprising. Amid occasional tangents -- Star Tribune's Chris Riemenschneider said much of the discussion also centered on the community's relationship with itself -- a lot of solid truth about scene-building was passed around. In the spirit of moving forward, here are five thoughts from the night.


5. Meet
It was eye-opening to officially meet several of the talented artists working locally at Monday's event. The night had a roomful of people heading directly to the source of their frustrations and/or fascinations. On the media's end, I'll say the folks who write and shoot for City Pages and other local publications are a passionate, overworked, underpaid, and quite approachable bunch. These are music fans who sometimes deal with a disturbing amount of flak for the type of music they enjoy. They are often tired all day at work so that they can spend a few hours a night at a rap show, and often don't eat very well so that they can pick up a few records at Fifth Element.

I invite artists to contact me at rfischer [at] citypages.com with pitches or questions. As the City Pages music editor, I assign all of our music print and blog stories. I'm constantly funneling stuff to our writers, and they're always hungry for ideas. Jack Spencer writes about local rap every week for us. (E-mail him at ihavehighselfworth [at] gmail.com.) There are over a dozen other contributors who are always looking for new hip hop to listen to and write about too. If there are other folks you'd like to get in touch with, I can send you their contact info, too.

4. Read
City Pages covers a ton of hip hop, but has never been just a rap magazine. City Pages isn't even exclusively a music rag. The way that we cover music is different from what you'll find on the Current, KMOJ, KFAI, Radio K, Vita.mn, Pioneer Press, MN Daily, TC Daily Planet, TPT, and other local media outlets. When "local media" gets lumped together as one entity, it's just like tossing every local rapper in the same slot. The differences can be subtle at a glance, but they're in there.

If journalists are expected to take time listening to an artist's music and think critically about it, it's easier to improve when our critics meet us halfway and follow what we're doing, too. Be specific about what you like and don't like, and come directly to us to be sure that the message is received.

3. Write

You want to write about hip hop (or any sort of music) for City Pages? E-mail me some writing samples and your ideas at rfischer [at] citypages.com. All I ask in return is that you meet deadlines, be professional, and let creativity be your guide.

Every semester, we hire unpaid interns. You must be a college student who can get credit to be eligible, but that's it. Same deal. E-mail me.


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10 comments
dhanners
dhanners

Since when are artists and the media supposed to "work together"? "Work together" to achieve what, exactly? If the media (meaning a reporter, I'm assuming) starts "working" with an artist, doesn't that remove any objectivity the reporter might have? Artists and the media have different agendas. Artists make art and try to get attention for their work. Critics and writers are supposed to view that art in some objective way (if they're doing their job right) and tell their readers/viewers/listeners about it. It would seem hip hop artists are learning what other musicians/artists in town learned long ago -- namely, that critics and tastemakers pick their favorites and those are the people who get ink and airplay, often to the exclusion of other acts that are arguably deserving of some attention. They want to hang out with the "cool" people and that's easier to do when they help dictate who the "cool" people are. The music business has never been a meritocracy and, by and large, media coverage has generally done little to change that.

Sandra Hart
Sandra Hart

Love you young people. Your generation rocks. From a Boomer.

ReedFischer
ReedFischer moderator

@dhanners Generalizations. Did you even read past the headline? 


People can't "pick their favorites" without getting exposed to artists' work in the first place, and artists "arguably deserving of some attention" can't get some without reaching out in some form.  

dhanners
dhanners

@ReedFischer @dhannersOddly enough, I read the whole piece. Your reply makes it sound as though all an artist need do is "reach out," as if "reaching out" translates into (or even promises) coverage. It would be dishonest to maintain that it does. How many CDs does City Pages/The Current/KFAI/et al get a week, and how many of those actually get listened to? There isn't enough time in a day to listen to all of them so editorial judgments are made, and it strains credulity to think those judgments are always based solely on artistic merit.

ReedFischer
ReedFischer moderator

@dhanners @ReedFischer  Again, it seems like you're just spinning some cynical generalizations.


Nowhere does this say "YOU WILL IMMEDIATELY GET AN ARTICLE." Chances of getting press improve if you've made direct attempts to share your art with the press. A lot of artists don't take that step.

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