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Hip Hop Fri May 11 2012
The latest front page story for the Reader titled Scratch and Stitch, claims to cover Chicago hip-hop artists and the brands that back them. The Twittersphere buzzed heavily yesterday in reaction to what many in the hip-hop community deemed a misinterpreted premise, however, and their initial problem with the story begins with the cover photo. "Insert Chicago Rapper Here," it says, filling a white circle that covers the space where the rest of hip-hop artist ShowYouSuck's face should be.
Anybody else see that total bull**** @Chicago_Reader cover?It's irresponsible, uninformed & the reason people say Chicago is unsupportive.— Ana Fernatt (@AccidentallySxy) May 10, 2012
"Why was I asked by name to do this?" says Clinton Sandifer, a.k.a. ShowYouSuck. "For my face to be covered? I feel disrespected." In a statement released on Ruby Hornet to address the Reader's story, Sandifer added, "I thought we were past the 'all rappers are the same,' mentality.' Rap fans in Chicago are [finally] open to different sounds and artists, and instead of THAT being celebrated, we all get thrown back into being another rapper."
Tweets from fellow artists Auggie the 9th, and Million Dollar Mano, among others, also express concern over the essentials that the piece failed to highlight.
@Chicago_Reader u just proved my point right about stupid ignorant writers coming into some shit they don't know about pushing it wrong— MAN◯™ (@CallMeMano) May 10, 2012
@Chicago_Reader you only scathed the relations between the 2 n a 3 page article which doesnt touch on the fact that these artists hav talent— Auggie the 9th (@A9ER) May 10, 2012
The worry from many artists is, that readers are thus given a false perspective that clumps them into controlled groups that are dependent on brands for success.
"It was very broad," says J. Arthur, of The WHOevers; a duo not featured in the story, but one that is representative of artists in the scene that have no affiliation with a streetwear brand. "The details it had, didn't get it right."
"The story made it seem like the artists need gimmicks to come up," says DotKom, the other half of The WHOevers duo. "It seems like they ignored the hard work that these artists put in and just focused on how they brand themselves. It's not like we wear a brand just to get exposure. That's selling out, to me."
In response to the day's worth of drama, Mara Shalhoup, editor of the Reader, released a statement to Gapers Block, standing by the concept of the cover page, but admitting that there may have been a more effective way in carrying out its intent.
While we stand by the concept executed on the cover of this week's paper, we take seriously the ensuing criticism. We believe there are things we should have done to avoid the mistaken impression that the cover of the Reader in any way meant to denigrate the local hip-hop community.
The aim of the cover was to illustrate the central observation of Leor Galil's feature story: that there's a smart synergy between Chicago rappers and the streetwear companies that publish and promote their work. We did not want to feature one particular rapper's face on the cover, because we thought that might send the message that the story is primarily about an individual artist. Rather, we wanted to convey that the story focuses on a broad range of Chicago rappers.
To best convey that point, however, we should have photographed a model instead of one of the rappers featured in the story. We believe that would have helped avoid the appearance that the Reader brazenly erased the identity of ShowYouSuck, the rapper behind the headline. As it stood, the wording of the headline had the unforeseen effect of suggesting that the subjects in the story, as rapper Auggie the 9th stated on Twitter, are "faceless puppets"--generic and interchangeable individuals, rather than a community from which any number of worthy examples could be drawn.
We meant no disrespect to ShowYouSuck or Chicago's hip-hop artists, and we hope that the story itself--which delves into ShowYouSuck's numerous and important artistic contributions, as well as the city's "surging" hip-hop community--makes that clear.
Shalhoup speaks to the issue of the cover photo thoroughly, but the front page is only a branch of the allegedly blurred scope of the story, which Shalhoup referenced as, "a smart synergy between Chicago rappers and the streetwear companies." While Shalhoup's definition stands alone as a fitting representation of what the piece was meant to capture, the artists believe that the writer did not portray the dynamic within the culture effectively. Beyond that, there stands an issue of what's missed in the writer's perspective.
There's a lack of understanding of the essence of the culture; the music, the sharing in the love of the lifestyle, and the unity and support between the artists, the brands, the writers and the fans. The story fails to understand that there doesn't have to be a specific logo on a shirt or snapback to define the artist's style. The music would sound the same no matter what they're wearing. While hip-hop in a city that changes as much, and as often as this one does, is a tough beat to cover, "If it is to be done, do it right," as Auggie the 9th said, in a tweet to the Reader.