Will You '90s Babies Shut Up and Admit Rap Was 100 Times Better in the '90s?

You appreciated all coverage of hip hop

Look: It's not a bad thing that the internet's helped democratize music criticism and music writing. Or, rather, not a terrible thing. The problem with this democratizing, though, is that it flooded the marketplace of ideas with the critical equivilant of a bunch of bootleg Louis V bags: People who were calling absolute shit rap the greatest thing since sliced bread. And even that is okay up to a certain point. Opinions are good! They should be varied, and diverse, and should interrupt a monolithic consensus. The problem with that, though, is human nature.

See: Music writers—human beings (sometimes)—are attracted to money, fame, and power, just like rappers, but on a far smaller scale. Many of these people that the internet's given rise to have motivations that don't involve giving an accurate and fair opinion of rap so much as upping their own cachet. So even though only three or four outlets had power back in the day, those outlets (Vibe, The Source, XXL, and Spin and Rolling Stone, kind of) had to compete with the core alternatives in their field, and bring their A-Game not to infrastructure or innovation, or to making the most of a personal brand, but to writing, criticism, interviews, news, and the sole prerogative of being rap's must-read publication.

Value was placed on authority. And it yielded great writing, great reporting, and especially great rap criticism. There was a time when a Five-Mic Source review really meant something (or when a music review meant something, period). It was great for debate. It was great for standards. It was great for a culture of professional, learned discourse with regards for institutional knowledge. In other words, it was great for so many of the reasons rap writing—even, yes, rap writing like this—is now so superfluous and fleeting.

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