PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.


Twitter's power & limits Pt 2- think pieces (rap and race)

Last time, I was talking about how Twitter can be a powerful tool when covering concerts even though it also has some limitations there too. One of the problems is that if you wanna get across a complex, nuanced point, it ain't easy to do it in 140 characters. If you're looking to have a meaty, intelligent conversation about a complex subject, Twitter makes it tough on you too.

The way I found this out was in a discussion with writer ('media assassin') Harry Allen. About a week and a half ago, I responded to a tweet he did about an article that profiled rapper Asher Roth in the New York Times. Allen wrote about the article on his blog, unhappy that Roth was getting preferential coverage as a white rapper. I tweeted back to Allen, wondering "Isn't it also about the perceived novelty of a white rapper (esp. one that's broken into mainstream consciousness)?" That led to this conversation:

Allen: "I think the perceived novelty, as you put it, is part of it. But the perceived novelty is solely based on race."

Me: "Correct but white rappers are hardly a novelty anymore- look at Anticon's roster for instance"

Allen: "Thanks for saying that, because it just now led me to a key insight: Most, if not all, of what I say about white rappers stays... ...true if you change the word "rappers" to "people," that being exactly my point. My articles, in this area, aren't about... ...race leaking into hip-hop. They're about hip-hop leaking into race. I'm using what many people know­hip-hop­to talk about... ...what many people cannot, or will not: Racism. So, even the observation that a label's rap roster is all- or mostly white... ...becomes notable in that context. I said this to @angusbatey. Those desiring can search his name with mine and read our notes."

All of which made for a good, heady conversation about rap and race. I'm glad that he did it, not only because I learned a lot but hopefully some of the Twitter community saw this discussion and absorbed some of the thoughts there. The problem was that Allen's meaningful answers couldn't possibly fit into a tweet. Instead, he had to do 5 follow-up tweets in a row to finish his thoughts and his answer. And because on Twitter, you're usually following a bunch of people, his extended point would get broken up and interrupted by tweets from other people. To get a handle on what he needed to say, Twitter was a little limiting- he could have more easily responded in full in a blog post or an article. The point here again is that Twitter doesn't make it easy to have deep conversations like this.

To drive home this point, Allen and I had the same problem when I brought in Tiger Woods as an example: "... coverage is slanted racially but it's also the novelty aspect they crave PLUS popularity, e.g. Tiger Woods as golf champ" Allen right away pointed out "Tiger Woods is a superior athlete, above and beyond his competition in skills. Are you saying Asher Roth is, also?" To give Allen a real answer that covered everything, I had to use three tweets:

"No, Tiger's skills > Asher's but media loves Tiger's story as he dominates a sport with few African-Americans... ...which perpetuates the myth that anyone of any race can make it in any field with just hard work & determination... ... plus the media loves success stories (Asher, Tiger) combined with novelty factor (ditto)"

As such, I ran into the same problem that Allen did. Even after that, it took about 12 more tweets between the two of us (including some multi-threaded ones) to hash out our positions and eventually find some agreement. Time Out editor Steve Smith also called me out on the Tiger/Asher comparison, saying that it wasn't a fair match. I definitely agreed with him that in terms of skills, it was no match but that I was focusing on the novelty aspect and the success of each in their field (and how media covers that). Just like with Allen, it took several multi-threaded tweets to properly discuss this with Smith.

Not that I minded it. I learned a lot from it and I think that Allen got something out of it too. At the end, I wondered "... I wish there was more discussion about this" and he agreed that it needed to happen but wasn't sure how. I'm not either but I know that it should happen more often on Twitter but that it also has to move beyond Twitter to do it right and give this kind of conversation the depth it deserves.

Later, I thanked Allen in an e-mail (on another subject) for a nice conversation. He wasn't sure 'nice' was the right term. I agreed- maybe 'healthy' was a better way to describe our exchange. That was something that we could both agree on.

UPDATE: Allen and I are later discussed the finer points of graffiti art and its semantics. We're already finding that we need multi-thread tweets to get our points across again.

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.





Artemis Is the Latest Jazz Supergroup

A Blue Note supergroup happens to be made up of women, exclusively. Artemis is an inconsistent outing, but it dazzles just often enough.


Horrors in the Closet: A Closet Full of Monsters

A closet full of monsters is a scary place where "straight people" can safely negotiate and articulate their fascination and/or dread of "difference" in sexuality.


'Wildflowers & All the Rest' Is Tom Petty's Masterpiece

Wildflowers is a masterpiece because Tom Petty was a good enough songwriter by that point to communicate exactly what was on his mind in the most devastating way possible.


Jazz Composer Maria Schneider Takes on the "Data Lords" in Song

Grammy-winning jazz composer Maria Schneider released Data Lords partly as a reaction to her outrage that streaming music services are harvesting the data of listeners even as they pay musicians so little that creativity is at risk. She speaks with us about the project.


The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 100-81

PopMatters' best albums of the 2000s begin with a series of records that span epic metal, ornate indie folk, and a terrifying work of electronic music.


The Power of Restraint in Sophie Yanow, Paco Roca, and Elisa Macellari's New Graphic Novels

The magical quality that makes or breaks a graphic novel lies somewhere in that liminal space in which art and literature intersect.


'People of the City' Is an Unrelenting Critique of Colonial Ideology and Praxis

Cyprian Ekwensi's People of the City is a vivid tale of class struggle and identity reclamation in the shadows of colonialism's reign.


1979's 'This Heat' Remains a Lodestone for Avant-Rock Adventure

On their self-titled debut, available for the first time on digital formats, This Heat delivered an all-time classic stitched together from several years of experiments.


'The Edge of Democracy' and Parallels of Political Crises

Academy Award-nominated documentary The Edge of Democracy, now streaming on Netflix, lays bare the political parallels of the rise of Bolsonaro's Brazil with Trump's America.


The Pogues' 'The BBC Sessions 1984-1986' Honors Working-Class Heroes

The Pogues' BBC Sessions 1984-1986 is a welcome chapter in the musical story of these working-class heroes, who reminded listeners of the beauty and dignity of the strong, sooty backs upon which our industrialized world was built.


Mary Halvorson Creates Cacophony to Aestheticize on 'Artlessly Falling'

Mary Halvorson's Artlessly Falling is a challenging album with tracks comprised of improvisational fragments more than based on compositional theory. Halvorson uses the various elements to aestheticize the confusing world around her.


15 Overlooked and Underrated Albums of the 1990s

With every "Best of the '90s" retrospective comes a predictable list of entries. Here are 15 albums that are often overlooked as worthy of placing in these lists, and are too often underrated as some of the best records from the decade.


'A Peculiar Indifference' Takes on Violence in Black America

Pulitzer Prize finalist Elliott Currie's scrupulous investigation of the impacts of violence on Black Americans, A Peculiar Indifference, shows the damaging effect of widespread suffering and identifies an achievable solution.


20 Songs From the 1990s That Time Forgot

Rather than listening to Spotify's latest playlist, give the tunes from this reminiscence of lost '90s singles a spin.


Delightful 'Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day' Is Good Escapism

Now streaming on Amazon Prime, Bharat Nalluri's 2008 romantic comedy, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, provides pleasant respite in these times of doom and gloom.


The 10 Best Horror Movie Remakes

The horror genre has produced some remake junk. In the case of these ten treats, the update delivers something definitive.


Flirting with Demons at Home, or, When TV Movies Were Evil

Just in time for Halloween, a new Blu-ray from Kino Lorber presents sparkling 2K digital restorations of TV movies that have been missing for decades: Fear No Evil (1969) and its sequel, Ritual of Evil (1970).


Magick Mountain Are Having a Party But Is the Audience Invited?

Garage rockers Magick Mountain debut with Weird Feelings, an album big on fuzz but light on hooks.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.