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On Troy Ave, Fans, Critics and the Rules of Engagement

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If you’re not familiar with Troy Ave, his music, or polarizing public persona you may have wondered why the Brooklyn rapper’s name was trending nationwide on Twitter this past week (May 29). It wasn’t because of a hot new song or video gone viral. The Brooklyn rapper’s appearance on Power 105.1′s Breakfast Club morning show and a controversial piece about Troy Ave on the music website Noisey has got everyone talking.

The think piece editorial disparages Troy Ave, refuting his claims of being New York’s hip-hop savior while using some rancorous descriptors to drive the point home. The author, Drew Millard, also took a cheap shots at RapRadar’s Elliott Wilson in the process (calling him a “professional sycophant“), as well as a number of New York rappers that were once in Troy Ave’s position.

Here’s a sample :

To say that Troy Ave is an opportunistic, out-of-touch bozo who does not actually represent the hopes, dreams, and realities of New York rap fans is to state the obvious. As sure as the sun shines and the clouds piss rain on our heads, there will always be a Troy Ave, the archetypal New York hardhead who makes New York rap in a way that shows fealty to the New York rap canon, all the while managing to have the ear of the streets.

Because the vast majority of the rap press resides in New York, the birthplace of Hip-Hop, they will pay attention to him, give him national press, and then scratch their heads when no one in any other part of America gives a s—. Troy Ave is nothing more than the next in a line of Mainos, Papooses, Uncle Murdas, Vados, and Saigons: sacrificial lambs who must fall flat on their faces and die in order to further prove that New York is not the center of the hip-hop universe.”

While I believe in freedom of speech and artistic expression, I think the author of this piece went a step too far in his diatribe against Troy Ave. Calling the ‘My Grind’ rapper a “bozo” and using words like “bitching” to get his point across is irresponsible behavior for a journalist and come off as unnecessarily aggressive and all-too-personal attacks.

As music critics, we have an obligation to stick to our guns and tell it how it is regarding music — whether we think it’s great or s—ty. But no matter what our opinion of the music is we must express it in a way that doesn’t slander or intentionally disrespect the artist. Now, if a journalist/blogger/etc. decides to cross that line and take blatantly offensive route, they should also be ready for the possible repercussions that come with making those statements:

And taking a glance at this picture that recently surfaced of Drew Millard ‘bowing down’ to Elliott Wilson (one of the subjects of Millard’s ether … how ironic …) during happier times, I wouldn’t bet on dude making it a block carrying his laptop down Troy Avenue in Brooklyn after sunset. Better stick to the Connecticut Muffin think-pieces, kid.

The same also goes for people on Twitter. Just because you’re behind a keyboard a million miles away from these artists doesn’t mean you can call them names, tell them to “suck it,” or any display other form of blatant disrespect. It makes you look like a lame and is just uncalled for. Don’t get caught out there like that kid that ran into Wale at the WWE event. The retweets aren’t worth the possible humiliation and medical bills. Trust me.

As far as Troy Ave, while I think the “King of New York” talk is a bit premature, I do feel that he’s putting on for his city in a big way and he should at least be applauded for sticking to his guns. But I feel he and his team do themselves a disservice when they fire back at fans and critics who have negative things to say about them.

There’s nothing wrong with thinking that you’re the best, but you can’t force people to feel the same. It’s 2014 and everybody’s a self-appointed critic or authority waiting to give the world their unsolicited opinion, so beating a “hater” down or making an example of someone who has been outspoken about their distaste for you won’t help matters. For every person you get your hands on another three will pop up so it’s a never-ending battle.

It’s also not a good look in the eyes of other people in the media who may not want to cover you at all out of fear of retaliation for an unfavorable review or profile that doesn’t cast you in a great light. Aside from fans, the media is an artist’s biggest tool so you don’t want to alienate us. Attacking a journalist would permanently tarnish an artist’s brand and could even  lead to legal trouble. While I’m not saying Troy Ave wouldn’t be justified in stepping to the writer over his choice of words, I would just ask to think it over in think about is the end really worth the means?

Also, sometimes it takes people time to come around to an artist’s music or maybe the artist isn’t as much of a finished product as he thinks he is. After listening to ‘Bricks In My Backpack 1′ myself a few years back, I felt it had a few dope tracks, but was lacking in some areas and that Troy Ave could use some more seasoning. When this was brought to his attention, his response was golden.

Instead of taking the criticism negatively, he told me “just wait until the next ‘Bricks In My Backpack’ and we’ll see your opinion then.” The way he handled that situation with grace always stuck with me and became a reason to keep him on my radar.

Fast forward to the release ‘New York City: The Album.’ I really liked the buzz and campaign behind the album and decided to give it a try. But when that ‘BSB Vol. 4′ dropped, he officially turned me into a believer. His songwriting skills are on another level (’4 Amigos,’ ‘My Pride’) compared to the previous work. The ear for production is exponentially better (‘Me And You,’ ‘Your Style’) and all the intangibles that make a potential star are there. By him continuing to be consistent and putting out quality music, he’s forced doubters like me to become converts.

Artists need to understand that critics will champion those who make dope music. Everyone won’t like you at first, but trust, if an artist hones his or her skills, people will pay attention and support it.

That said, good luck at Summer Jam Troy Ave, keep doing you and we’ll be waiting on ‘Major Without A Deal.’ Respect.

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