Of Big Boi, Gillette Razors, and What It Means To Write for the Web
Last week, we ran an interview with Big Boi, in which he appeared to answer everyone's questions regarding the future of new collaborations between him and Andre 3000. He said that while working on his upcoming Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors, he gave Andre as many as five tracks to rap on, but that his onetime partner "had to do some Gillette shit." The Internet promptly blew up, with countless posts, re-posts, shares, and brand new articles proclaiming from the digital mountaintop: Gillette is keeping OutKast apart! The thing is, Big Boi was clearly joking. As the man himself tweeted on Wednesday: "The Gillette Statement was me being Sarcastic, man y'all slow as hell."
- Big Boi of OutKast Talks His New Album and Why Andre 3000 Isn't on It: "He Said He Had To Do Some Gillette Shit"
This is a state of life and media in the 21st century, the daily Internet version of "Dewey Defeats Truman" where countless sites spread misconstrued or incorrect info due to two main factors: needing to be first, and wanting to drive a lot of traffic. That goal itself isn't the problem; traffic is integral to a site, as more page hits mean more (and bigger) advertisers and, well, we all need to make money. Still, many decry the journalistic shortcomings we give into in the name of page hits. Perhaps what has been less considered is the detrimental effects this culture has on us as not only as writers, but also as readers and listeners.
In my nascent career, I've been involved at a few publications, and the situation's often the same. Everyone would like to do more serious, long-form stuff, really go in-depth with the subject at hand while also getting at some big ideas. We just feel like we have our hands tied, sometimes by editorial dictate, sometimes by some abstract sense that the internet has decreed lists and sensationalism to be our sole purpose. Some of this is purely practical. Lists are often built from easily repackaged content, and will someday themselves be poached for new lists. They're fun, readable over a lunch break or subway commute. Sensational headlines function similarly, eye-grabbing gossip that fills a breather between tasks and provide fodder for office banter, but don't require the attention, time, or reflection of digging into a 3,000 word think piece.
Just because something's practical doesn't mean it should remain an unquestioned status quo. While an Internet media culture anchored to click-baiting content provides frustration for young writers put in danger of being relegated to recycling, it also encourages questionable developments in our behavior as readers and listeners. Lists and sensational headlines don't do much to augment our experience of music. They become akin to the noise of gossip magazines--lots of ephemera and trivia, but little truly thought-provoking material. This, in turn, also affects our relationship to music, exacerbating an already superficial relationship in the era of Spotify and YouTube. Not only do we not spend as much time with our music, but we don't get to read thoughtful work as much as we should either. Everything gets cheapened.