DJ Akademiks vs Meek Mill: Ethics & Morality in Hip Hops Hyperreality
Recently DJ Akademiks has been under fire by rappers like Meek Mill, Freddie Gibbs and many vocal fans, for how he has run his media platform. Akademiks runs a Hip Hop media page with millions of followers and he's one of the main independent voices in Hip Hop media. In the last year Ak has been in various disputes with rappers that have stated that his page is destructive and leads to real life altercations between people, and even called for his collective cancellation. His disputes led him to parting ways with Complex from his longstanding show Everyday Struggle because they felt he didn't represent their brand.
I want to preface this by saying I've been a DJ Akademiks supporter since I was a kid. At one point in 2014-2017 his YouTube channel was the only source of Hip Hop news we cared about, and we watched him religiously. We were in high school and this guy provided some of the funniest Hip Hop takes and compiled news about some of my favourite new artists, that the rest of Hip Hop media wasn’t documenting. Artists like Lil Uzi and XXXTentacion were only covered on Akademiks channel, and he has put me on to countless great artists that I would have otherwise not heard about. Ak got his show on Complex and I felt a personal stake in his success.
Everyday Struggle was an overnight hit, I was not a Joe Budden Podcast fan before this, and now I'm in the cult. The show legitimized Complex as a voice in Hip Hop. Joes dynamic with DJ Akademiks created the best show in modern Hip Hop. I had never seen people give it up so candidly about the inner workings of the music & entertainment industry in that way before. They would argue as passionately as me and my friends and discuss sides of Hip Hop that would otherwise never intermingle. The show instantly connected and solidified Ak as a force in Hip Hop media.
Akademiks was a major inspiration in the creation of this brand. Aside from certain things like his infamous “War in Chiraq” channel, seeing a black man create his own lane in that way was inspiring. Ak wasn’t a rapper, he was not hired by some media company, he was just a guy in his moms basement that was actively affecting the state of Hip Hop, and making millions from it. He would beef with artists like Shy Glizzy and Soulja Boy from the comfort of his room, exclusively by sharing the opinions me and my friends share in our group chats. It was inspiring to see and led me to starting a platform where I share my opinions.
A few months after I made the decision, in a case of serendipity, DJ Akademiks had a live podcast taping in my city. I attended, we met after the show and we spoke for over an hour about Hip Hop, the entertainment industry, the agendas being pushed by Hip Hop media. From my personal experience Ak is a genuine guy, who is actually passionate about Hip Hop, he gave us game, the conversation was filled with laughter and levity, and he came off as a nice guy. As a kid running a small media page with his little brother, I asked Ak to give us a shoutout, and he did, and it meant a lot to me.
Recently multiple rappers have been attacking Ak for the content he posts. This isn’t a new grievance, Ak has notoriously had altercations with the late Nipsey Hussle, Vic Mensa, Meek Mill, Freddie Gibbs, Chrissy Teigen and more because of the content that he creates. The problem people seem to have with Ak is that he promotes and reposts many criminal aspects of Hip Hop on the internet, that could incite violence between real people or land people in jail.
I understand some of the grievances. Channels like the War In Chiraq never sat right with me, where he would discuss the street beef of various Chicago artists and report their deaths by clowning them through satirical videos that broke down the various real issues these people faced due to their socioeconomic situation. He has since went on to apologize for the channel and admit it was wrong.
The moral dichotomy in this situation lies in the hyperreality of Hip Hop itself. Hip Hop never claimed to be a monastery of saints, but its an art form so it gets a pass, the problem is that with the advent of media and social media, the art bleeds into reality creating an infusion of reality called hyperreality. In French philosopher Jean Baudrillard's 1981 book Simulacra and Simulation, he discusses the idea of images and signs, and how they relate to our contemporary society, wherein we have replaced reality and meaning with symbols and signs; he states that what we know as reality is actually a simulation of reality. The simulacra that Baudrillard refers to are the signs of culture and media that create the reality we perceive: a world saturated with imagery, infused with communications media, sound, and commercial advertising.
Baudrillard labeled this new world a hyperreality, in which entertainment, information, and communication technologies provide experiences more intense and involving than the scenes of mundane everyday life, as well as the codes and models that structure everyday life. The realm of the hyperreal (e.g., media simulations of reality, Disneyland and amusement parks, malls and consumer fantasylands, TV sports, virtual reality games, social networking sites, and other excursions into ideal worlds) is more real than real, whereby the models, images, and codes of the hyperreal come to control thought and behavior.
A lot of my favourite rappers have cases about things they discuss in their music. Hip Hop is still an entertainment medium so there are many people that are playing characters. Its like WWE where everyone has a gimmick, and like WWE, its impossible to distinguish which part of the storyline is fake and what is real. The hyperreality connects reality and fiction, which could be dismissed if there wasn't a visible problem in the community. Many rappers, in the past few weeks, have been murdered and arrested for real life situations, during a global pandemic.
The problem with reporting on the culture is trying to find the fine line between discussing a powerful culture we love and inciting violence, snitching on criminal activities that can send people to jail, and promoting destructive propaganda to the masses. I am a fan of Hip Hop music, I love trap, I love drill, I love boom bap, I love melodic rap, I love bars, I watch battle rap, at the same time, many of my favourite artists talk about killing people, robbing people, selling drugs, and I still love the music despite it. We understand the worlds people come from, the socioeconomic situations that land them there, the character this rapper might be playing and the diversity in a culture that we all love and participate in. I love a good murder bar, Tay Roc telling Hollow Da Don that he’ll mutilate his face multiple times with a razorblade in a motion that would make him look like he was trying to fasten a broken seatbelt, is one of the best bars I have heard in my life. I don't like the actual violence that occurs due to the music and I hope it would stop, but we're all fans of this highly popular music. We all love King Vons music. Rest In Peace to King Von, one of the best storytellers in the last few years. Von exclusively talked about murdering real people, in real and documented situations.
This conversation of morality in Hip Hop among Hip Hop is not a new one and has been going on for decades, going all the way back to NWA. Crime in Hip Hop is given a pass because it is understood that the medium is a reflection of a society, and any problems in the art form need to be addressed to the society that incentivizes the crime aspect due to a s