Like many of you, I sat at home watching the "Last Call with Carson Daly" episode during the week where he showcased some musical acts in L.A. (I believe it was the same week that "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon" premiered) when Carson Daly was giving some shine to Charles Hamilton. That wasn't the issue...we all know that I had a love/hate relationship with Charles Hamilton and his music (previous to March 29th, of course...now it's just pure hate), my issue was with a phrase that Carson Daly uttered/coined during the telecast. He called the new generation of rappers that utilize the internet as a marketing tool and give away free music as promotion online as "Hip Hop 2.0". The thinking is that this is the first generation of emcees that utilized the internet...really, son?
Way back in the Spring of '96 a site called 88HipHop.com popped up on the internet. It was a streaming online Hip Hop radio show that featured the best and brightest of both underground and major label Hip Hop. They had videos you could stream as well from previous sessions that aired. It was like heaven for Hip Hop fans...provided no one picked up the phone and you had an up to date modem and a fast enough computer. I had a 28.8K modem back then and everyone thought I was the man because most of 'em still had 14.4K jawns. 88HipHop wasn't alone, either.
Not too long afterwards, another site that would change the online Hip Hop game (and my life) came into being. I'll never forget the first time I typed the URL: http://sandbox.pair.com/ into the field on my computer screen. It took a while to load due to all of the pictures (I do that too, I hear) but when it finally loaded it was paradise for an underground Hip Hop head. Not only could I see every new 12" from all of the most sought after labels like Rawkus, Fondle 'Em. Dolo, Solesides, ABB, Conception, Eastern Conference, Fat Beats, Duck Down, BUKArance, Brick, Makin', Hydra, Miasmatic, Ill Boogie, 7 Heads, Nervous, Fortress, Bad Magic, Molemen, Superegular, etc. but I could listen to streaming RealPlayer snippets of each track before I decided to buy it. They had B-Boy, DMC/ITF videos, Hip Hop and Graf mags/back issues as well. The illest part was they provided links to damn near everyone else's sites as well (Only Built 4 Hyperlinks). 88Hip Hop and Sandbox weren't online, either.
There were a plethora of Hip Hop sites you could frequent all throughout late '96 but by 1997 Hip Hop exploded on the internet...this would be the actual birth of "Hip Hop 2.0" in my opinion. Labels and artists began using the internet to promote themselves and sell their new projects to thirsty Hip Hop fans online. We were all over the place, Fat Beats.com, MixtapeKingz.com, DaveyD.com, TheDSC.com, Rawkus.com. DuckDown.com, etc. Hip Hop magazines began doing articles about the new online Hip Hop explosion. We were going on 88HipHop.com and UndergroundHipHop.com watching live footage of performances by our favorite underground artists. I knew what the Arsonists, Molemen, Jedi Mind Tricks, Ace Lover, Juggaknots, etc. looked like finally.
It kills me whenever anyone who isn't fully entrenched in Hip Hop culture tries to coin a phrase or paint a picture about the current state of Hip Hop without knowing the facts. Of all the Hip Hop messageboards that sprang up, the internet Hip Hop battle circuits where people typed out battle rhymes (75% of them weren't at all spittable), all of the magazines and stores that sold Hip Hop related gear, equipment and accessories went online as well. If you DIDN'T have a computer/weren't online and you were a Hip Hop or Rap fan you were really assed out after a while...and America Online wasn't gonna get the job done, either!
I remember going on Duckdown.com and hearing most of the One Nation album in the audio files section as stray mp3's. Sometimes they'd be up and then they wouldn't be there anymore. I'd get news about all of my favorite artists and progress reports on their new projects. You wanted Wu Tang Clan news? Shit! Take your pick! The Killa Bees were seemingly everywhere online (thanks to their fans). StinkE (now known as Yameen) created a fansite for the Hieroglyphics crew that ended up becoming endorsed by them and expanded into the eventual Hiero Imperium website. The internet was the driving force behind what I now refer to as the Backpack Era (1997-2002).
Hip Hop 2.0 was official when fans could buy Enhanced CD's first from independent Hip Hop label OM Records and later from Loud/RCA releases. I used to pop these jawns in my Power Macintosh 6100/60 (that meant the processor was 60 MHz!) and watch all of the added features on the "Wu Tang Forever" and "Hell On Earth" CD's along with OM's Deep Concentration and Deeper Concentration (Deep Concentration 3's extra features didn't work in Macs). If thugged out ass Mobb Deep fans are online trying to figure out how to play "In The Long Run" chances are that we've entered into "Hip Hop 2.0".
If it wasn't for the internet, who knows how the underground Hip Hop industry would've survived the past 13 years? Shit, the internet is partly responsible for the growth of the major label industry as well. When Bad Boy, Def Jam, Roc A Fella, Ruff Ryders, No Limit, Cash Money, etc. were raking in the dough they used the internet to build and service their fanbases, too. To think that Charles Hamilton ushered in this "new" era where the internet is a vital tool in Hip Hop is more than laughable. Carson, I know that you had a label once (4.5.6) and you helped to bring a classic Hip Hop LP to the masses (The UN's 2004 gem "U N Or U Out") but stick to what you know and stop trying to coin phrases and name shit, OK?
Editor's Note: Carson Daly isn't to blame for the phrase "Hip Hop 2.0" after all (thanks Eskay). Just the fact that I'd never heard it used and I'm around Hip Hop music, emcees, producers and Hip Hop journalists at every turn almost 24/7 365 should tell you something.