This is the first in a series of articles in which we interview a figure of note from the internet. If that doesn’t sound good to you, you don’t spend enough time on the internet.
We begin with Byron Crawford, alias Bol, legendary hip hop blogger, beef butcher and author of two books, Mindset of a Champion and the recently released Infinite Crab Meats, in which he takes on “Chief Keef, Kreayshawn, Das Racist, Odd Future, teenage attention whores with ginormous cans, the cultural tourists who write for sites like Pitchfork and SPIN, the Too $hort fingerbang incident and much, much more”.
Can you explain to people who you are?
I’m a blogger from St Louis, Missouri, in the Midwest. I blog about hip hop, which is mostly done out of New York, so I guess I have an outsider perspective. I’ve been doing it for ten years, and for five years I blogged for XXL. I’ve been doing it a long time compared to most, so I’m probably a pioneer. If you’re interested in reading about hip hop on the internet you’ve probably come across me at some point. I’ve also been involved in a lot of conflicts or controversies, which is probably where most people came across me to be honest.
Why did you decide to write books?
I started because I wanted to write a lengthier text and get into more in-depth writing. And I had that kind of free time. I was writing for XXL but I got let go in March 2011, and I wanted to focus on writing a book then, but I didn’t start for a while after that. I had a workplace accident in the summer of 2011, which led to a lot of time in hospitals and stuff. I’m actually about to go have surgery on my eye. I basically got impaled.
You open Infinite Crab Meats with a section about doing yard work with your father. Are you intentionally trying to show that you’re just a normal guy?
I would say so. I think I was suffering from delusions of grandeur. I thought I’d put out a book and I’d get a lot of celebrity and money all of a sudden. I actually didn’t even get to take a day off, or do much promotion. So I thought people might find that amusing or enlightening, compared to a high profile author with a big publishing house.
Are you immune to abuse? You’ve been in arguments with a lot of high profile people.
I’m not really as involved in beefs as I was. I ignore a lot more of it than I used to, especially when I was at XXL and needed something to write about. I would say I don’t purposely set out to have beef with anyone, but then at some point I realise it’s happening and I play along.
The Rap Genius beef was fairly recent, though.
That’s a good example of not trying to beef with anyone. I just played along for a while and then set it aside. I think that was as much Rap Genius trying to start the beef and maintain it as anything. They’ve hit me up a couple of times about restarting the beef or whatever, but I think that would be fake. If I restarted it just to promote the book, people would see it as fake and not be interested. The Rap Genius thing had run its course, definitely.
When you beef with people, even really high profile people like Bun B or Peter Rosenberg, they tend to come at you ad hominem, talking about you being jealous or small time or whatever.
I think that’s just how everyone argues. Especially in hip hop. I think regardless of the original nature of the argument of the beef, whether between rappers or whatever, it will eventually descend to ad hominem insults. But I try to go a bit deeper than mocking. I want to discuss the conflict and talk about some ideas or perspectives.
In the books anyway, you’re not just poking fun. It seems like you go to quite a lot of effort to put yourself on the side of right.
That’s part of the reason why I wanted to write books, to do something longer. You don’t really have space on Twitter to get into anything serious, and you can do it on some form of blogging platform, but people won’t read it. I think you can get into things over several thousand words in a book and people will probably read that. Because they cared enough to buy it.
How is it that you get so many scoops? There’s the Peter Rosenberg Israel lobby thing, all that stuff about Rap Genius that leaked through your site. Why is it that the New York Times and all those papers say journalism will die if we don’t support them, but then you keep coming out with all the information?
Anyone can discover information online. You don’t have to be a reporter at a big media organisation to find information with Google. I think maybe it’s that if I find something interesting, I don’t really worry about the consequences, whereas in the New York Times there might be pressure from above not to post it, from owners or whoever.
In the book you say rap journalists don’t do investigative journalism because they’re afraid rappers will beat them up. Does this mean you’re not afraid rappers will beat you up?
Well I think most people would be afraid of rappers beating them up. I can’t say I’m definitely not. Someone like Pimp C who did five or six years in the joint and was going around with machine guns in shopping malls, that’s a pretty serious guy, so I can’t say I’m not afraid. It’s more like on a case by case basis.
In the book you also say you invented Drake memes.
Yeah. I was never involved with it after creating the original, but I made the first, so I guess you could say I invented Drake memes.
What else have you invented?
Lots of stuff. I’m credited with inventing all sorts of stuff. I probably just popularised some of it, but still. Just words I use on my blog, and they’d get picked up from there. Weed carriers is one, which is a rapper who carries another rapper’s weed, which got picked up by pretty much everyone in hip hop and even beyond that. Nullus is probably less popular. It’s a way of saying “no homo”.