‘Urban’ Legend

The Elusive Crispus Attucks Gives Hip-Hop Sites Some Tough Love

"We had a series of what appeared to be reputable sources," says Inside editor in chief Michael Hirschorn. "We obviously got suckered. We got clowned." Greaves threatened to sue, and Inside published a lengthy story giving him his say. Still, Hirschorn has good things to say about Urban Exposé, likening the site to a simpler Web version of Spy magazine. "It's a team of very intelligent people taking the piss out of these sites."

The Urban Exposé readers are just as willing to take the piss out of each other, piling up or losing "clout points" based on postings to the site's heated debates and participation in polls such as the No Buzz List, a weekly countdown of media figures that don't rate. Although many of the juicier details on companies have come from these messages, some posters spice their screeds with homophobic and sexist remarks. But Attucks and his team monitor the comments, docking wack listings in clout points.

illustration by Lisa Dipietro

Some say they've used their clout ratings to network. "I've gotten job offers through posting," says Rebecca Levine, who works for an Internet advertising agency and posts as Miss Bee.

Attucks says high-profile people tend not to take part—or at least admit it—though a few have called to complain about having their unflattering photos displayed on the site. One media figure who's not shy about writing to Urban Exposé is Eddie Brannan, creative director of The Fader. "It's gonzo journalism, but that's kind of the charm as well," says Brannan, who did take issue with an article on Trace magazine, where he used to work. "On that story, there were inaccuracies, as there are in the Drudge Report."

But Brannan is supportive of the site, writing in an e-mail, "I believe this sector of the industry needs some kind of watchdog, to check some of the rampant egos and piss-poor management approaches that so far have contributed to the demise of several large companies and the loss of hundreds of jobs."

Though Attucks's critiques may sting, in the end they're good for the industry. Karen Alston, who works at the Washington, D.C.-based UrbanMarketing.net, notes his influence on Vanguarde Neomedia's recent Impact Urban Internet Forum. "I think Crispus loves the urban industry. He wants them to come out," says Alston. "If it hadn't been for Urban Exposé, they might not have worked as hard to make it as good as it was because they knew people would probably talk about it."

The execs behind the companies indeed must be listening. Attucks claims that Vanguarde Neomedia's Keith Clinkscales checks the site. UBO editor in chief Joel Dreyfuss posted a rebuttal to attacks on urban media, bemoaning the site's increasing tendency to act as "a dotcom doodah in digital blackface."

Attucks, who says he may reveal his true identity after the new year, maintains that Urban Exposé won't stop its spiked commentary as long as there are substandard offerings directed at "urban" audiences. "If you have a strong media product or property, it will fly, regardless. Everything can get better from debate or criticism."

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