Does Facebook.com Hate Rap?

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The facebook.com house band

Facebook.com's finger on the pulse of Blahmerica

Sooner than not, we'll get a shitstorm of armchaired theses about facebook.com on par with the ones about how Kanye West said crazy words on national television, or how the Chronicles of Narnia rap is, at this very moment, saving hip-hop from itself. There's a bigger piece in here somewhere, just saying, and it's coming to a blog near you.

Put up with this for now though. Facebook, so we're clear, is a college Friendster (or if you will, a senior citizen Myspace). To join, you need to be in college, or have a college email address that the website recognizes.

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When Facebook debuted at Harvard a few years ago, the biggest difference between it and the rest of the social networking progs around was the implicit level of security. Most of your "facebook friends" were, in fact, people you already knew, and there was a certain guarantee re: identity. All the horror stories about 40-year-olds pretending in chatrooms to be 15-year-old girls, all the wiki-ness and internet disconnect--they weren't issues, so off the bat people felt more comfortable sharing real information about themselves, their interests, favorite music, favorite movies, even their mobile phone numbers (this is crazy).

A few weeks ago, maybe a few days I'm not even sure, the facebook.com heads made public the "Pulse" function. From the information people list on their facebook profiles, Pulse calculates the Top 10 favorites--music, movies, television, books--for your school. More impressively, it runs numbers on every school on Facebook, so you can compare your school against another, and Facebook at large.

According to Chris Hughes, the facebook.com spokesperson, apparently 80% of students attending colleges have signed up for Facebook. This includes recent alums too, and a few older, creepier alums who want to see what the freshman girls look like. Obviously, even despite the relative comfort level of facebook.com, some people don't list their favorite "favorite music"--sometimes there's posturing, and often no listings for "favorite music" whatsoever. (Which brings to mind my friend Matt Morello, who said, "I don't trust people who don't listen to music.")

But still: 80%! Here are the top 10 favorite music entries on facebook.com:

Dave Matthews Band (abbreviated as "DMB," cos you just know) Coldplay Jack Johnson The Beatles Green Day The Killers Led Zeppelin Incubus Sublime John Mayer

Nobody's expecting college (of all places!) to be some last bastion of experimentation academically, musically, socially, artistically. And this is a concensus list, with the #1 not meaning the all-time favorite, just the one that showed up most. And I'm not a stat man at all--I passed my math req by taking a course called "The Magic of Numbers."

But this is still revealing, no? Aside from the black bari player in "DMB," there's not a single black man in the top ten artists--no women either, unless some of the people who put "Led Zeppelin" meant "Lez Zeppelin," an all-lesbian Led Zeppelin cover band. [EDIT: Ben Kenney and DJ Kilmore of Incubus are both black, reports Gordon Browning (see comments).]

Troll your way through the ivy leagues, you'll see Sub Pop's Postal Service charts a fair bit, but The O.C. top-tens every television chart too, and I feel like there have been enire episodes about the Postal Service by now. So it's not like the Constantines or whoever charting.

The amount of rock's unsurprising, but where are all those "suburban white kids" who are buying and listening to hip-hop (and presumably going to college listening to it and listing it on facebook)? I guess I've overestimated how popular hip-hop is among college kids, how disconnected "pop" is from college, etc..

Granted there are regional lines, but it's mostly just Mason-Dixon. Go down to Alabama State, and "Gospel" is #1, "Rap and R&B" is #2, Lil Wayne is #6, and T.I. and Jay-Z are also both on the top ten; elsewhere Rascal Flatts and Lee Ann Womack get their due. Houston's had its share of outside coverage, but still, Z-Ro is the #4 artist there, and Slim Thug's #10. I'd be curious to see the level of regionality maintained at schools beyond that, to what extent a school's local vs. national population make-up determines those choices, and so on.

Otherwise, yeah, this could be another one of those "double-edged sword of internet," "internet far from democratizing, encouraging/availing underground interests, just lets people stick to what they know" situations, globalization encourages homogeneity, $$$ determines what becomes big. I imagine the rest of the Top 100 would be more interesting, but for now, it bums me out to see another sign that people's musical interests stagnate so early on. Dave Matthews had a few good songs in the 90s, one good album, and no doubt he was a bunch of people's favorite act in high school (where most of the current facebookies would have been at the time). He just released a live album a few weeks ago, and it's #37 on Billboard albums last time I checked, but DMB are by no means running the charts, winning Grammys, stealing the lime. He's a discarded 90s icon--ten years from now, will that #1 spot be for (I don't know) the Strokes? Kanye? I hope it's Tony Yayo.


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