When they're not busy reporting the latest hypebeast trends or highlighting top 40 music releases, Complex has resorted to attempts at showcasing less-established cultures on their media platform. Although positively promoting and providing new context to underground music should be a welcomed idea, that wound up being far from the case. Instead, it appears the team throws together irrelevant statistics, surface-level observations, and input from all the wrong places. This was seen in yesterday's featured story titled "YouTube & Chill: A Glimpse Into The World Of Lo-fi Hip-Hop", a flawed one-dimensional analysis that serves as more of a blurred view than anything. Here are a few areas that were found to be the most problematic with the post.
Misappropriation of Aesthetic
Within the first few paragraphs, the editor ignorantly explains the most stereotypical aesthetic encompassing lofi hip-hop. More specifically, they often refer to anime and its correlation with the music, proceeding to casually generalize community members, and making it seem like everyone's a fanatic that's binge-watching through the latest hit series. What started off as founding producers using anime covers due to laziness has been blown out of proportion, so much that a newer wave of artists have actively advocated for investing in the visual arts. One of the best examples of this being the recent On The Pulse project that was hosted out in LA. Instead of mentioning real visual artists that have built names for themselves through hard work, effort, and dedication, the Complex audience is steered towards finding screencaps from Yu Yu Hakusho in order to get their gimmicky dose of chillness.
In addition to the anime aspect, they really couldn't help themselves but to point out the cheesy spaced-out lettering in titles; going as far as to demonstrate what it looks like, and saying it's a "safe bet" to finding a mix. Of course, leaving out that half those titles are used by the same YouTube content creators, who carry over this excuse of an aesthetic to unrelated genre mixes. At least Complex did us the courtesy of forgetting to mention to look out for Asian dialect in the titles; god bless google translate.
Without even getting halfway through this laughable cover of lofi hip-hop, the editor must've thought, what better way to relate to a mainstream audience than with memes? Well, that's exactly what they decided to do. In fact, with the exception of an embedded ChilledCow stream, again, reaching for the lowest denominator, it's the only visual aid offered to the reader throughout the entire publication. Intentional or not, this sends out a careless and insincere portrayal of a community that's now being taken as a joke.
This is quite possibly the biggest mistake, which truly brings to light the lack of research done on the editor's part. Reading through the piece, there's constant mentioning of YouTube streams; including statistics, algorithems, as well as an unnecessary focus on the people in charge of looping these overly-studious anime characters. Instead of focusing on those who make a direct impact on the scene with their music, visual arts, or even management, the spotlight is given to over-glorified taste makers. One of which decided to help Complex with this piece, and was sourced multiple times in regards to talking about the technicalities of the genre; as if their booming YouTube channel gives them credentials to be some kind of spokesperson. The editor writes, "a self-proclaimed '𝙰𝙴𝚂𝚃𝙷𝙴𝚃𝙸𝙲 𝙳𝙸𝙴𝚃𝚈,' was the only YouTube streamer willing to comment for this piece—the rest preferred to be cloaked in secrecy." Who would've thought that a person could be so blind to the idea that maybe no one wanted to be a part of their shit stain of a publication.
At the end of the page you'll see the following editor's note, "Chillhop Music reached out to Genius to claim they were streaming a year before Chilled Cow and that they previously had a live stream". While initially both deserved a ton of flack; I mean come on, no one cares which stream came first, more information came to light today. According to representatives from Chillhop, who state that they reached out and corrected plenty of false information, Complex decided to edit their story by adding just that tidbit. While I'm not necessarily saying this is true, I wouldn't put it past them to negatively represent one of the many channels that didn't show interest in their write-up. I also wouldn't think the members over at Chillhop are egotistical enough to have left it at "we did it first".
History Lessons with complex
To end things off, they proceed to name-drop any artist you'd find on a Spotify playlist, as well as deem bsd.u as a "leader of the new wave"-- to which bsd.u laughed over on Twitter, see below. Unfortunately, this is the only portion of the article in which the artists themselves are given any sort of pedestal, drowned out by paragraphs about the YouTube streams. Along with that, the editor decided to spend five minutes of their time on the lofihiphop subreddit, and had to exaggerate a trivial debate on the origins of the genre. After all, hyperlinking a Reddit thread from nine months ago with four user's input makes this a "constant argument", right?
meanwhile i really just been fishing on runescape for the last year— . (@beside) April 24, 2018
This Complex article is nothing more than a skewed sensation-craving take on the scene, only taking into account a bare minimum amount of research and knowledge to have put together a write-up. The lack of research can be attributed to the rise of these streams, and in that sense there's empathy to be shown. While the publication did well with a standalone outlining of the phenomenon, it really just hit a roadblock there with detailing the genre. The only assumptions that can be made are that either the editor didn't know better, or picking and exploiting this low-hanging fruit was the only way lofi hip-hop would've been featured on Complex. Regardless, this isn't the breakthrough spotlight that the community or any of its passionate artists deserve. The editor, who I've decided to not address by name, has had multiple publications that they have seemed genuinely excited and passionate about writing. Instead of leaving their work with nothing but criticism, I simply encourage a more in-depth look and to take all of this into account. Beyond the overly-saturated surface level, there really is something special about this close-knit community of creatives.