Well would you look at that? Goodbye, 2008! Oh how you made us so proud and so ashamed in so many ways!
This retrospective won't be as long or self-indulgent as last year's, but there are few things that need to be acknowledged for their sheer awesomeness.
The first major development here at SoulBounce was bringing on Harlem. For starters, it re-aligned the hormonal balance of this website (for a moment), but the major benefit of having Harlem as a regular part of the SB crew is his astronomical ability to remain calm and mature. In the face of insipid, infantile and grotesquely retarded feedback some of his entries have received, as well as the madness of the SB HNIC every other week or so, Harlem has remained perpetually even-tempered and has not allowed our requisite cynicism to crush his positive spirit. Not a week goes by that I don't wish Harlem was able to do more (he's quite busy), since his contributions to this website speak to its original intent. Harlem's love of R&B music is undeniable, and that devotion is channeled in every post. Even in a climate where it seems as if the genre is dead, Harlem's favorites are worthwhile. Thank you, Mr. Dawson, for keeping our faith in R&B music alive and doing everything "grown man" style. There aren't enough like you.
SoulBounce used to look like this. Thankfully, Huny of Phattygirl was able to turn that mess into something that fit the tone of the content--daring, funky, and soulful with plenty of attitude. This was a major step forward in terms of branding this website visually and made us a little more competitive. In addition to the site's delicious graphic elements, our designer has been able to step in since the initial redesign with much-needed backend developments. We're a hard bunch to please, so we're extremely appreciative of Huny's efforts. I never want to share her.
In retrospect, the Top 100 Soul/R&B Countdown was hit-or-miss. It was extremely laborious and frustrating from the administrative side, but achieved its multiple purposes: (1) It committed us to deadlines like never before. (2) It brought the site attention. (3) It provided a general idea of what our perspective is on music as it relates to our age and appreciation. (4) It gave us a fantastic excuse to write about old stuff. It carried us through the better part of the year and cemented SB as the Black music blog to be reckoned with.
Finding people to contribute to the site because they are (1) good bloggers, (2) aren't using SB to pad their journalism portfolios, (3) aren't using SB to pad their wallets and (4) genuinely love and have a perspective on Black music across various decades and genres, are hard to find. One of the most important tenants of SoulBounce is its hard-fisted, almost political approach to music writing. We understand that music isn't simply entertainment that is to be excused of every single infraction. Music is culture. Culture influences the social consciousness in a manner that far exceeds personal enjoyment. Ro understood this from the beginning. Since coming aboard, the youngest member of our team has consistently been able to draw a direct line between the music and our culture--be it social justice, current events or other matters that elevate the discourse beyond what's wack and what's dope. She's a passionate, thought-provoking writer that is always full of surprises and was the impetus for SoulBounce being referenced by MSNBC. Thank you, Ro, for causing me to re-evaluate my own game.
It is a well-documented fact that had SoulBounce not won a Black Weblog Award, I would've flipped out Kanye-style. But after lots of campaigning, we totally won, and life went on as it tends to do. Although I'm still trying to determine if any benefits were wrought from the honor, or if we'll acknowledge the awards this year, we aren't any less thankful.
After much hand-wringing over the lack of visible female MCs in Hip Hop, Ro suggested that we earn the right to complain by highlighting a selection of female MCs without relying on the crutch of Jean Grae. We did this for an entire week in our Bounce-Worthy section. We still have love for Hip Hop. We respect the grind of independent artists. We seek justice for our sisters. Consistently.
Needs no explanation.
Ignorance is awesome in its own way, not meaning that it is good, but that it inspires "awe." With SoulBounce comes a general misunderstanding of what the site is and what we do. This is generally based on how folks have been conditioned by what other blogs do and certain unwritten "rules" that exist on the Internet. This ignorance usually manifests itself the following ways:
Entitlement: "I visit this site and you have a commenting box, therefore I can tell you what to do and how to do it even though I don't pay a single bill around here. Defer to me."
Acting 12: "How dare you not swing from the nuts of my favorite artist? Stop hating! I usually enjoy this blog and keep quiet until you disagree with my personal tastes in music! How dare you guys not censor yourselves by practicing honesty on a website that is not corporately-owned and operated? HOW DARE YOU EXERCISE THE FREEDOM OF INDEPENDENT THOUGHT AND NOT DO WHAT EVERYONE IS DOING?" (Comments like this usually contain a lot of profanity that activates our spam filters, resulting in a follow-up complaint about how SoulBounce's comments "aren't working.")
"Humor": "This talented independent female artist that is making good music looks like she smells like vaginal odor." (Yes, that really happened. We were so disappointed.)
Insanity: "I continue to visit this website and complain about it instead of tuning out, which is what a non-insane person would do. I also don't know how to disagree by employing critical thought and nuance to support my position. It's just easier to call the SB editors names and accuse them of 'not getting it.'"
Excuses: "When I made this record I was in a zone and wanted to try something new. My label had nothing to do with this approach. But thanks to the fans that continue to support me, no matter what I do, because I am ME. And by the way, I'm not affected by anything this blog says about my music."
Disillusionment: "Just because I generally mis-read the entire intent of this entry, made accusations of the editors and acted a damn fool in front of God and everybody, that's no reason for the editors to respond to me."
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Aside from all of the above, the most valuable thing I've gained from running SoulBounce in 2008 is a clearer sense of what it is. 2008 saw many websites either be sold off or completely shut down as a result of the economy. SB is in a charmed position. It is independently owned and operated like any personal blog, which means we aren't beholden to any corporate entity. This allows us to be frank, to be picky, and, on occasion, exercise favortism towards artists we actually enjoy. There's no pressure to be fair and balanced and we've never capitulated to the majority or sought to win favor from as many people as possible.
Also, this site is a hobby. We got kids to raise, novels to write, cities to visit, full-time jobs, etc. This means we can commit to the site on our own time and there's no huge financial stake. Aspects of this site are managed as a business to keep certain things consistent, but the "blogging for profit" model will never work for SoulBounce. I've invested a lot of my own personal funds into this site to keep it active and "pretty", all the while knowing I could see little return, a lot, or none at all. Regardless of the outcome, it will be up for as long as we can stand it. Ultimately, entering into any venture for the wrong reasons is to pre-emptively seal its coffin.
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Looks like I lied about this post being long and self-indulgent, so I'll wrap this up now. Here's hoping 2009 sees a movement where the things we loved about the under-belly bleed into the mainstream and pull these cats out of their coma. Thanks to ill Mami, Aunt Viv, and my lieutenant Butta for holding me down. Also, Fave, DJ Stylus, DJ Diva, S-Boogie, EJ Flavors, Todd Kelley, Flint, Nikki, Honey, DeDe, Cornfed, Audio Diva, and the rest of our extended family and frequent visitors for contributing to that movement. I am proud to have been a part of this conversation and hope it continues forever on.