ItsTheReal, archeobloggists

ItsTheReal, archeobloggists

Players and witnesses of the era when the Internet reshuffled the cards in the rap ecosystem and culture, the ItsTheReal brothers recount this saga in a fascinating podcast, The Blog Era.

et Photographies : Brice Bossavie pour l’Abcdr du Son.

Rap eras change, and so do their rituals. There was a time when records were released on Tuesdays, and news could be gathered in magazines such as Radikal in France or XXL in the USA. There was a time when music videos were captured on VHS while broadcasted on MTV or BET. There was the Hiphopinfinity forum, the trailblazing Later, in another world, there would be Drinks Champs episodes, reaction videos and — let’s be chauvinistic here — the Abcdr du Son podcasts. And there once was the blog era.

The day before yesterday, a century ago, in the mid-2000s, the emergence of Web 2.0 upended the circulation of rap information — more horizontal, more chaotic, much faster — while overturning the hierarchy so far established between curators, artists and fans. It was a transitory era, halfway between what once was and what would become: before Twitter, before streaming, but after the dot-com bubble, after Napster, and right at MySpace’s peak.

This messy, hard-to-pinpoint era, when the boundary between real life and the Internet began to blur, was marked by the supremacy of blogs. Democratizing individual expression on the Internet, these platforms were, for a few years, the number one catalyst of conversation and influence in American rap, overtaking the previously established gatekeepers in magazines, TV channels and radio stations.

Blogs served as a playground and launching pad for new voices: emerging journalists, colorful personalities, semi-professional tastemakers. As for artists, a mention on the most influential blogs represented, for a while, an almost immediate boost in visibility, triggering a race for omnipresence among rappers from all horizons. Browsing the feed of a popular blog in 2007 meant coming across purely speculative rap phenomena, song leaks, veterans looking for a second chance, semi-official tracklists, as-yet-unnamed future stars, homemade clips, all in the midst of a community of onlookers who — the only real constant between yesterday and tomorrow — were sniping at each other in the comment section.

Jeff and Eric Rosenthal, two brothers from New York, are pure products of this era. In fact, it’s on the once-dominant blog Nahright that we first discovered them, circa 2007, when the duo released their first video sketches in a style that blended absurdist humor with very literal interpretations of rap lore. Rappers, podcasters and good comrades of the rap microcosm, with the Big Apple as their homebase, these restless jacks-of-all-trades have produced, among many other things, a mixtape with DJ Drama, a movie podcast featuring The Lox, a single with Curren$y and Smoke DZA, a live celebration of the Roc-A-Fella dynasty… right up to The Blog Era, their latest project, which could well be their magnum opus.

Distributed by OTHERtone, Pharrell Williams’ podcast venture, The Blog Era exhumes the few years during which rap’s center of gravity shifted definitively to the Internet. A tortuous saga through a galaxy of blogs, of which few traces remain today. Jeff and Eric Rosenthal interviewed dozens of players and witnesses from this era to revisit its emergence, its frenzy and its inevitable decline, made of clickbait tactics, questionable compromises and shattered dreams. This ambitious, at times dizzying podcast succeeds in bringing to life the effervescence of an ephemeral moment whose influence still resonates in today’s Internet. If you sometimes get the impression that rap is moving a little too fast and everyone is talking a little too loud, it may have all started on a blog.

Read the French version of this article.

Abcdr du Son: The notion of « blog era » covers a period that was messy and transformative on many levels. How would you define this period?

Eric Rosenthal: The blog era was a very unique time for a million reasons, but when it comes down to it, it was a bunch of kids behind keyboards who chose to enact their passion on a very pure and authentic level. And with those small things, it’s not a stretch to say that they changed the course of pop culture. If you look at all of the artists who run music, entertainment and far beyond today, they all came from the blog era. You don’t get a Drake, a J. Cole, a Big Sean, a Wale, a Mac Miller or a Nicki Minaj without these kids. And when it comes down to it, as Jeff likes to say, it’s also culture versus capitalism. That’s the bigger, broader story that resonates far beyond music fans.

A: For clarity’s sake, if you were to bookend the blog era with pivotal moments, which ones would you choose?

Jeff Rosenthal: For me, the blog era started when I discovered rap forums and, from there, went into finding that some people had individual websites of their own. But on a larger cosmic level, it happened around 2005, when influence started to go towards the Nahrights. When it ended is much more easy to define, I think. 2012 is when you see influence shifting away from blogs. It didn’t happen overnight, but that’s when large cultural forces went off in all these other directions. People moving to Tumblr, people moving to Twitter, the buildings being able to maintain their standing again, whether they were signing people to large deals or Complex enveloping these small blogs.

A: What makes you feel like something changed in 2012 ?

Eric Rosenthal: It was easy to end [the podcast] with the fall of OnSmash, when it was taken by the US government. But the truth is that blogs only got more popular after that. OnSmash was just one site, but the rest of the industry was still on the upswing. The buildings really got back in it and wrestled power away from gigantic blogs like Nahright. But deep in his soul, eskay [founder of Nahright] did not want to sell out. That was really the tipping point for us. He could have taken money, he could have embraced video, but he was like, no, this is my aim, this is what I want to do with my passion. And from there, it sort of hit the decline.

A: The podcast, like most of the things you do together, has a very loving tone. We can feel the admiration that you have for all these characters. What kind of emotions and memories do you associate with those times?

Eric Rosenthal: Everything and anything. This was a very special time to us. We did know all the players. That’s what made something like this fun and exciting, but also it raised the stakes immeasurably. We felt this great duty to make sure that we told this story right. We wanted to show a complete picture, but also give these people the credit that they are due. If [the podcast] is the evidence that [the blog era] existed, well, we better get it right, because you can’t find the websites, you can’t find the pictures, you can’t find the songs [anymore]. But there was also this life that we lived. We had our own blog, we were in this ecosystem. We know what it’s like to go to parties just to socialize and get cheese passed on a tray, get a drink, and survive off of that. We know what it’s like to run into someone, and them telling you, hey, you’re doing good work, and that carries you on into the next week, even while you’re not making your rent money that way. That’s what we wanted to convey as well. If this story was told by an outsider, it wouldn’t be the love letter that it is.

A: In the first episode, you say that you felt being outsiders by being, and I quote, white and Jewish. 15 years after that, you are a part of this history. Do you always feel a little bit like outsiders, or fully insiders?

Eric Rosenthal: Oh, today we are insiders [laughs]. I mean, coming out to Europe, we walked past McDonald’s at JFK, and Busta Rhymes was there. Jeff was like, should we go say hi? And we were like, let’s not. But we could have. That’s the difference between us in 2023 and us in 2007. Back then, we were kids. We were just hoping to be in this thing. Remember when VH1 was a music channel? They had a multi-part documentary series about hip-hop. It was based off of the Jeff Chang’s book Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop. It was unbelievable. Anytime it was on TV, I didn’t care what I was doing, I had to watch the whole thing. It felt so authentic. It was like, this guy gets it, this guy lives it. So when we get a chance to tell a story that’s our generation, we wanted to be the Jeff Changs for this. We could evoke these emotions because we have these one to one relationships with eskay, Low Key, Karen Civil or Benjy Grinberg. If you’re just doing it as a cold outsider with great intentions, it’s not the same.

« We thought it was going to be a two-month process. It turned into three years. »

Eric Rosenthal

A: You interviewed a lot of people. What was your approach to complete the series?

Jeff Rosenthal: It was just three years of constant work. It all started with getting a 6-by-4-feet bulletin board from Staples, and trying to organize, as best as possible, hundreds of hours of conversations. And it was impossible. We still haven’t transcribed everything, so we don’t even know exactly what we have. It was just a lot of chipping away at certain things and having constant conversations. And the good thing is that Eric and I are psychopaths, so we were able to talk about this all the time for three years.

Eric Rosenthal: Through the initial conversations, we had an idea of what this could possibly be. But the more we dug into it, the more we figured out there was a deeper meaning, and ways to tell this story in a more, pardon the pun, complex way. We thought it was going to be a two-month process. It turned into three years. The time we had to do this was a blessing and a curse. We’re grateful in the end for that time, because up until the very last minute, we would change things before we sent [the episode] to be posted.

A: Was there a pivotal conversation that was like, oh yes, this is something we have to talk about, because it helps understanding a lot about this era?

Jeff Rosenthal: There was somebody who brought up GroupM, the advertising firm which we didn’t know about. That was a much darker story than one that we were prepared to get into. When we started digging into that, we were like, oh, shit. This is a much more compelling story that has this underbelly that we weren’t really prepared for. But this is where the real meat of the story was.

Eric Rosenthal: We grew up revering All The President’s Men, the book by Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward, and then the movie adaptation of the story of the journalists who printed the truth about Richard Nixon. Our parents are from Washington, DC. They were like, that’s journalism. You dig the story, and part of that is: follow the money. This was the same [for us], on a very different level of course, and we’re not even like, you know, journalists. We got this little bit of information, and we kept digging and digging. And this is a story that you can’t just go on the Internet and find. If we didn’t tell this story, maybe no one would have, or maybe no one would have looked at it in the same way. I’m grateful, like Jeff, that this story exists. People can hear it and come to their own conclusion as to whether what was done to these websites and these people was inevitable, or whether it was fair. That’s the listener’s choice.

A: The cover art of the podcast features the Parthenon in Athens. What was the thought process behind this visual idea?

Jeff Rosenthal: The original artwork was done by me. The idea was that there used to be something that existed and it’s eroded in some way. How do you visualize a purely digital moment? I’m going to make it sound dumb, but [the blog era] was our Parthenon. That was a big thing for us to have this symbol of something that people fly all around the world to go and see and be like, wow, this is History. This is important with a capital I.

A: Joe Budden is a recurring figure in the episodes. Why did you choose him as a central character?

Eric Rosenthal: One day, we were talking on these long walks about what the real purpose of [the podcast] is. We wanted to lay out how the story of one system came crashing down to the blogs growing out of that. And we were like, well, it’s obvious, and it’s the Joe Budden story. Now, a lot of people know Joe as a podcaster. Before that, people might have only known him as a reality star. But Joe meant a lot, and [his story] is very compelling. There’s all these themes that matter. Whether it was him being early on YouTube, being early with the emotional music that he put out, being early to technology, independence, understanding the forums, having that real close interaction with his fans, the kickball games that he would do in New Jersey… People have forgotten these stories or haven’t seen their significance.

Jeff Rosenthal: There’s a reason why Joe Budden didn’t get the shot that he, quote unquote, deserved at Def Jam, and that’s because of all of these screw ups, whether they are internal at Def Jam or external with Napster. In order to explain the world as it was and why the blogs were able to exist, you have to go point by point like, this is why this shit doesn’t work.

A: Pharrell is the executive producer of the podcast, and he was a centerpiece of the blog era. What kind of insight did he provide to you? And if he did not, what would you have loved to ask him in order to illuminate that story?

Eric Rosenthal: So, he did not provide the insight. We were hopeful that he was going to. We were going to ask him for a real deep dive into the Lower East Side scene, in terms of how everything changed fashion-wise and music-wise. All those kids were outsiders and became the symbol of who a lot of youth around the world wanted to be. And the message spread because of MySpace and kids of that time. Va$htie, Cool Kids, Mickey Factz, Wale, A$AP Rocky… Without Pharrell, there’s no them. We wanted his perspective on that. The reason why it didn’t work is because the Louis timing happened. He became invested in other things bigger than us, so we didn’t get that chance. But we know he’s thrilled with the project. Rather than us just team with a nameless, faceless corporation, to have the guy as part of the narrative who was in the narrative means so much to us.

A: Speaking of the Lower East Side, there’s always a New York flavor to everything that you do. Even though the story of the blog era is pretty much a story of the Internet, how much of it is a New York story?

Jeff Rosenthal: It was important to keep it very focused on New York because that’s where the industry is. So when you’re talking about the through line and keeping all these things connected, yes, there is some bias there, I guess. But Mickey Factz has a very compelling story because he hits a lot of checkmarks that, say, somebody from the West Coast doesn’t. Pac Div, for instance, never made it to the XXL Freshman cover. Pac Div wasn’t a part of the Lower East Side scene. Mickey Factz was able to represent these things. He goes through the same label struggles as Pac Div, but he also is inserted in these different touch points. And so if there’s a New York bias to the series, that’s because there’s a New York bias to the industry.

Eric Rosenthal: With the ten and a half hours that we put out there, we weren’t able to include everything that existed in the larger story of the blog era. Same goes for the people that we spoke to. 150 people is a lot of people, but it’s also not a lot of people. Our reasoning was that the smaller stories could be representative of bigger ones out there. The Smoking Section, Fake Shore Drive or The Wrap Up, a small website from Houston, can be symbolic for a lot of things. And by the way, in all respects due to places that keep it going or places that have started since, [the podcast] doesn’t necessarily tell the story of a blog in Africa or across Europe. We did not tell their story of the many people who were writing and shining lights on different artists, but we were hopeful that there were stories that were reminiscent of them.

« Everyone had to figure out where they stood on one side or the other, capitalism or culture, and rare was the person who could balance everything »

Eric Rosenberg

A: The blog era started at a time when, if we narrow things a little bit, the industry was selling rappers as gangsters. And suddenly you have all these kids that are « computer hustling », and they are different. To what extent did the blog era define something else for rap?

Eric Rosenthal: There was a box. You either fit in it or you didn’t. They were going to sell Joe Budden as a more gangsta rapper than he really was because that’s how you sold units. That was just the reality of it. But all of a sudden, a Wale has an audience and he sells out shows. Why wouldn’t you give this guy a shot? J. Cole didn’t fit in one box or the other box [either]. He was somewhere in between. But he knew how to sell independent records. He knew how to sell small venues out, and to create something that was truly him. Shame on the labels who didn’t recognize that, but also, it was so foreign to them that you sort of forgive them a little bit for not seeing it. But eventually, when they get it, they really get it. It’s the same with all the blogs. David Dennis, who wrote for the Smoking Section, couldn’t get a job writing for some big publications. But his words gained an audience, and now he’s an extremely gifted author who’s on ESPN all the time. Those opportunities came because he did the work outside of those boxes.

Jeff Rosenthal: It’s not like that street rappers went out of fashion throughout the blog era. But people like Crooked I were able to add more nuance to their story through the blogs. A very underrated moment within the series is Crooked I’s appreciation, that he shares in the tenth episode. The blogs allowed for people to give context to their lives in ways they just were never able to before. In the past, you only had a shot at getting a video on BET or MTV and doing a quick interview to get your message out, and it was through other people’s lenses and people who didn’t look like you. eskay is a black man, and he would platform other black men. The Smoking Section, largely black men and women. These people were able to speak from a perspective that was not always being heard, and to do it with care and depth.

A: Arguably, the cultural peak of the blog era was the XXL Freshman 2009 cover. What does it evoke to you today, knowing its backstory?

Eric Rosenthal: To see people like Kid Cudi, Asher Roth, Charles Hamilton, Curren$y, Wale and all these guys on that cover so young is wild. I think that people don’t remember that. Being young, taking these chances, looking silly, that’s what you should do at that age. But I think a lot of people forget because it’s like going into the NBA directly from high school, when people expect you to act like the guys who’ve been around for a decade. But no, you’re a kid. You’re going to do kids things. That’s the biggest thing that I get from that. What an incredible achievement for ten young men to be on a cover where Jay-Z or 50 would normally be on. And then, the thing that really trips me out is that XXL used to be this thick monthly magazine with all these ads and everything. Today, XXL’s tent pole is the XXL Freshman cover. That’s what they work their year around. Everyone gets excited about it. But it’s that. They print, like quarterly maybe, and it’s a pamphlet, and it’s so secondary to this one moment.

Jeff Rosenthal: The crazy thing to me [is that] nobody really knew what was happening other than the fact that they were just like, « Oh, we’re going to be on a cover, I guess ». But there was no guarantee that it was going to be like the best selling cover ever. So there’s just an innocence to all of it. Nobody expected anything. It’s the following year when everybody was like, I need to get on that thing to cement my standing on the Internet. That’s what’s wild to me. It’s almost like, 2009 was cool, but 2010 is when people were like, oh, shit, that’s important.

A: You were mentioning the fact that capitalism is at the center of the story. We felt like the pure moment for the blogs was when there was no money involved. Do you feel that as well, talking to all these people?

Eric Rosenthal: For sure. If we’re going to boil down this story, it really is about before the money and after the money. These websites, these artists, these commenters, these executives, everyone had to figure out where they stood on one side or the other, capitalism or culture, and rare was the person who could balance everything. I think Wiz Khalifa is a great example of somebody who got it right. He earned a lot of money on his own, independently. He toured his music, he sold his merch, he gave music away for free and cultivated an audience to the point where it would have been silly if he hadn’t teamed up with Atlantic Records, because they weren’t going to make him change. Now, a lot of people would look at his first major label album, Rolling Papers, and be like, oh my God…

A: « He’s a sell out! »

Eric Rosenthal: Exactly. But then all these years later, he does the second Rolling Papers and he’s like, I stand by it, I think it was actually great. He did it independently, then he teamed up with a major and it benefited him. There’s a lot of people for whom you could say it didn’t work out that way. And a lot of independent actors who didn’t sign up with Complex, maybe they could judge it in a different way all these years later.

Jeff Rosenthal: We were called into a very early meeting with Complex where they wanted us to join their network. It would have required us changing what were then weekly videos. We would have had to do a larger website that would have required daily work and we would have been actual bloggers, as opposed to whatever we were. That was a deal that some people in our lives feel like we should have taken. Nobody would have judged us, and it would have been great, but it wasn’t the thing that we wanted to do. We were a lot like eskay in that way. We were very stubborn. I do think that the innocence of not knowing that money even mattered to your work in that way, that you were just sort of doing things for the love of this thing, with no expectation beyond that, was a huge part of the blog era.

A: You mention Wiz Khalifa as a kind of a best-case scenario. And then there’s the Charles Hamilton case. His episode puts into focus the moment where artists had to feed the machine with content in order to keep the metrics up. Do you think that a young artist of today would be better equipped to face that in 2023 as Charles was in 2009?

Jeff Rosenthal: When Charles was going through what he was going through, the highs and the very highs, there was no precedent for whatever came after that. Now all these kids, when they get on the wrong side of the internet or whatever, are able to rebound in ways that Charles never had the option to. There’s much more agency now. Charles was never able to claim ownership of his story. It had to be filtered through other people. But now, a Miranda Sings can do an apology video and then go and do another video. She’s not even the best example, but there are people who I follow on TikTok who are able to just keep rolling with the shits and they can pivot, and they can pivot back and they can re-pivot, and everything is a new opportunity for more clicks and more attention.

« It’s great to have taste, and it’s great to have a small community, but how do you sustain that? In 2023, that’s the thing I’m pessimistic about. »

Jeff Rosenthal

A: In the podcast, you mentioned the misogyny that came up for artists like Nitty Scott. When you talked to people, do you feel like there were some regrets about this period?

Jeff Rosenthal: I’m not the same person I was 15 years ago, and I would assume that there is some growth for most people who have lived this long. I spend a lot of time on the WayBack Machine, and I got to see what Internet comment sections were like 15 years ago. It was horrible. It’s not worth delving into, but it does demand you to look back and think, man, I wish that people were better to a lot of these women on the Internet, who are really putting themselves on the front lines. It shows you how much has changed, but also how much it has not changed.

Eric Rosenthal: In the conversations that we had, there were people who understood that they were a different person back then and would have done it differently today. Karlie Hustle talks about this, too, labels looking at artists and being like, well, she’s a woman, so beyond her talents, there’s makeup and hair, and that’s another bunch of people that we have to pay to travel, and all these excuses that today look silly. But they were afraid to take those chances. There were all these trends that we had to investigate as well to show why there were less and less women a part of this thing.

A: There were a couple of dissonant voices during those days. One of them was Byron Crawford, another would be Andrew Noz. None of them are in the podcast. What are the corners of the blog era, that you wish you could have deep dive a little bit more on, but couldn’t, by lack of access?

Eric Rosenthal: Had we had the opportunity to speak to Byron, to Andrew Nosnitsky, to Wale, to J. Cole, to Drake, to Pharrell, to Rocky… Had we had the opportunity to talk to them all, we would have tried to dive deep into the full story and understand where people were and what they were really aiming to do at this time. Byron didn’t reply, which we took as a no. But at the end of the day, I think we had a pretty good understanding of what actually happened. And I think we gave Byron enough time. Look, we read him. There was stuff that we laughed about back then, stuff that we cringe about today, and I think you get that from some of the conversations that we had with Sean Fennessey, Dallas Penn and Freshalina. I don’t think that we needed to give Byron more time than the ten minutes that we gave him in that episode. Byron played a part in this. A lot of brilliant, funny and decent people came out of his comment section, and that’s his legacy. There are people, like Questlove, who love Byron’s writing and miss him today. I disagree with him on his fandom, but there was a value to Byron’s writing. There was freedom, people had a unique voice, and that’s the legacy that people should take from that, without forgetting about all of the horrible things that he said about a whole lot of fellow human beings.

Jeff Rosenthal: It’s hard because Byron is a troll and so you don’t know his genuine feelings, and I’m not even sure that he understands his genuine feelings towards a lot of this stuff. But I think that we were able to cover that murkiness. With Andrew Nosnitsky, he formed my taste in a lot of ways. I was and remain a big fan of his. He didn’t want to participate, and that’s fine because, again, we’re talking about a representation of everybody on the Internet at that time, and what does a blog look like? A blog could be anything. Andrew’s blog was incredibly different from eskay’s or any of these people. What I liked about Andrew’s was that he was very good at finding regional talent very early on, and stuff that was counter to the narratives that were being put on Nahright, 2DopeBoyz and their copycats. That was dope. But you don’t really need to cover every single blog to be like, they existed.

A: What would be, for each one of you, the artist that essentialized the most what happened during this period?

Jeff Rosenthal: Juicy J is really interesting to me. First of all, I love his music, but also just the fact that here’s a guy who has been super underground for the first 15 years of his career. Then he wins an Oscar, and he becomes ice cold. Then four years later, he links up with Wiz Khalifa and Lex Luger and starts putting out the hottest shit as a 40-something-year old. It’s crazy. I think that Juicy J is a very underrated character within all this.

Eric Rosenthal: Curren$y. An outsider who turns down the opportunity to continue his relationships with these bigger brands, goes out on his own, struggles through the realities of this life, and turns it into a career that is still going on today. He just performed last night at Essence Fest in New Orleans on the same stage as Lil Wayne and he’s right up there, on the same level. Longevity, personality, quality, art. To be better than ever in this day and age is so admirable. I have all the respect for him.

A: In the podcast, and also in your own story, there is this idea of the collapse of boundaries between jobs. Like, I’m a journalist, but I’m also an A&R, an artist, a web developer… Looking back at your own experience, how do you make sense of that ambiguity in defining yourself?

Eric Rosenthal: Not being defined by one thing is really exciting. We know those things well. When we put out our sketch videos, we shot them, we edited them, we acted in them, we recruited our friends. We made that happen ourselves because there was no backup plan. And that was so hard, back then, to explain to our parents. We would live at home and we would make these videos online. We would see the comments going crazy on 2DopeBoyz, and that’s, wow, great. So we would spend the next week making a video, but our parents upstairs would be like, what are our sons doing? Why do they not have a career where they drive to work and get a paycheck regularly? But that wasn’t it for us. And if you talk to Lowkey from You Heard That New, to Karen Civil, Nitty Scott MC or Joell Ortiz, all of these people had that same feeling. And that comes from this time where technology and passion meets, where cameras get cheaper and recording materials get smaller. We moved down into the city, and we met all of these people and ran around town with them. Cole, Plain Pat, Lowkey, eskay, Miss Info… We’d keep these relationships going because we were all moving in this thing together. And that was so important. Now, again, everyone takes it for granted. It’s just like, yeah, sure, I’ll take my phone out. I can record a song, I can shoot a video myself. Back then, we all worked hard to earn our place in this thing, and I’m just grateful that that has been documented as well.

A: There was that piece recently in Passion of Weiss, where journalist Abe Beam and Willy Staley from The New York Times Magazine discuss the absence of an ecosystem today for writers to emerge. Yet at the end of the interview, they floated the possibility of a renaissance of a blog era. Would you share that optimism for tomorrow?

Jeff Rosenthal: Whether there can be a new blog era or something that resembles that, it’s all about community. And what I’m seeing more and more of is a stratification of everything. It’s like, at least on Twitter, there was a connective tissue. Now I don’t know where people go to find like-minded others. There are blogs and blog-like things that are popping up. You have Not 97, which is a podcast, you have No Bells, you have Finals Blog in Seattle. These guys are doing interesting things, but in 2023, everything seems to be moving towards TikTok in a way that TikTok has now overridden everything else. It’s like everybody’s in second place and therefore there is none. That’s the scary thing that we have to contend with. I don’t know how much time you guys spend on TikTok—I spend way too much—but it’s all people who are desperate for attention. That wasn’t the ethos of the blog era. A lot of these bloggers, there was no money, and therefore there wasn’t much attention anyway, and nobody really put their stories out there like that. So this whole thing is very counter to the spirit of that time.

Eric Rosenthal: I wholly agree. It’s hard to find true community. People went to Nahright because they trusted eskay’s taste. They went to OnSmash because they liked watching videos over there. They went to Miss Info because she had a unique voice and they wanted her opinion on something. Now when everyone feels like their opinion is the one that matters, and there’s so many people who believe that, it is hard to trust anyone, and music suffers, and community suffers.

Jeff Rosenthal: It’s great to have taste, and it’s great to have a small community, but how do you sustain that? In 2023, that’s the thing I’m pessimistic about. I love No Bells, I love Finals, all these places, but the world is set up against them to have longevity and to have great success in the way that we did 15 years ago. That’s what I’m pessimistic about.

The Blog Era podcast is online on every streaming and podcasts apps, and on the official documentary website,

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