Posted in ad-aware, interview, music by eddie on February 19, 2009

A bit ago we marveled in snarky disbelief at the existence of, whose ad on Facebook seemed more fitting for an AARP newsletter.  But unlike some of our bloggy brethren, the journalists in us felt it unreasonable to leave the post as a hit-and-run affair.  We chatted with Bill Buckholz, the 28-year-old proprietor of UnderstandRap, who was nice enough to talk to us at length about his motivations behind the site, the rap scene in Seattle, parents making things uncool and why Katie Couric sucks.

PHOENIX DIVERSIONS: I can only surmise that you’re big fan of rap—or are you?

BILL BUCKHOLZ: I wouldn’t say I’m the most knowledgeable person about rap. I feel like I know a little bit more than the average person, but I haven’t always listened to rap music. For the most part I’ve been into other types of music. I’ve always been aware of rap and I’ve liked a lot of rap—I wouldn’t say I’m a huge fan though.

P: What kind of artists in particular? Anyone that you’ve enjoyed over the years?

B: Probably the first artist that I really got into and really liked was Outkast. I really enjoyed a lot of their music. I thought a lot of it was pretty clever, good sound. Somewhat meaningful lyrics, at times. Lately I’ve listened to a lot of –I got [Lil Wayne’s] Tha Carter III, of course. Saw him when he came to Seattle. I’ll be seeing the Game at the end of the month. Big fan of T.I., Lupe Fiasco, people like that.

P: You said you’re from Seattle, and I don’t think there’s much of a rap scene up there, is there?

B: [Laughs] There’s really not. Lil Wayne played at Key Arena, kind of an interesting crowd there—pretty diverse, all sorts of different backgrounds there. There’s not really a local scene at all for it. There really doesn’t seem to be that much interest from the city as a whole, at least not that I’ve seen in the years that I’ve been out here.

P: I feel like the only rap artist I know from Seattle is Sir Mix-A-Lot.

B: [Laughs] Yeah, I can’ t think of any major rap acts from the past several years that have been from here.

American Recordings

Credit: American Recordings

P: How did the idea of Understand Rap come about?

B: I’ve always been interested in—not growing up in that culture, I’ve always been interested in a lot of the references that are made in the songs to other artists, other songs, events in history, things like that. Probably what actually sparked the design of the Web site most recently was listening to a Lil Wayne song, “Misunderstood.” It’s probably not even exactly related to being misunderstood in his lyrics. It just kind of triggered in my mind, “Oh, well, I guess a lot of rap probably is misunderstood.” People don’t really understand, they think it’s all just about hoes or smoking weed. A lot it can be about that, but I think that people are missing — the general public doesn’t see a lot of the meaning there can be in a lot of the lyrics.

P: The way I looked at your Web site there seemed to be this perception you have of this cultural gap. But it also seems like you also think there’s a desire somewhere for people to get to understand it. Did you ever witness someone who was really confused by rap? Or was this mostly within yourself?

B: Well even myself, I’ve been confused by some of the references that are made to other artists that I’m not familiar with. A lot of times rapper will make some little reference and if you didn’t know the history of them and the different other rappers they hang out with it might just go right over your head. I figured that was probably happening to me a lot. I was trying to research that stuff on my own but I found there wasn’t really a good place to go to find information like that. Urban Dictionary is a really good Web site that I’m a fan of, but it doesn’t really focus on the context of songs. That’s the idea behind my site, somebody can be listening to a particular song and hopefully once there’s more content on the site they can go right to that song and see the list of terms that people have added. Sometimes there’s terminology that’s used and it could mean something, but maybe it’s a play of words on that terminology, so in the context of the song it could mean something totally different.

P: It seems like you want to foster some sort of discussion, too.

B: Yeah, ideally. Like what you said before how there seems to be a big cultural gap—that ties into the generational gap I think there is. A few years ago I would say that rap was pretty much seen as a joke. It probably still is in a lot of instances. Like Saturday Night Live would have skits where they have a white guy dressed up as a rapper—“Oh yo-yo, what’s up dawg?” Maybe that’s funny several years ago, it just kind of gets old. I think that people maybe are confused by these things, they don’t understand it, so maybe they just kind of poke fun at it because they don’t really know. I feel like it’s kind of played out.

P: If all the sudden this became a place where parents came to figure out rap and pursue their curiosity, do you feel like rap will become uncool?

B: [Laughs] I don’t think it will ever be uncool. A lot of people’s parents understand rock and roll music from being at Woodstock. If a parent wants to understand it, figure out what their kid is listening to, I think that’d be a great use for the site. If you have a teenage kid, you know he just bought the new Ludacris album, you’re not sure what that’s all about, maybe you wanna go click on some song from the album, check out some of the terms. I mean, if that’s how an older person wants to get into rap music then that’s fine, I guess. But I don’t really see it being a way for rap to become uncool, especially since it’s evolving so quickly—new artists coming around, new terminology comes out all the time.

P: Definitely. I think when you’re a kid, a lot of the excitement around things like video games is that your parents don’t get it. I think it was the same for rock and roll back in the day.

What do you think it is about Lil Wayne? He’s such a weird guy, why do you think he’s been on the forefront?


Credit: CBS

B: I don’t know, I think he really appeals to such a wide audience. His background—he came from New Orleans, it was tough. He was in the Hot Boyz, always affiliated with Ca$h Money Records. I’m not really sure what exactly caused him to be popular—Tha Carter III is a really excellent album. I feel like in the past couple years people’s styles have started to overlap. Places like Urban Outfitters, a lot of the indie rock and hipster-type crowd has sort of crossed over into the same interests as a lot of rap and hip-hop fans, as far as their fashion sense and maybe their musical interests, probably more so people going toward rap music than indie rock. I think Lil Wayne still has a [gangster] style, but he’s not afraid to totally be himself, say what’s on his mind, dress however he feels.

Apparently he’s recording a ton of music lately—if he’s not on tour he’s just in the studio. I saw some—I don’t know if it was on the Katie Couric interview. That was the worst interview, I don’t really like her at all anyway. She just seemed so out of touch. I’m surprised he was tolerating that for 10 minutes or however long. She just seemed like she was totally disconnected from that culture. It was almost embarrassing to watch.

P: Well maybe she could stand to go to your Web site then.

B: [Laughs] Yeah yeah, I wouldn’t mind. Probably would be good for her.


5 Responses

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  1. […] Everything BIG CED put an intriguing blog post on understanding understandrap.comHere’s a quick excerptI’ve always been aware of Brap/B and I’ve liked a lot of Brap/B—I wouldn’t say I’m a huge fan though. P: What kind of Bartists/B in particular? […]

  2. […] The Adventures of Ben and Bre placed an observative post today on understanding understandrap.comHere’s a quick excerptI was trying to research that Bstuff/B on my own but I found there … a rapper—“Oh yo-yo, what’s up dawg?” Maybe that’s Bfunny/B several years […]

  3. Ruby Aliment said, on February 20, 2009 at 1:22 am

    It’s sad that Bill Buckholz hosts a website called “Understand Rap” and yet isn’t aware of the hip-hop scene in his own city. Maybe I’m just sensitive because I am from Seattle

    And, sure, Common Market and Blue Scholars are by no means on the same level as Lil’ Wayne but they’re still major acts in the current hip hop scene as a whole and Buckholz should be representing them.

    More here:

    P.S. Eddie, nice blogging!

  4. eddie said, on February 20, 2009 at 4:37 am

    Ruby, thanks for the comment. I should clarify that Bill is originally from Toledo, Ohio, and has been in Seattle for the past year and a half. Reppin’ the Space Needle would be understandably a little more difficult for a non-native. Thanks for that article, too.

  5. Bill said, on February 20, 2009 at 10:36 pm

    Thanks for the information about those Seattle hip-hop artists. I’d like to make it clear that (as quoted above) “I feel like I know a little bit more than the average person” when it comes to rap music and, as Eddie stated, I’ve only been out here in Seattle for a year and a half (I thought during the interview I might have actually said “year and a half” rather than “years”) and have not heard nor seen much promotion or advertising for any rap/hip-hop shows. In fact, if you asked me about the rock, pop, country, or jazz scene in Seattle I would probably react in the same way I did during the interview since I unfortunately haven’t really been exposed to the Seattle music scene whatsoever. By establishing Understand Rap, I hope to provide a non-threatening environment in which people (with even less knowledge than I have) can come to learn about rap music, and to help break down barriers between cultures, generations, and regions – it’s not by any means to show off my limited knowledge of the genre. I look forward to learning more about rap music and culture from people like you, who I hope will contribute to the site.

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