The term ‘gatekeeper’ means controlling, limiting and safeguarding an individual away from a chosen topic or thing. On December 31st, 2020, hip-hop was struck with tragedy when it was announced that the revered covert emcee and producer MF DOOM had died. This message was shocking and confusing to many. While DOOM kept his personal life under wraps, it was confirmed DOOM died way back on October 31st, a full two months before his death date was announced publicly.
In DOOM’s lifetime, he cultivated an immense underground following. Look at a project like ‘Mm… Food’ or ‘Vaudeville Villain’. With a quick Google search of these LPs, you can find blog sites and Reddit forums discussing them. Despite their age, the conversation around DOOM’s work continued. When mythological, larger than life artists pass away like a Prince or Whitney Houston, gatekeeping rears its head. Many rap purists or music fanatics may feel the need to police weather an individual is worthy or knowledgeable.
This is toxic because music is music. There is not a prerequisite to enjoy it. An example of this could be a music page depicting projects like; ‘Damn’ by Kendrick Lamar, ‘Swimming’ by Mac Miller and ‘Astroworld’ by Travis Scott. Alongside these albums, a caption declaring fans of those projects “bandwagoners” could be a classic example of gatekeeping.
Gatekeeping often occurs when a rising star or underground artist breaks into the mainstream, and original fans feel a type of way. They’re happy their favourite artist is getting the recognition, but they don’t like the new perceived “fake fans”. This presents itself as a double-edged sword of sorts. Rap music itself is very much entrenched in its code of ethics and guidelines. Look no further than the ghost-writing debate. Hip-hop artists and consumers alike pride themselves in authenticity. To latch onto an artist artificially for a perceived social gain is also a problem.
Sadly, more often than not, gatekeeping aims to police new fans away from the musician or album. It can be hard to distinguish between a “true” fan and an artificial one. All we can do is unite in our love for the arts as one.