MTV: Pimping All Over the World

The cult of celebrity at the Video Music Awards can drive a music man to schizophrenia.

A few days spent wallowing in MTV/VMA/MIA hysteria can leave even the most pie-eyed, pop-culture devotee a jaded crank. Beatcomber has always settled somewhere between starstruck and cynical, and after all the hobnobbing, cocktailing, and white-carpeting, he feels even more divided. Celebrity is indeed a stiff intoxicant, but it leaves a nasty aftertaste. Driving back to Broward late Sunday night after the awards ceremony at American Airlines Arena, Beatcomber had the following conversation. With himself.

Geekcomber: What a weekend! Miami really pulled itself together after Katrina and played the perfect host to the awards.

Bittercomber:And now Katrina is gonna demolish the birthplace of America's greatest music form. If it wasn't for jazz, there would be no MTV.

Dude, whatever. You got to squeeze Pam Anderson's waist on your way out of Opium Garden on Friday...

...As she looked right past you. I can't understand this fascination with starfucking. It's become a sport -- "I bagged myself a Luda and a Jigga at a barbecue at Hotel Victor Saturday afternoon and Missy at the Bacardi party later that night."

You gotta admit, it was totally rad when Jay-Z walked into that barbecue and sat down right behind you.

Actually, it kinda was. But that's because dude's a brilliant lyricist, not because he's doing Beyonce and is wearing a $15,000 watch. Or it's just because I feel like I'm supposed to find such meaningless non-encounters monumental.

Crazy that Suge Knight was there too a few hours before he got shot at the Shore Club.

Yeah, I wanted to walk up to Suge and be like, "You killed hip-hop when you killed Biggie and Pac." But I'm kinda glad I didn't.

He's a big man.

And the shooting's a big publicity stunt. How do you pop someone point-blank and hit him in the leg? I dunno, but either way, it's not good for hip-hop.

No way, dude. It's great for hip-hop. Look: Beef makes for saucy MTV, and MTV has given over almost completely to hip-hop. What's good for the network is good for the genre.

You're right that one wouldn't exist without the other. The two together are the most powerful, far-reaching cultural phenomenon of our generation. Like Ice-T told you on the carpet, "I've been here for 23 years. Back when I started, they said rap music was a fad. Now look at it." What do you see? It's taken 20-some years, but MTV has swayed from freaky, outsider artsiness and innovation to a mainstream, corporate-driven, cultural funhouse mirror. It's a global behemoth seen in some 387 million households around the world. And they don't even play videos anymore!

Because it's about more than just the music. It's about the lifestyle. The bling, the bitches, the cars, the clubs! MTV first proved that anyone can be a celebrity -- didn't you seeThe Real World Austin cast strolling the carpet? I can go buy the same SUV that 50 Cent drives or the same watch that Diddy gave that dude in the front row.

Don't fool yourself, dude. That watch costs more than you make in six months. And you're just proving my point -- we're not impressed by the talent anymore; we're hypnotized by the image. How else do you explain Paris Hilton? The nerve, sauntering down the carpet talking on her cell, like she had somewhere better to be.

The only thing MTV proves is that music has become an accessory. It's a three-minute makeover you download onto your iPod and consume on your way to the mall. Of course, the vacuous, lowest common denominator of pop music only helps the cause.

Why do you have to be such a hater, player? If you can't take the pop, turn off the TV and crawl back into your elitist, indie-rock, never-heard-of-'em underground. These bands and these fans are just trying to have fun up in here, catch a buzz, and move some units. You look at the far-reaching implications of the music industry and you see how many people -- lots of them from underprivileged communities -- are making a good living off it. Just by making music.

Music about bitches, bling, cars, and clubs. You saw the show tonight -- Ludacris put it best -- "We're pimping all over the world." And not in a good way.

But what a great song!Well, yeah. But it's all so far from the street-level origins of the music MTV is supposed to champion. Sure, it's all a party, but at what cost? Miami-Dade gave MTV more than $100,000 in logistical support. That could've hosted how many local arts events? Not a single performer -- except for Luther Campbell's two-minute cameo midshow -- was from South Florida. All the artists that supposedly represent Miami, from Ricky Martin to Fat Joe to that ego-driven usurper himself, Diddy, have only moved in from out of town and stolen the spotlight. Miami is the million-dollar sleepaway camp of the entertainment industry. Its status as the celebrity playground of the moment is just another iteration of the infamous, South Florida spring-break vibe -- transitory, mindless, raunchy -- only with more expensive liquor.

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