DUN KNOW THE MYSPACE

Words: Jesse Bernard

In hindsight, don’t you wish MySpace stuck around a little longer? As far as music discovery was concerned in the realm of social media, Tom’s invention was one of the first networking sites that allowed underground music to thrive. In between Limewire and bebo, there weren’t many sites that facilitated both networking and music discovery. “Dun know the MySpace,” we used to say, and Kano went along and named a song after the phrase. MySpace profiles became a window into someone’s life—and the embarrassing soundtrack they used as a profile song. I definitely had the BBK Dipset remix (it wasn’t official) on there for a short while.

MySpace was a testing ground, a place where you try and fail over and over like a crash test dummy. My idea of ‘the purge’ is Tom: out of petty rage for abandoning him to sit by that chalkboard alone all these years, he might just leak all of our old profiles. Social media was in its infancy and back then, walking on the legs that MSN and online forums began crawling on. It was between 2004-2006, when grindie (think Jamie T, Hadouken, Example and even early Wretch) and nu-rave first emerged, that MySpace became a vessel for these scenes. When T2’s “Heartbroken” was released, it wouldn’t be a reach to say that it was the number one MySpace profile song in the summer of 2007. Social media was new and none of us had a clue what we were doing or what we could make of it. Except for, of course, Drake, who is probably the most successful artist whose origins were on MySpace—Houston MySpace to be exact.

We mockingly lament the styles of the mid-to-late 2000s, before Instagram introduced hashtags to our photos and allowed us to create a more polished image of ourselves. Instagram was a style fairy godmother for anyone who came of age in the transition of dominance from MySpace to Facebook. ‘Produkkies’, for those that remember, gave us the ability to personalise our profiles—especially with the kind of flame text used on vintage rap mixtapes. They were skins, in a sense, and the shift towards Facebook heralded the beginning of a more homogenous social media experience. I’m just glad I deleted all traces of my MySpaces pages. Yes, plural. One for my music and a personal one. As I previously mentioned it was a testing ground, just ask Kevin Durant who hasn’t changed one bit since then.

I’ve been far too kind to MySpace though because while it gave us the first decent glimpse at what music discovery through social media looked like, we were exposed to some terrible fashion choices and styles. MySpace was our Instagram—you gen-Zers don’t know struggle when all you have is a 5 MP camera (if you’re lucky). No one was buff on MySpace. No one. The limited megapixels amplified clappedness and self-promotion through social media was still young—parents were only just beginning to get over the fear of chatroom predators and stalkers. Now you have personalities such as Gavin Thomas, the infamous meme, whose whole life has become the adoration the internet but in a creepy, Truman-esque way.

SoundCloud wasn’t as clique-y as other sites, and while Facebook is for the locals and family everyone on Twitter is trying to get away from, the latter two have never been particularly great platforms for discovery. Twitter has its tribes, and whether it’s Black Twitter, Fiat 500 Twitter, Football Twitter, Scottish Twitter or Stan Twitter, the design of the timeline feed allows crossing over into different territories, more than often causing daily online spats. Where Twitter is the online version The Tribe, and we the mall rats are living in this dystopian space, MySpace had its rigid borders and the online troll hadn’t yet been born.

MySpace’s primary function—before they realised too late and hired Justin Timberlake—was music discovery through networking. All of the above considered, imagine between 2003-2006 during its height and the growth of UK genres, it was fertile ground for underground artists who were looking for both the opportunity to grow their fanbase, connect with other musicians and obviously promote their music. It’s safe to say that MySpace birthed SoundCloud, which in its day was the number one discovery site for all British music.

Boy Better Know did this arguably better than most, and it was where the brand first grew. It’s debatable as to who coined the term Dun know the MySpace, but some believe it was Jme. What isn’t up for debate, however, is the person who made the BBK t-shirt a staple piece and a once coveted treasure, and that was the same man. Jme used MySpace to distribute the t-shirts and, although he wasn’t necessarily the first to do this, by only allowing to be won—not purchased—the BBK t-shirt instantly became the first grime brand. To put it into context, the BBK t-shirt was the Supreme t-shirt of grime.

Naturally, MySpace became a listing page for gigs and raves. These days, events and gigs are being advertised online, in a bid to get us offline, to come to an event where the attendees and influencer hosts seem to function better online. Raves are effectively nonexistent these days, well at least the comfort of having options, and festival season seems to be becoming an all-year round thing due to the fact that people want to listen to live music.

Roadblock, which took place in the Midlands, and JP and Hyperfrank’s very own ChockABlock were events that thrived off promotion on MySpace. Many festivals go bankrupt due to an inability to sell tickets, primarily due to only marketing online but a strong line-up isn’t enough to get someone out of their house these days. Back then, it was knowing that even if you heard about a rave online, chances are most people who went to one found out about it offline. Which is how so many club nights earned a legacy over the years.

Artists were able to see first-hand that their fans weren’t just from local areas and were being recognised nationally and international. UK rap fans will remember when The Diplomats had a foothold in the scene through their affiliation and endorsement of S.A.S. Transatlantic connections in rap had long existed before the internet took hold but inevitably, these barriers would soon begin to fall, when instant messaging and social media allowed artists themselves to cast their nets wider. Being able to discover artists by region was how Drake became affiliated with Houston in his mixtape days, and it probably wouldn’t be a stretch of the imagination to assume he found his way into UK MySpace once or twice.

S.A.S., a rap group from the UK, were once closely affiliated with The Diplomats and were extremely close to inking a deal, until Roc-A-Fella eventually collapsed in 2004. They were mixtape kings who took a chance when Dipset had a show in London and soon became to be the UK arm of the group. Having worked with each other up until 2007, MySpace was how S.A.S., two brothers from London, were able to cross channels in a way that would’ve been much more difficult had it not existed.

It’s only right that we pay homage to the types of MySpace users who guided our journeys and made the experience that much more cringeworthy but enjoyable. Hold tight the man who put their favourite artists in their top friends. Hold tight MySpace, the birthplace of the duck pose. Hold tight the mirror selfie with a 4MP camera phone. Hold tight the sends and disses in MySpace freestyles. Hold tight the produkkie engineers who were the tailors of the online world. Hold tight the comment wars.

MySpace came for but a moment; it conquered and gave us the artists who are now breaking music records for sport. They are the first generation of online music kids and although we lament how dire the nature of the internet is these days, remember that we also—for a time—had it good as online music fans.


Posted on January 07, 2019