Eminem's hot, Moby's not - that's wrong
BY MALCOLM MAYHEW
Fort Worth Star-Telegram
(KRT) - For more than a decade, the only peep you heard out of Moby was a "beep" - the sound of him crafting electronic dance music for a small but devoted following of clubgoing nighthawks and fringe music listeners.
With the release of 1999's "Play" disc, though, Moby became an overnight sensation, thanks primarily to a string of singles and videos that MTV and radio fell in love with, including "Bodyrock" and "South Side," his duet with No Doubt singer Gwen Stefani.
He also, somehow, became a walking target. Rapper Eminem, massively popular and way influential, has such disdain for Moby, he trashes him at every opportunity.
And who's sticking up for Moby?
Certainly not music critics, who've accused the New York-based performer of mimicking himself on his latest disc, "18," a record that some critics claim is nothing more than a rehash of "Play."
What has happened to so many other artists is now happening to Moby: a backlash. And at the helm of it is one of the currently most popular pop icons, Eminem, and whatever Eminem says these days, unfortunately, goes. As a result, the general consensus about Moby, one of pop music's most consistently interesting artists, is this: He's over.
In a way, it was inevitable. Moby did, after all, come up through the underground club scene, and whenever an artist's career rises above his cult status, old fans tend to revolt. No new story there.
But even new Moby fans seem to have shied away. The first Moby backlash came when his record company, V2, sliced up "Play" and served it to several corporations for use in commercials, film and television. And even though nearly every high-profile artist from Aerosmith to Zeppelin has allowed its music to be used to hawk or hype products, Moby came under a ton of fire from critics and fans who accused him of selling out.
Apparently, it's cool for Zeppelin's stuff to be used to sell Cadillacs, but very uncool for Moby to pop up on an Intel commercial. Go to the message board on Moby's Web site, www.moby.com,
to see the kind of comments people have been unleashing about this, none of which we can print.
Then in stepped Eminem, the Detroit-based rapper who, in response to a Moby comment about Eminem's lyrics being misogynistic, calls Moby a derogatory name for gays. "You're too old. It's over, nobody listens to techno," Eminem raps on the track "Without Me."
There also was the Moby/Eminem incident at this year's MTV Video Music Awards: Triumph, comedian Robert Smigel's hand-puppet comic dog that originated with "Late Night With Conan O'Brien," recited portions of Eminem's Moby-bashing lyrics in Moby's ear, then made his way to Eminem, who, in turn, lashed out at the puppet-pup and, then, Moby. "I'll hit a man with glasses," Eminem said on stage, when he was accepting an award.
Since then, Eminem fans have jumped on the anti-Moby bandwagon, and, judging from their juvenile language (also posted on Moby's Web site), none of them are old enough to even get into a club where Moby performs. It's just another case of mob mentality: "The guy I think is cool hates this other guy so I'll hate him, too."
Hard to say if this has made a dent in Moby's sales or career, but it has most definitely gotten him kicked out of the cool club. In music circles, it's not hip to like Moby anymore, and nearly every interview you see with him now borders on the condescending. A recent Q&A in Blender, for example, focused more on his personal life than his music - another sign that, in some people's eyes, Moby's a cartoon.
Which, of course, is really too bad. What I always hoped would happen to Moby, if and when he got big, was that people would go back and discover the stuff he did before "Play," and then he'd gain some small fraction of the respect that he deserves as a pioneer in his field. His early material definitely warrants acknowledgement, especially the relatively angry "Animal Rights," an album that proves, unlike what Eminem would have you believe, that Moby's not a softy trying to depress us; he can be just as vile as anyone else.
Not that you'd know that now. Moby hasn't lashed out at Eminem or any of his other detractors publicly. Heck, he's smart: Eminem's big, Moby's small. Who's gonna lose that fight? But you can bet, Moby will react in one way or another, more than likely on his next record. And, if he's the smart guy that I believe he is, he'll react in a way that'll irritate a loudmouth hothead like Eminem beyond belief: by not saying anything at all.