Yesterday afternoon, my wife, mother-in-law and I were in Venice, CA having an overpriced lunch at one of our favorite overpriced cafes in the sunny, scene-y gentrified Southern California beach community. About three weeks ago we spotted a distressingly schlubby Leonardo DiCaprio in the same cafe, fully equipped with aviators, stained white v-neck, dad cargos, and two blonde, barely-dressed supermodels. Afew months prior to Leo, we caught a casual Maeby Fünke placing an order at the same counter. This is our life in California now and though we’re certainly not of this world, we’re fully interlopers within it, and, perhaps embarrassingly, semi-charmed by it.
At this point, celebrity sighting in Venice, CA is so whatevs and as such I wasn’t surprised to see yet another famous person waiting in line behind us yesterday. But this time I was far more excited and, because of a deep yet impersonal relationship to said celebrity, was emboldened to say “Hello.”
Ishmael Butler, aka Ish, aka Butterfly, aka Palaceer Lazaro of Shabazz Palaces was, by far, the coolest man in line at Gjusta yesterday afternoon despite how other patrons attempted to present themselves. Vibing in the Sun as if descended from our star itself, and friendly to a disarming degree, Ish flattered the fuck out of me when he said — after I introduced myself and explained how 206UP was my website — “Oh yeah, I thought ‘Chul’ sounded familiar.”
And with that, I found my peace with ending 206UP.
This website began on a whim in July 2009 in New York City. Tired of writing about hunting down decent cups of coffee in Manhattan (remarkably the slow coffee movement hadn’t fully taken hold), and coming up with clever ways of journaling online about getting mugged (twice) without my parents freaking out, 206UP was the culmination of my affinity for hip-hop music, missing my Pacific Northwest home, and my obsession with “responsible” music criticism: That is, the place where objectivity in observing art and social justice issues intersects. Rap music, like very few other art forms, presents a great landscape for intellectualizing the fuck out of such matters.
To my mind, 206UP both achieved and failed spectacularly at its mission.
To wit: I’ve been a homer for Blue Scholars and an unfair critic of Macklemore, admitting to the rapper Bambu during a backstage interview at SOBs that I always felt like the Scholars were Griffey and Mack was A-Rod — only one of the former Seattle athletes was deserving of our undying love and respect. Macklemore used to follow me on Twitter but at some point he stopped. It’s probably egotistical of me to believe the unfollow came after one too many critical think pieces, but my small world allows me to subscribe to this. (Note: Blue Scholars still follow me.)
All that to say, objectivity is such a fleeting precept, impossible to possess in an unadulterated form, leading me to believe the goal with 206UP was never to find harmony in fairness, but merely to add my voice to the community. And as my writing becomes more engaged in other endeavors, I’m losing touch with that community and, most tellingly, finding myself okay with it.
A chance encounter with Ish in Venice represented 206UP’s full literary circle. In its seven years of existence, the website’s greatest claim to fame was getting a mention in a New York Times article of which the subject was, yes, Shabazz Palaces. I have no idea if Ish became aware of my name because of that article, or if someone within the Seattle hip-hop community hipped him to 206UP at some other point in time. For me, it doesn’t really matter. All that counts is that I was a familiar presence in his universe, as he has been in mine.