Trick or tweet 

Sweat hangs heavier in the air than the requisite hands. Los Angeles' Cinespace is beyond hot, hovering somewhere near sauna, and the hype in the air is for hip-hop artist Kid Cudi. Rumors of M.I.A.'s presence in the overflowing crowd perks up, then dies down just as quickly as Noreaga's impromptu set in support of Cudi. International star of the Black Eyed Peas, at first waiting in the wings as a Cudi fan, is dragged onstage to freestyle for 20 minutes. The small venue goes nuts, but it's only a fraction of the love Cudi receives when his hit single, "Day 'n' Nite," cues at the end of his hourlong set. No one even cares that his St. Paddy's Day-celebrating DJ acts a fool with a bottle of vodka, happily showering in the very sweat that Kid Cudi originated. Without even an album out, relying only on a haphazard mixtape and a sprinkling of Internet leaks, Kid Cudi has garnered the type of big-city praise that births superstar careers … two days after he announced his retirement.

Welcome to hip-hop's Twitter era. Twitter is the social networking platform that allows users to shoot text-message-like blasts called "tweets" to huge lists of followers. If it's possible for a social-networking site with millions of users to bubble under the surface, this was the month that it burst for Twitter. While NBA bloggers find it amusing that Shaquille O'Neal uses Twitter, the Milwaukee Bucks weren't laughing when Charlie Villanueva Twittered during halftime of a big game.

It seems every rapper has a Twitter feed: Washington, D.C., MC Wale got in trouble for tweeting that he "hates doing interviews" during an interview, and last week, Noreaga Twittered while performing on national television. Diddy allegedly tweeted during "tantric sex."

If Diddy's sexcapade weren't proof enough that we have too much access to our artistic heroes, then check out any rapper's Twitter feed. It's filled with enough knee-jerk reactions, (de)humanizing admissions, WTF moments and despicable spelling to put Us Weekly's "Just Like Us" celebrity column out of business.

Even worse, the instant gratification has redefined the very essence of what a career in music used to mean. The next-generation rappers are showered with Internet love, Twitter followers, MySpace friends, blog commenters, and YouTube bootleggers. The speed with which rappers and singers can gain fans online has given them a platform where they feel accomplished enough to end their careers before they even begin.

Then there's Twitter's most high-minded and lovably Dada meta-commentary: "NotoriousBIG," despite being dead for over a decade, uses the platform to discuss details of "his" imagined days here on earth, "hittin' that drank, peepin american idol," or waiting for Lil' Kim to bring over "some motherfuckin' funyuns." Locally, Orlando rapper Wes Fif's tweets are endlessly fascinating for their succinct, haiku-style hilarity: "Bout to drink some Tropicana OJ (aye! ok well damn!!)."

At South by Southwest on March 20, three days after his Cinespace performance, Kid Cudi announced he was retracting his retirement, comparing his moment of doubt to that of fictional superhero Spider-Man in the film Spider-Man 2. It took Jay-Z three years to un-retire, but then again, that was way back in the MySpace era.


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