Is Okayplayer Played Out?

As the pioneering Web site approaches its 10th anniversary, a fan wonders whether it's become the old man at the club.


What's your favorite "black-out" verse in hip-hop?

When did Black Thought cut off his dreads?

Anyone notice white women growing ass?

The discussions range from the whimsical to the trivial on okayplayer, the pioneering digital home of artists such as The Roots, Common, Erykah Badu, Mos Def and Talib Kweli. For nearly a decade now, okayplayer has promoted artistry in an often-barren world of black pop music. OKP's reviews section is a forum for below-the-radar artists to get heard. Message boards have lit up around politics, race and even, um, body trends.

A space before MySpace, a celebrity face before Facebook, for years, no one on the Internet did black alternative cool quite like okayplayer.

The site is coming up on its 10-year anniversary, an eternity in Web years. And now that the Afrosphere is in full bloom and the very '90s "neo-soul" genre has faded, a question has emerged: Has okayplayer become the digital equivalent to the old man at the club?

Brian "B. Kyle" Atkins, who's been working at the site since 1999, says no. "OKP certainly maintains its relevance, evidenced by the public's site traffic, involvement and enthusiastic participation. OKP offers a unique Web experience to its visitors that not many others can."

True enough. That's what I have always liked about the site. There are no managers or scripts, and some of its artists, like Badu, ?uestlove and Virginia emcee Skillz, are regulars on the message boards, chewing the fat without filters.

Tim M. Atkins, who filmed a documentary on the site, agrees the site is still relevant. But admits that some areas of the site have become an echo chamber. The message boards, for example. "Conversations, you feel like you've had them over and over," he said. Binlahab, an okayplayer since 2000, agrees. "Vets have read it all and are kind of above it all," he said. "Rookies think they are the first people to come on the board and make a post like 'Have ya'll noticed white girls been growing ass?!'"

Okayplayer was born in 1999, the brainchild of The Roots'  ?uestlove and University of Pennsylvania student Angela Nissel, now known for her work as a head writer for television's Scrubs.