By Alvin Blanco
Despite murky copyright laws, the Department of Homeland Security could not keep website OnSmash down for long. After having their original domain seized by ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) and Homeland Security Investigations in late November 2010, the popular blog destination for the latest and upcoming hip-hop music returned yesterday (January 18) at FreeOnSmash.
"I purchased the domain shortly after Onsmash.com was seized," the site’s founder, Kevin "Hof" Hofman said.
Reaction to the over-zealousness of authorities in shuttering the website last Thanksgiving Day was swift, with artists and fans bemoaning the fact that an outlet for new music from up-and-coming acts was unfairly targeted. The site’s troubles, along with those of DaJaz1.com, were even covered by the New York Times. Although the esteemed blog — it is part of the New Music Cartel (NMC) family of blogs that include NahRight.com and 2DopeBoyz.com, among others — is sporting a new domain, a quick visit reveals that its DNA remains the same.
"Initially I planned to fall back and use this domain to chronicle our legal situation," Hof explained. "After seeing the public outcry from artists and users alike, I felt we owed it to the culture to come back better than ever. We launched a refreshed version of the website and video player yesterday but have many new plans in store. I think this whole experience has forced us to evolve and look ahead."
Moving forward includes tweaking the process by which music is selected for inclusion on the site. Part of the confusion surrounding OnSmash's seizure arose because the music and video on the site was not pirated but officially sanctioned and directly provided by artists and their label reps. Besides major label artists, talented independent artists also had a shot at getting placement too.
"Our submission process and how we deliver content has definitely changed," Hofman said. "We will remain focused on what we do best, identifying and supporting new and emerging talent. Unfortunately it has become too much of a business risk to acknowledge major label priorities. We still cover major label artists but only where it makes sense for us."
As for the original OnSmash.com domain, it remains in limbo — for now.
"We remain committed to liberating our original domain," says Hofman. "That was the primary reason we chose 'FreeOnSMASH.com' as the domain name for our relaunch. Our new motto is 'It's FreeOnSMASH until they free OnSMASH.' "
What do you think of the FreeOnSmash? How do you think the site's seizure has changed the landscape of hip-hop blogs? Tweet us at @MTVRapFix or tell us in a comment below!