Category Archives: Uncategorized

25-02-2017

Type until your fingers bleed.

 

I convince myself that I’m not wasting my talents.  That typing on Facebook or texting my friends is the same thing as “writing” because it’s easier than facing the fact that I’ve spent ten years wanting to do something that I’ve spent ten years avoiding doing.  Obviously this is weapons-grade bullshit.

 

When you’re doing stretch drills in gym class and you have to split your left and right leg out as far as you can until it hurts.  Until your whole core strains and quivers with tension.  That’s the difference between who you are and who you want to be.  Tension.  Tension is the only word I can find for what it is.  Life is Stretch-Armstrong corn syrup tension between these opposites.

 

Tonight I was at a constant pull between what I think is right, and what I want.  A lot of that comes down to the stuff I put in my stomach.  I have a tendency to binge drink, but I also justify it to myself as being “better than psychoactives” or “better than SSRI’s” or “better than self-harming” or anything else that has ever replaced whiskey and Spirograph designs of self-doubt that leave me awake 36+ hours straight rotating rubix cubes in my brain or interlocking tetrominos (double-word score for tetrominos)

 

That hamstring-muscle tingley tension flies up when I try to write something like this.  When I try to write something that isn’t camouflaged beneath layers of metaphor, irony, post-modern self-referential other-hyphenated-buzzword-flashy-literature-bullshit and basically verbal memes that let me say what I say without saying that I was saying what I’m saying so if anyone asked what I was saying I could say “jus’ sayin’”

 

I don’t fuck with “trolling” and “bait” and, as much as I love Killa Cam more than any human who doesn’t intercourse with him should, I don’t fuck with “u mad?” either.  When did caring become failure?  What happened where the only way to lose an argument was to give a single fuck about what you’re talking about?

 

It should not be good enough to me to be “better than” but again that muscle tension comes in.  The moments where I want to “make my life better” are so directionless.  Guided by societal pressures and what my friends and family have accomplished and where someone my age is “supposed” to be that I lose myself in the creases of the treasure map.  That I strap up ropes and shovels and ride camel-back through the desert to an X-marks-the-spot and uncover a chest full of I don’t give a fucks.  That I maybe should have never been the treasure hunter in the first place.  That I should probably be the cartographer.

 

Cartographer rhymes with heart monitor.  #ButImNotARapper

 

The weird thing is I’m almost 500 words in and I really still haven’t said anything.  Humans are unique in our universality.  Everyone feels loneliness.  But no one feels *my* loneliness.  If we did then we wouldn’t be lonely anymore.  Hunger.  Pain.  Longing.  I’m writing this while I discuss the concept of love with my friend who is in a pain that I might never feel.  But I’ve felt pain just as poignant.  But not the same pain.  That which connects us divides us, but that which divides us connects us.  I have as little advice to offer her as I have to offer myself.  Maybe even less.

 

If I type until my fingers bleed, how many keystrokes will be the backspace button?

 

How often do you correct yourself?  How many times do you stifle your voice or shut down yourself in the average day?

 

Talking feels impossible.  I do it every day of my life but every time it feels impossible, like I was looking at an 18-wheeler stuck in the snow and I have to push it out myself.  Like I was climbing cliff faces with bloody fingertips with rock-walls slick with sleet and somehow I do it.  But somehow the next rock wall and the next 18-wheeler gets no easier.  The thing is there are people who can cakewalk through my minefields.  Most of my friends can cakewalk my minefields.  This feels connected though.  I was explaining the word parallax to my friend tonight.  The angle changes the image.  God-mode cheat code is controlling your own angle.  My ultimate goal is controlling my angle.

I don’t even know if this is finished or not.

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Wabi-Sabi Kanye Karate

Wabisabi represents a comprehensive Japanese world view or aesthetic centered on the acceptance of transience and imperfection. The aesthetic is sometimes described as one of beauty that is “imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete”.

 

To be honest, I doubt my Western World rap-centric reading is entirely in keeping with the pure Japanese concept of wabi-sabi, but I’m going to use it as a jumping off point to talk about something that’s very important to me: art that sidesteps any aims towards the conventional metrics of “beauty” or “perfection” and why it’s important. 

 

One thing that’s really cool about the old world, and mostly lost in today’s world, is that everything was made by hand.  Part of the wabi-sabi aesthetic arose out of the practice of peasants taking and using pieces of discarded pottery – cups, or bowls, or teapots – that were thought by the craftsman to be failures.  Works with cracks or awkward shapes, blemishes, and imperfections.  The idea for the craftsman was to create “perfection” but in many ways those flawed off-casts, with all the personality and uniqueness those very human mistakes granted them, were even more beautiful.  And today, those discarded pieces are often more sought after and valued than the “perfect” pieces the potters were chasing to begin with. 

 

This is all the more relevant today; in a time when machine-crafted teapots can fly off the conveyor belt by the hundreds of thousands, every single one looking perfectly, completely, systematically identical to the last.  Those beautiful blemishes are all the more difficult to find.   From the intricate effect chains of the modern recording studio with their glossy mix-and-masters, to the special effects our films and television programs employ, we’ve empowered the craftsman to hide the cracks in his pottery on a level never before seen.  There’s a sense of uniform, calculated “perfection” to almost every piece of media that we’re presented with in our day-to-day lives. 

 

The rap world is bucking this trend in some pretty phenomenal ways right now, and while there are still plenty of sanitized, fast-ball-down-the-middle-of-the-plate rappers in the game today (I’m looking at you; Macklemore, Wiz Khalifa, Tyga, New Yorker Magazine-era Jay-Z, et al) by and large there seems to be a movement by both established acts and up-and-comers to make rap a little bit more warped and ugly. 

 

Mac Miller, for example, cut his teeth spitting accessible, hook-ey lifestyle raps over the most inoffensive of jazz-rap production imaginable.  In recent years, however, his work has taken a turn for the dark and disjointed.  Mixing warbled and pitch-warped vocals over starless-sky-black textured productions.  The same kid who used to drop cheesey lines about letting girls wear his snapbacks has taken to dense, multi-syllable free-associations blending together obscure pop culture references and  recreational drug use with themes of the outsider, paranoia, depression, and alienation.  In the process he’s crafted a major testament to the 21st Century quarter-life crisis.  He’s also done everything that an artist with his marketability would be unable to do if he were working on a Record Label assembly line.  He’s no longer putting out those perfect teapots. 

 

It really can’t be overstated how important the home-recording and indie explosion has been for the hip hop world, culturally.  No other genre has embraced and exploited the model on the same level that rappers have, to the point that today even major artists (like Mac Miller) are recording the majority of their material in their own homes, far from the prying eyes of the industry suits and teapot inspectors.  The biggest breakthrough rapper of the year, undoubtedly, is Young Thug, and Thugger has built his leaned-out unorthodox aesthetic almost entirely by bouncing from one Atlanta bedroom to the next, spitting his one-of-a-kind, off-key gurgling autotuned wails into anything that looks like it might record sound, over anything that sounds like it might be a beat.       

 

The glittering, stratospheric spire to this phenomenon is of course 2013’s most polarizing album: “Yeezus” by Kanye “Kanye West” West (yes, his own name is also his nickname.)   Much has been made about the rushed nature of “Yeezus” with Rick Rubin on record as saying nearly half of the vocals were recorded in a single 2-hour session, and that many of the lyrics were written at a similar breakneck pace, in order to mesh with Kanye’s insane schedule.  Necessity is the mother of invention, though, and a strong argument can be made that these limitations unlocked all of Kanye’s greatest strengths.  Bled dry of the sort of “technical” markers that rappers usually try to highlight, the writing on the album is instead an expression of pure id.  A speed-of-thought gutting and shedding of every last bit of stuffing that Dropout bear still had stitched inside himself.   The words seem to tumble and foam out from Yeezy’s pen with a furious abandon that defies any designs he might have of arranging them into nice, accessible, symmetric rows for you.

 

The recording process follows the same hurried schedule.  For the first time in his career, Kanye – a notorious lab rat, perfectionist and constant tinkerer – left mixes raw and did a minimal amount of vocal takes for each track.  ‘Ye’s voice careens and ricochets through the gravel-quarry production, cracking with emotion, crackling with energy, cackling with lunacy.  Every flaw in his vocal becomes a strength, every break and stumble puts cracks in the veneer and bathes the inner-workings of the machine with brilliant-white moonlight. It reinforces the visceral beauty of the work being created.  In the end, it’s all these little imperfections that make this the greatest album of his career.  It’s every wrong turn we make that makes us who we are.  I’ve heard albums like “Yeezus” referred to as “flawed masterpieces” and I think that’s kind of an awkward phrase: in fact all true masterpieces should be deeply and intrinsically flawed for as long as all master craftsmen are just as flawed themselves.  Presenting a surface “perfection” that doesn’t reflect the reality beneath does a disservice to both the artist and the audience.   

 

So next time you’re writing something – maybe make one less pass editing.  If you’re drawing, try putting the eraser away and you just might be amazed at what begins to take shape. 

Drill or Be Drilled: From Ferguson, M.O. to South Side Chiraq

Things are starting to calm down and it looks like “the Revolution” didn’t come to Ferguson, M.O. after all, and maybe that’s ok.  But a lot of other little revolutions did.  I’m not going to get too Immortal Technique on you guys today, I’m not the most qualified person to discuss complex race relations or authoritarian abuses, but I do want to talk about some things I’ve been thinking about when it comes to social change, the idea of revolution, and the place technology and pop culture takes in that dialogue. 

 

Gil Scott-Heron famously said “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” and I’m inclined to agree with him.  The Revolution Will Not Be Televised, but we will Instagram the absolute FUCK out of it.  People talk a lot about the idea of “information technology” as being empowering but I want to flip that concept a little bit, it’s not the “information” part that’s nearly as powerful as the “communication”

 

A lot of smart-as-fuck well-read motherfuckers posit the notion that the American Revolution *couldn’t* have happened without the spread of the printing press, as leaflets and newspaper stories gradually connected Americans together into a shared, national identity.  It was never so much about the “information” – the nuts and bolts bits about taxation and foreign control, as the “communication” – the fostering of a brotherhood between men who had never so much as shaken one another’s hands.  Many say the same of television and the civil rights movement: Martin Luther King Jr. didn’t have any new “information” to give the country – racism wasn’t new, wasn’t a secret, wasn’t a surprise.  But the personal connection he was able to make with people by speaking right to them – not just the inspiration behind his words but his tone, his body language, his confidence – motivated millions to finally *do something* about it. 

 

Whenever I start to think really big, it makes me think really really small, too.  The Arab Spring popped off the way it did because social media technology made it easy for people to communicate with one another.  As much as the Ferguson, M.O. riots revitalized my battered-faith in our News Media (shout outs to The Washington Post, and all the other outlets who did some damn fine journalistic work this week) but ultimately the most important, deep-hitting messages were bleeding out from ordinary people’s Twitter feeds, Vine accounts, and Instagrams.  I was thinking about how these are the exact tools that a modern rap artist must master to meet their market.  Zooming into extreme close-up, I’m fascinated by the potential revolutionary capacity of this overlap.  I’m not even necessarily talking about civil or social revolution, something more individual and unique, the capacity for micro-revolutions in the way one person communicates to another, and how we all think and see things as a by-product. 

 

Let’s switch gears a little bit so I can explain what I mean here.  Something is going very, VERY fucking wrong in the City of Chicago right now.  On Independence Day weekend alone 82 people were shot in Chiraq.  Sixteen of them died.  This sort of sheer savagery seems at stark contrast with Chicago’s biggest mainstream rap exports: soft-spoken intellectuals like Common and Lupe Fiasco, fast-rap technicians like Twista and Do or Die, or the city’s biggest star to date, the high-art minded, iconoclastic Kanye West.

 

As the City of Chicago has catapulted itself into active-warzone body count status, though, a new artistic movement has bubbled up from the same South Side streets that have fueled the carnage: drill rap.  For the uninitiated, drill rap is a hyper-violent Chicago mutation of the Atlanta trap sound championed by artists like Lil Bibby, Chief Keef, King Louie, and others.  The music is disseminated almost entirely through bedroom-recorded free mixtapes, and low-quality homemade music videos shot guerilla-style and uploaded to sites like YouTube and WorldStar Hip-Hop.  The beats are chilling, bass-heavy Fruity Loops concoctions, and the vocals lean heavily on machine-gun adlibs and deep, aggressive, simplistic chants.  This isn’t the conflicted “another day another struggle” sort of hustler moralizing the T.I’s, Jay-Z’s, Biggie’s, and Raekwon’s of the world have given us.  This isn’t even the hyper-aggressive firebrand gangsta-gangsta of N.W.A or the Geto Boys.  Drill rappers operate with an ice-cold, detached nihilism that borders on the mechanical and inhuman.  They operate in a space in which their crimes aren’t moralized, or justified, or even fucking explained; treated as forces of nature divorced from the bounds of ethical self-analysis.  According to the music, Lil Bibby doesn’t sell crack because he has a family to support, or because there are no job opportunities, or because his mind has been corrupted by gang influence, or because Ronald Reagan destroyed the hood, or as a stepping stone to a greater future, or even because of an avaricious lust for the finer things in life.  According to the music, Lil Bibby sells crack because Lil Bibby sells fucking crack. 

 

It’s important to point out that, while certain drill artists (Keef, foremost among them) have attained a level of mainstream success, and signed deals with major record labels, the overwhelming majority of this material is coming straight from the source.  The drill rap movement bypassed the pop culture gatekeepers entirely and a brief scroll through the comments section of one of these videos will reveal responses full of cryptic, jargon-ey gang slang and Chi-town street references.  The videos themselves, low-quality and often poorly edited, feature gut-wrenching scenes of children as young as fifteen years old brandishing automatic weapons or packaging narcotics for sale with a blasé casualness that is truly frightening.

 

A decade or two ago, all we would’ve known about what was going on in Chicago was what the Sun-Times felt like telling us, and the only perspective we would be able to see it from was the perspective the Sun-Times felt like showing us.  As horrifying and heart-breaking and overwhelming as this violence is, there’s something very empowering about the fact that these kids are actually able to tell us their story themselves.  In a world of pretty little liars, sharing ugly truth is a revolutionary act, and in a world that values smooth polished edges maybe all it takes is pointing a camera at something that’s a little bit rough or uneven to be an artist.  Maybe revolution is just refusing to be ignored any longer.  Maybe the most revolutionary act anyone can commit is just sharing their real with the rest of the world, so they can fold it all into their own.  Maybe that’s how we all fold together.      

 

And the revolution didn’t come to Ferguson, Missouri, but thousands of little, personal micro-revolutions did.  And maybe that’ll be enough.  And the revolution hasn’t come to South Side Chicago, but thousands of little, personal micro-revolutions have.  And before long, maybe that will be enough, too.  And maybe after 6 or 7 billion little personal micro-revolutions we won’t even need the big one anymore, either.     

Bitch, I’m Lugubrious: on Robin Williams, Depression, and the Sad-Rap Revolution

 

Lugubrious: [loo-goo-bree-uh-s] (adjective): mournful, dismal or gloomy, especially in an affected, exaggerated, or unrelieved manner. 

“Bitch, I’m morose and lugubrious / I’m’a let the uzi spit / turn his face into gooey shit” –Lil Ugly Mane, “Bitch I’m Lugubrious”

This is some ish I’ve wanted to spit on for a minute now, actually, but the world has kinda forced my motherfucking hand this week.  To get the standard disclaimers and shit out of the way first: I am truly saddened at the loss of Robin Williams, an artist I admired greatly, who enriched my life in incalculable ways since I was a child.  The world was certainly a better place with him in it, than without. With that said: I am never, let me repeat that word, NEVER surprised when an artist takes their own life.  Especially one who’s work displays the sort of emotional complexity that Mr. Williams did. 

It’s kind of an archetype or a cliché at this point in time: the image of the tortured artist, but there’s more than something to it.  No one in the world spends as much time in close proximity with their own thoughts, feelings, and emotions as a person who creates art does.  The experience can be fascinating, frightening, frantic, and I believe that most of those who continue down that path do so because of something they see when they look inside themselves that they just….can’t….quite….figure out. 

The cool thing about art is that it gives us tools, it gives us languages.  As strongly as I believe in blurring and bleeding lines together the idea of genre tropes and markers really create a shared vernacular.  You can flip these different rules and pieces together and it lets you communicate on more than a surface level *with anyone who understands the code* but it also gives you an existing framework to push through your own emotions with.  A genre can be like a framed-mesh for you to strain all the sand and gravel through as you hunt for those bits of gold and silver.  And that stands for comedy and rap alike. 

A few quick house-cleaning items to get out of the way here: when I talk about “sad-rap” I’m not just talking about rap that happens to be sad – many brilliant rap artists from Slug to Tupac have earned their bones spitting dat melancholy for decades now – I’m specifically going to be addressing the memeified modern internet rap-movement that artists like Lil Ugly Mane, Yung Lean, Lil B, Little Pain, Sad Andy, and the like all feed into on one level or another.    

 

“I look good on the outside / but messed up on the inside / and everybody got a gun now / I guess I’m ready to die. Let me fly” –Lil B, “The Worlds Ending”

It’s important to acknowledge that hip-hop is as much sport as it is art, I think you could argue that for most of the 80s and 90s it was much *more* sport than art and it’s still being twisted and spun by that inherent tension between the artist’s need to express vulnerability and the gladiator’s need to project invincibility.  On one level you could argue that the toolset our culture has created — the puffed-chest bravado, the simile punchlines, the multisyllable rhyme schemes, the brags, the boasts, the boisterous adlibs and thunderous basslines and machine-gun drum loops – is poorly suited to examinations of complicated, sometimes conflicting feelings of depression, weakness, and desperation. 

Call me biased (or just #based) but I feel like the first dude who really took those tropes and deconstructed them was Lil B.  You can look at a piece like the uncomfortably-personal “The Worlds Ending” video, which is basically just six-minutes of a very-depressed Brandon McCartney playing around with a pistol pointed at the side of his head, but you can’t remove the context that this is the same swagged-out Paris Hilton Wonton Soup motherfucker that can park his car and then fuck your bitch, doing Jerry Rice endzone dances in his tiny pants and ripped Vans.  Through both fully and completely embodying extreme, deconstructed versions of the cocky, flashed-out brag rap he grew up on and diving into the innermost personal depths of his own pain and depression, B makes a remarkably powerful statement.  That one doesn’t preclude the other.  That swag is intrinsic and his personal value isn’t pinned to a code of external masculinity.  That you can be swagged the fuck out not in spite of your flaws, and not just when distanced from your flaws, or when hiding your flaws, but right beside your flaws, maybe even because of your flaws, when embracing, adoring, and even romanticizing your flaws as critical, indivisible parts of who you are.   

 

“Roofie up my absinthe in the club before I stagger out / Live or die? I’d rather take the latter route / Take the ladder out / Rope around my neck and kick the ladder out / there’s no need to drag it out” –Lil Ugly Mane, “Throw Dem Gunz”

On the other hand you have artists like Lil Ugly Mane, and Yung Lean.  These guys stitch together trope on top of trope on top of trope.  They craft entire soundscapes of multi-layered rap slang, leaned out beats, chopped vocals, and general spit-talk.  The conflicted brilliance  comes when truly uncomfortable personal observations are briefly allowed to bubble up to the surface, before being submerged again beneath a purple ocean of waviness.  It’s not dissimilar from the feeling of your depressed friend making a slightly-too-real suicide joke around the bar table.  This is a little closer to the way depression manifests itself in real-life; you could say that Lean and Ugly Mane have both composed outward-facing personas to better blend in and survive in their environments, the same way that people fighting depression have to adjust their behavior to deal with public at large.  If you’re fighting through depression and someone asks you a casual “How’s your day” you’re going to want to spit some straight tatemae shit at them, but that honne bobs up to the surface now and then, too, it has to. 

Which kinda brings us back to the tension between the art of rap and the sport of rap.  There is definitely something humorous about what a lot of these artists do (humour, of course, has always been seen as a great tool for coping with internal conflict, pain, and tragedy) and because they’re using deeply-ingrained genre tools to explore these avenues there’s a sort of dissonance that occurs in what I will kindly call “traditionalist” listeners when those uncomfortable moments arise.  A surface reading has trouble reconciling the two and the discomfort gets written off as parody, rather than a genuine attempt to explore complicated emotions using the only tools one has ever been given.

When we use the same kinds of tools and wear the same kinds of outfits people expect us to build the same kinds of works.  The idea of using family comedies or trap raps to machete our way through murky questions of identity, self-esteem, suicide, and depression is deeply discordant for anyone who hasn’t “opted in” to that approach because it recolors otherwise familiar landscapes.  It sneaks into your childhood home and moves all the furniture around, but it’s only through that uncomfortable familiarity that the two aspects can be bridged and reconciled. 

My Uzi Weighs A Ton

lots-of-guns

 

My mailman carries a .38 caliber revolver in a butter-leather holster on his shoulder.

My next-door neighbor wears a Mossberg 12-guage pump-action shotgun from a strap around his back.

This girl I know carries a carbon-black 9 millimeter pistol with hair triggers, lazer sights, and custom grips in her handbag.

 

They don’t think I can see them, but I can see them.

I have fucking X-Ray vision.

 

I was waiting in line at the grocery store today between a retired farmer with a Remington 700 bolt action rifle clutched under his arm and a young hairdresser with a Walther PPK tucked into the top of her boot.  I browsed the covers of magazines and tabloids featuring all manner of heavily-armed celebrities and public figures.  Brad Pitt cradling a .50 caliber heavy machine gun on vacation in the South of France.  Jay and Beyonce holding matching Desert Eagles while their other hands held eachothers.

 

If you ask them about it they won’t say anything.  But it’s an unwritten rule.

 

Everyone carries their weapon.  Everywhere.

 

I never seem to have my gun with me.  I can’t even remember what the damn thing looks like.  Maybe I lost it, or maybe I threw it away, or maybe I never even had one to begin with.  When you don’t have your weapon you have to walk like no one else has X-Ray vision.  You can’t let anyone else know how defenceless you are.  Every time you do, you die, and every time you die, it hurts.

 

And it’s hard when you keep seeing polished steel and smelling gunpowder every time you turn around.

 

And it’s hard to shake hands with armed bandits and smile at gunmetal.

 

But a crazy thing happened to me.

 

I was at a little dingy corner bar, and through all the AK-47s and the Armalites and all the Kel-Tec’s and the Hekkler’s, X-Ray vision and all, I saw a middle-aged man sitting in the corner booth, grey flecks in his hair, without a weapon anywhere to be seen.

 

I had to do a double-take.

 

I had to do a triple-take.

 

I had to drink my double to get up the courage to go and speak to him.

 

Then I had to drink another.

 

Then I had to ask him.  I had to find out.

 

And he said: “Oh that old thing? Hell, I got rid of it.  No one ever hurts anyone but themselves with those things anyhow.”

 

Anyone Can Rap

I remember when I was a kid and I first started developing an interest in rap the big knock people had on it.  The one thing all the haterz (which, at 10-years old meant all my white uncles and aunties) would always pop up with to throw shade.

“Anyone can do it.”

You guys wanna know the best thing about rap?

Anyone can do it.

Actually maybe the best thing isn’t that anyone can do it, it’s that everyone can do it.  And everyone should do it.  That’s the gift that the hip-hop generation has given the world: we’ve fully democratized the beautiful art of slick talk over drum loops to the point that spitting fly-ass sixteens is basically a Constitutionally protected right.  It’s inalienable.  You trying to drop a mixtape about the Illuminati poisoning your water supply? Go do it doggy.  Step-by-step crack trafficking instructions? Send me a DL link, I’d like to hear it.  Spit your game, talk your shit, grab your mic, upload a .zip.

I listen to mixtapes all the fucking time and there’s always shit that knocks me out about ’em and it’s almost never about polish or technique but just about how ‘don’t-give-a-fuck’ someone was wit’ it.  There’s a certain swagger that only exists in hip hop, a certain ‘I deserve to be heard no matter what I’m actually fuckin’ saying’ chest-out drum beat that gives the medium it’s power and it’s energy.

One of my favorite tapes I’ve stumbled across lately is called “Is This Art?” by a dude named Michael Christmas.  The illest thing about this tape is the beautiful mundanity of the subject matter.  It’s like a blue-collar opera, elevating day-to-day life to a level of high drama.  Michael Christmas weaves individually pedestrian strands together — the search for a much-needed taco truck, his own relation to Michael Cera, Drake, Step Brothers, and Hugh Laurie — into a form of heightened reality.  An interpretation of the cosmetically-boring made hyper-interesting through persona. What someone specifically says isn’t nearly as interesting as his desire to say it. 14 billion years ago the universe sparked, and kept expanding until one day a young dude in Boston, Mass spit the words “best rapper since Andy Milonakis” into a microphone, and that’s fucking incredible to me.

There’s also a good chance that shit like what Michael Christmas’ does wouldn’t have really popped off before the whole internet rap explosion that we’re in the midst of.   Rap is in a glorious International Waters no-rules period right now, rife with monkey knife fights and steamboat gambling.   If you know me in real life you’ve probably heard me gush uncontrollably about Atlanta trap-star-slash-occasional-cross-dresser and possible crazy-person Young Thug.  Now, Young Thug is a fucking unicorn.  A truly beautiful being that we’ve all been blessed with the opportunity to know and there’s ONE element above any other that defines Young Thug’s style: no one has ever been able to convince him that you’re not supposed to do what he does.  It’s like the Lost Boys and Wendy and Peter Pan and shit and how you find out that when they stop believing they can’t fly anymore.  Young Thug is still up on the Tinkerbell dust (no homo) and you can’t tell him nothing.

That’s fucking swag.  Fucking unicorn swag.  Shit is sooo priceless. Rap smells like freedom.

Slowly but surely we’re building our own fucking Waterworld, stitching and welding it together piece by piece with the rusty remnants of the too-constricted cities our parents left behind for us.  Lashing together pre-fabbed cubicle walls and shopping carts into floating ocean paradises that sound like gargling cough syrup, and 808 heartbeat rhythms and we don’t give a fuck what the building code says about it.  The best thing about rap is that everyone is doing it now –especially– people who wouldn’t have been “allowed” to do it 15 years ago.  We’re taking your rulebook and collaging it back together, chopping and screwing every Presidential speech since Kennedy, re-sampled.

We’re going to win, because we’re young, and you’re old, and we don’t give a fuck and you don’t have a fuck to give.  Start rapping now because I don’t give a fuck how old you are, this is what’s happening now.  I might just catch Mitt Romney out here slipping and drive by his whip chucking like 80 Lil B mixtapes through the windows rocking pink bandanas over my face bandit style.

Analysts predict by the 2024 Election season 80% of the voting public will be rappers.  The best thing about rap is that anyone can do it.

 

Download Michael Christmas’ “Is This Art?” mixtape here  –  http://www.audiomack.com/album/michael-christmas/is-this-art

YG – “My Krazy Life” – album review

yg-my-krazy-life-deluxe

 

One of the biggest recent success stories in hip hop was Kendrick Lamar’s major label debut “Good Kid, Maad City” – an album that, through tight narrative focus and impressive songwriting skills painted the picture of a young man growing up in Compton, struggling to rise above the violence, struggle, addiction, and squalor that surrounded him.

YG is *not* Kendrick fucking Lamar.

YG is probably one of those motherfuckers asking K-Dot where his grandma stay.  YG the dude fucking Sherane when Kendrick was still working up the nerve to ask for her number.

“My Krazy Life” is basically “Hood Kid, Baad City” – it takes the same day-in-the-life structure of GKMC but it films Compton through YG’s own nihilistic, hedonistic sepia-toned lenses.  YG could have grown up next-door to Kendrick Lamar.  While Kendrick struggles to distance himself and overcome the world that surrounds him, YG embraces that world with a gleeful, self-destructive abandon.   YG dives the fuck in with Loc’s on, two glocks in his waistband, and zero fucks left to give.  Make no fucking mistakes, this is a GANGSTER RAP album, if you’re easily offended then there’s probably some Common or some Atmosphere in the next fucking aisle for you.  The subject matter of this album basically boils down to; shooting motherfuckers, robbing motherfuckers, getting money, fucking bitches, holding it down for your crew, and getting fucked up.  Fuck all that other fancy shit.

YG’s co-pilot for the majority of this ride-along is LA super-producer DJ Mustard.  In pure contrast to the lush soundscapes Kendrick spilled his words over last year,  Mustard strips the game down to the bare essentials.   Shotgun-pump 808 bass kicks, repetitive, hypnotic g-funk synth lines, machine-gun fire trap snares all collide together.  The beats sound almost like a warzone during cease fire.  YG matches this brutal, honest intensity with the kind of no-nonsense street talk that brings to mind classic gangsta rap hardheads like Spice 1 and MC Eiht.  There’s nothing pretty about YG’s language because there’s nothing pretty about YG’s attitude, nothing pretty about YG’s life, and nothing pretty about YG’s character.

One mid-album highlight is the home-invasion anthem (yes, I just referred to a song as a fucking home-invasion anthem) “Meet the Flockers”  — in which YG gives detailed, step-by-step instructions on how to effectively rob homes.  This song is presented with no remorse, apology, nuance, or shame; a purely mechanical view into the thought-process of a criminal, and the song is actually *better* for that – it’s stripped-down nihilism offering a degree of brutal honesty that a more self-aware artist would be unable to reconcile.

 

“Meet the motherfuckin’ Flockers

Make some noise if you’ve ever stole something in your life

Don’t be ashamed, it’s okay, baby

Make some noise if you’ve ever stole a dollar out your mama’s purse

When she wasn’t lookin’ while y’all was in Church”

 

And YG’s headstrong, violent exuberance becomes contagious.  The guest list is peppered with  similarly street-wise rhyme spitters including TDE resident hard-heads Jay Rock and ScHoolboy Q, coke-rap legend Young Jeezy, and Guinness Book World Record holder for “fewest fuck’s given in a successful rap career” Lil Wayne, but even the aforementioned conflicted inner-city martyr Kendrick Lamar gets in on the fun; spending his guest verse self-medicating with booze and drugs and contemplating sending his shooters out to ride on his enemies.  Former Degrassi star and current relationship-rap-king-slash-stripper-saviour Aubrey Drizzy Drake Graham spends a belligerent 16 bars lying to women, paying off Criminal Court judges and prosecutors for his friends, and flashing his jewelry.  Bitch, who do you love?

If you couldn’t tell already, I like this album.  Like, I *really* fucking like this album.  It has the kind of self-assured arrogance that can only come from not knowing you don’t know everything yet.  The beats are fucking insane, and the way YG raps actually reinforces his persona.  I *like* it when my gangster rappers talk more like gangsters and less like rappers, and the fact that there isn’t a bunch of silly tradecraft going on in his bars makes what he *is* saying so much more gut-punch raw and believable.