Jul 082010

Youthful expression is vital for the health of rap.

New York and Houston veterans still bring it hard, making sure rap music survive – but where are the younger cats?

While reading Yes Yes Y’all – an account of the birth of hip-hop culture in the seventies, made up of interviews with the people who made it happen – I see all the scene’s innovators being sixteen, eighteen, at most twenty (and the first time Grand Wizard Theodore showed the world his art of scratching he needed to stand on a milk crate so he could reach the turntables). Just like later innovators LL Cool J and A Tribe Called Quest and Snoop and Mobb Deep when they made their marks in the game.

The last decade can be seen as a transition period for rap music. The mixtape dominated as a compromise between the golden era album format and the locally based, globally and instantly spread, viral forms of distribution that are now establishing themselves (Youtube, Twitter and beyond). Most mixtape rappers still saw their goal as a major label contract and a big shot produced full length. But it was a long road to walk. Most got chewed up by the machine, and the few who made it had become fully media trained and business minded on their way. Music turned stale. Youthful expression went away for a decade.

Fresh and innovative rap music is rarely made by adults. It’s never born in the meeting rooms of record companies. It’s still based on teenagers in dead end areas messing around with new technology. Just like when Flash and Theodore defined modern music in the urban wastelands of South Bronx some 35 years ago. Like Golden State based Lil B and The Pack, Main Attrakionz, Odd Future. Who are catching up with the development of music and the spin of the world better than anybody in the business. In fashion. Subject matter. In rap style. In graphic profile. In media presence. And most importantly in beats. They are that next step that the RZA saw but was unable to take successfully – from analog to digital.

Tapes by 22 year old Roach Gigz and 23 year old Wiz Khalifa feel like some of the year’s best.

Kush & OJ. A whole mixtape about weed smoke and orange juice. Cannabis usage is, as we all know, tricky subject matter. It turns easily into college, stoner jock, nerd shit. But if the production stays somewhere between Warren G’s first album and the already mentioned cloud rap names, we can all be safe. No mustard stains on these samples. The few failed tracks here channel indie pop/rock, but as song structure, not as sample material, which is unfortunate.

 THC-themed tracks can slap hard. Especially if in the same vein as Freddie Gibbs’ Higher Learning (Exhale). Not rambling about being confused and having the munchies and doing stupid shit, but about feeling good and growing, enjoying life, planning for the future, seeing things more clear than ever.

Higher Learning (Exhale)

Jul 052010


There are still legends living very comfortably as middle level rap stars, maintaining a following without ever compromising their artistic integrity (favorite examples: Cormega, Sean Price, Ill Bill), but the traditional rapper traditionally fits badly into this new paradigm of rap production. Lil B on the other hand – with a hundred Myspaces, almost the double in youtubes, 24 hours a day online, spreading viruslike – lives the Age Of Information like few others.

Based means being yourself. Not being scared of what people think about you. Not being afraid to do what you wanna do. Being positive. When I was younger, based was a negative term that meant like dopehead, or basehead. People used to make fun of me. They was like, “You’re based.” They’d use it as a negative. And what I did was turn that negative into a positive. I started embracing it like, “Yeah, I’m based.” I made it mine. I embedded it in my head. Based is positive.

There are few other artists out there that are so extreme in their passion and devotion to their sound. Sonically and lyrically he explores and goes where he wants to. I believe that everything B does, from the retarded “hoes suck my dick because i X like X” lines to the deep and introspective points of view on things like race, struggle, and growing up can be easily reconciled under this based existence. B and I are only 3 years apart, so to a point I can understand where he’s coming from in being young and aimless and trying to actively figure out your place in the world. Some days I wake up thinking deeply about the culture of the Internet as well. Sometimes I wake up and think about hoes sucking my dick.

Every man has two sides. The balance between them needs to be #based. A dualism as brilliantly explored in The Bible, I’m God and I’m The Devil as in Sabac Red’s underground classic Positive And Negative.

Look at 2pac as the young effeminate black panther and later as the leather clad super thug (or all the other 2pacs he gave to the world). When Jay-Z raps Never Change – is that like nothing happened between Hawaiian Sophie and Parking Lot Pimping and Empire State Of Mind? Cormega kept it #based when he said that “if dough change things I’m no longer the same / But what I became does not conflict with from where I came“. 2pac was so great, so mythical, because he displayed the different people in him. And everything he wrote was not based on his individual life. He wrote models of living, and was, like Malcolm X, the great story of how a person changes, going from nothing to something, taking the world as hostage.

Honesty is gold in the attention economy. That’s what makes Lil B a billionaire even when wearing dirty vans.

LILBTHEBASEDGOD all the hate i will throw it in a pot. and use that as salt and peper and I will cook till my death. in my kitchen alone in tiny pants

stewarthome1 The three r’s of postmodernism – repetition, repetition, repetition!

It’s not unrealistic to assume that Lil B:s repeated use of Bitch and Hoes On My Dick and Suck My Dick is a deconstructionist strategy of sorts. Like geeks do with geek and niggers do with nigger. Repetition changes meaning. Every copy gets a different character. In a retweeting of a female fan’s tweet I feel like I’m seeing a hidden agenda of subverting hiphop’s misogyny and homophobia:

LILBTHEBASEDGOD @LILBTHEBASEDGOD wooooo swag wooo suck my dick hoe woo swag

Complex: Is your unconscious mindset fascinated by homosexuality? You talk about lesbians a lot. You call girls faggots. You call yourself a pretty bitch. Is there interest in that lifestyle?

Lil B: It’s a touchy subject. I respect the hell out of gays and the gay community. I’m not a gay man. I don’t agree with sex with another man or fucking another man or giving blow jobs to another guy. That’s not my thing. I’d rather fuck a girl, fuck her in her ass, fuck her in the mouth or something. Sorry for cussing.

Complex: It’s fine.

Lil B: It’s a very touchy subject. People get scared when they hear the gay word, but when you truly know yourself, you gonna be good.

Jul 042010

Det är spännande att vara åtminstone en smula upphetsad över en senare svensk diktsamling. Det händer trots allt inte ofta.

Eller dikter, jag vet inte, jag tror att vi måste börja tillverka ett nytt slags små böcker, mellan aforismer, essä och lyrik; gå tillbaks till ofullföljda, syntesvilliga vektorer som Nietzsche och Vilhelm Ekelund och fortsätta därifrån, utan att glömma var vi befinner oss.

Nåt sånt gör Karl Larsson i Nightsong. De båda nämnda aforisterna gör sig inte till känna, men han lägger ut en text som är pratig men ändå skarp, och rör sig mellan poesi och korthuggen essäform. Det abstrakta, språkspelen, hypermodernismen följer klara resonemang. Dessa har dock från och med andra delen svårt att hålla intresset uppe, med resultat att hela boken faller ihop.

Att Larsson söker förmedla en sån här syntes, kring teman som datorspel, krigsmetaforer, fantasy och hackerfilosofi (och på ett sätt som är mycket mer spännande och dynamiskt än vad det låter när jag skriver här), är ändå exemplariskt.

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