Friday, February 24, 2006

Get money till I die, got my hand on the bible...


Rock wit' it, roll wit' it...
or do like I do, drink beer from it


- Get Ya Hustle On: You’ve probably seen Juve’s masterpiece “Get Yo’ Hustle On” by now, but if you haven’t peep. It’s really great. Some folks find the need to comment on the apparent contradictory messages between the song itself and the video. My thoughts on this absolutely ridiculous criticism are as follows:

    I find the criticism of "the message" of this song absolutely fucking ridiculous. It's not a fucking accident that the video is so critical of the government while the lyrics of this song seem to just condone crack selling. To assume that it's just some sort of accident is to give Juvenile absolutely no credit and is to ignore the role of the rhetorical technique known as "signifyin(g)" in the history of black music(s).

    This shit is flat out great... at least rhetorically. I obviously don't think it's particularly good advice to literally advise everyone to go sell crack and I don't think Juvenile really thinks that selling crack is really going to help New Orleans in any large-scale, long-lasting way. This shit is obviously on some "Fuck it... they didn't help us before this shit, they didn't help us during, and if they're not gonna help us after the shit either, we're gonna do what the fuck we gotta do to survive."

    The whole thing about Katrina was never so much that FEMA dropped the ball--even though they definitely did--but that none of these people deserved to be in such dire situations in the first place that allowed so many of us to overlook them so easily, right? So, what has changed since Katrina? Pretty much fucking nothing. There's still poor people everywhere who are fucked, so fuck it: the only thing for many of these folks to do is keep hustling or start hustling.

    If you wanna read this song purely as straightforward "advice" or some shit, obviously you're gonna be let down (and I think it's always a mistake to read black music as straightforward). But, if you take this song along with the images portrayed in this video seriously, I don't know how you can see it as anything but very passionate and important criticism.

    In other words, if we agree that in the blues, "the message" of the song was actually much more complex criticism than the lyrics suggested on the surface, why can't the same thing be said about hip-hop? It is after all black music that comes from very similar music traditions.

    Again, I don't know how you can separate the video's messages and the song's message. To me, it is not a fucking coincidence that the two are paired together as such. They act as criticism together. To read it any other way, I think, is to ignore the history and tropes of black music.


- Autistic Folks: This is hardly a groundbreaking insight, but man, autistic people are an interesting breed of folks, especially the “idiot savant” ones who are capable of pretty inhuman feats of math, artistry, and, apparently, athleticism. Can’t we think of a better term than “idiot savant” though? Jesus, how offensive is that shit? Anyway, this autistic kid scored 20 points in 4 minutes. Makes you wonder if Kobe is autistic. Byron Crawford wrote an interesting piece about Hova being an idiot savant a while ago. It’s pretty funny, and possibly true… except for the Bleek part.

- Knitted Digestive System: I feel like I’ve posted this before, but this knitted digestive system is next level whoa steez.

- I Heart AI: My newest piece on FreeDarko: I ride for AI forever… win or lose.

- If Loving Bob Marley is Wrong, I Don’t Wanna Be Right: Wait… are you telling me the white, pot-smoking hippie kids aren’t engaging Bob Marley authentically?!?! WHAT?! Seriously though, this criticism is fucking stupid. I have no problem with the “real, true Bob Marley lovers” (i.e. the ones who like the early stuff better!) actively trying to preserve Bob Marley’s legacy—or at least redefine it so it encompasses more than just “Legend” and “Exodus”—but I find this type of authenticity grandstanding to be downright ridiculous. I mean, seriously. Is it a surprise that white kids aren’t engaging Bob Marley “authentically”? Let me be frank here: when I was listening to Public Enemy in my early teenage years, unfortunately, it’s not because I empathized with the struggles of the black community or agreed with Chuck D’s politics. I was an apolitical, upper-middle class suburban white kid who didn’t know shit about Malcolm X or Louis Farakhan or, really, much of anything besides college basketball. I liked the fucking music because I liked the fucking music. I think it goes without saying that I was not engaging the music “authentically” and, I think we can safely assume that I’m probably still not engaging hip-hop “authentically” (see my rants about Dipset and Derrida for confirmation). But, dude says “The problem with Bob Marley in white America is one of perspective. Many of Marley's songs are about resistance and violent revolution.” Of course this is the “problem”! This is the great postmodern “problem”: postmodernism has taught us that (a) context is always of the utmost import, but (b) it’s also fleeting and pretty much inaccessible in any “authentic” way. Again, I don’t mind folks trying to redefine Bob Marley’s legacy, attempting to call out these “inauthentic” imposters who are reading the music “incorrectly,” but there is always at least a twinge of condescension in these posts that assumes that it is possible to really engage this music “authentically.” The great question is, where does this leave us? This is a profoundly difficult question to answer and isn’t going to be something that gets answered in a blog entry. But, what I do know is that to frame the argument in the (for all intents and purposes) mythical terms “authentic”/”inauthentic,” you’re setting yourself up for failure. Or, in short, what else is there to say after you’ve said the following: “These folks are engaging this music ‘inauthentically’ but these folks aren’t.” What is there to say after you’ve said “These folks are doomed to miss the point because of their context”? This isn’t just a piece explaining “Hey, there’s more at stake in Bob’s music than you might’ve originally thought.” This is a piece attacking the “inauthenticity” of the folks that like Bob Marley for reasons other than the “authentic” reasons. I thought that type of criticism died when punk ‘zines stopped writing articles about who sold out and who didn’t.

Wayne, can I get you to weigh in on this?

-e

12 Comments:

At 3:55 PM, Blogger wayne&wax said...

trackback soon come, bredrin! thanks for the invitation.

running out the door right now, but - in short - i think you're right, in general, though i don't always disagree with maloney.

still, i think the onion hit the nail more squarely on the head with this bit.

 
At 8:32 PM, Anonymous futuristxen said...

The images were so powerful the first time that I really didn't listen to the lyrics. But I agree with you. There's something wrong and tacky about the criticism of the lyrics.

 
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At 3:36 PM, Blogger David said...

Emil,
I think yr too dismissive of crack sales and their significance to the song; they're there and I don't think they signify anything more than crack selling in some sense. His purpose might be more to align an audience (crack-sellers, the streets, populist 'heros') but it certainly deserves some sort of critique I think.

 
At 1:10 PM, Blogger fairest said...

hey bro, didn't see a place with your email address so I'll plug myself here -- I'm blogging again at fairest.blogspot.com -- as you said, back soon enough. Thanks for the note awhile back which I just noticed.

 
At 10:37 PM, Anonymous sam said...

Yeah -- that Slate piece is pretty foolish. Anyone with $11.99 in his pocket can "authentically" relate to Legend!

Trying to derive too much of your identity from your purchasing decisions results in incurable bitchyness. Pop commodity is pop commodity. Culture and revolution can take care of themselves, they don't need to be bolstered by album sales.

That said, the Lee Perry produced albums are way heavier!

 
At 7:09 PM, Blogger wayne&wax said...

i'm afraid i'm never going to get around to composing a proper response to this before we all lose interest, so i'll just say this:

in order to attempt to explore this gnarly territory, i think we have to ask what would actually constitute an "authentic engagement." i don't think maloney really gets at that, and perhaps part of what irks you is the unstated assumption that there is some sort of authentic way to engage marley's music (though you don't quite put it that way). seriously though, what would that look like? would one have to be poor? black? brown? jamaican? serious? repressed? a third-world superstar?

i guess i'm with maloney when i share the discomfort with people (mis/not)understanding the form or the content of the music they listen to. but what are you gonna do? as you note, this happens with hip-hop all the time. shit, i'm sure we can all admit to (mis/not)understanding plenty of the music we listen to, and only partly because we might not have a full perspective on where it's coming from. i mean, i wish we would all take more time to understand the expressions and encodings and representations we receive everyday. take fox news, for example.

so then i wonder--maybe too optimistically--whether there might perhaps be some sort of transgressive (of the status quo, that is) quality even to frat boys' "engagement" w/ marley's music--if we want to dignify it with such a verb? (or at least to suburban white kids' engagement, which, you never know, could lead to an emancipation from the mental slavery of trustafarianism, if they listen close enough.) perhaps. but then again, it would probably rarely seem transgressive enough (for me or marley, i'd wager).

in the end, as far as authenticity is concerned, i think we should either proceed as if there's no there there, or we should grant the possibility that there exist at any time a range of authentic engagements across a range of contexts of reception--though, again, what that looks like, i'm not sure. (a move to action? a changed mind? an embodied experience? a full apprehension of some particular song's gestalt? who knows?)

finally, i submit that this is relevant, or at least perhaps revealing:
http://riddimmethod.net/?p=69

 
At 11:58 PM, Anonymous embryo said...

I wonder if the problem with the way some white folks engage Marley's music, and Rastafarianism in general, isn't more of a question of the way they think of the music rather than whether or not their backgrounds give them 'access' to an accountable, authentic reading of Marley's work.

A lot of music involves communicating an individual perspective to those whose experiences differ (be it slightly or greatly). At some level, that's one point of artistic expression. But if you're someone who is so unfamiliar with the ideas of race and class that you don't even realize that there's a significant difference between the basic facts of your experience and the basic facts of Marley's, not only are you not going to understand the 'authentic' context of the music, you're not going to even know one exists.

Does one have to have exactly the same experiences as a certain artist to fully understand that artist's work? Yes, absolutely. Especially when it's as personal as Marley's. No one understands my writing and music better than me. That's just how it is. My music is by its nature not a fully accurate depiction of my life, because the wealth of my experiences can't be summed up so easily. What people hear has as much to do with their own perspectives as it has to do with mine.

And that's fine. But if people don't realize that, then they may listen to my shit and make automatic, unthinking assumptions about me or my life based on the blanks they're unconsciously filling in between my lines. For someone like Marley, who symbolized entirely different but equally compelling things to different groups of people, it actually could be really problematic for folks who don't realize how (or even that) his experiences are reflected in his music and in his popularity.

 
At 1:06 AM, Anonymous embryo said...

sorry, that ended rambly. I just wanted to clarify: it's ethnocentrism that is being aimed at here. It's the failure of white frat boys to give a fuck about how their situation differs from Marley's. In their version of Marley he's a great emblem for their attitude: smoke weed, party, love is good, the revolution will be on your CD player.

But that only stands up when you don't give enough of a shit to engage even the most basic considerations of who Marley was and what his life was like, what he cared about, what he believed. For many people, to consider these variables is part and parcel to engaging with Marley's music; it's an automatic process because we understand that cultural context is important. To others, it never even gets put on the table.

In other words: it's not that we must automatically understand Marley, or must not automatically assume that we do, it's that we must automatically know that we only understand Marley through the lens of our own experiences. This isn't a concept most meatheads are acquainted with.

 
At 10:19 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

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At 2:03 PM, Anonymous bo bliz said...

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