I watched VICE’s first episode of their second season of Minority Reports. Titled ‘Hip Hop’s Reckoning with Asian Rappers,’ the half-hour show in my opinion tackled the easy, or at least obvious, questions. Easy in the sense that cultural appropriation (which VICE angled as appreciation through their choice of footage), Rich Brian’s first stage name (Rich Chigga), and the use of the n-word by non-Black rappers are topics that come to mind first. Other questions, though: a) heard blind, is it good rap music?; b) can we disentangle the race from this music?; c) the discomfort some people may have at the promotion of an all-Asian (sans South Asian representation) festival when everywhere else we clamour for less all-White cultural events, i.e. can we have it only one way and not the other?
Cultural considerations aside, it was the first time I heard ‘Midsummer Madness,’ the single that featured Joji, Rich Brian, Higher Brothers, and AUGUST 08. At 28 million views on YouTube, I know I’m not the only one to think that it is a really good pop hit. The lyrics sway from childish to smart, but whoever worked on that melody in the chorus has some musical chops.
In years past, I often used December and January to catch up on the releases of the year that I might have missed out on. Attempts to do the same this year proved tough as there were releases by Serengeti, Toro Y Moi, Nicola Cruz, Sharon van Etten, and Conor Oberst & Phoebe Bridgers, just to name those that I liked. LUH also released a new album. Ellery James Roberts, the singer who fronted the now-disbanded indie mysterious darlings WU LYF, is a bit more active these days. I haven’t read up much about his current musical activity but based off LUH’s output so far, either I’ve changed, or he has.
My first exposure to political music was Phil Och’s ‘I Ain’t Marching Anymore.’ I’d been reading a book set during the Vietnam War and it paved the way to my discovery of American folk music. It’s perhaps this that conditions me to only accept sparse music for protest anthems. The Killers’ ‘Land Of The Free’ simply comes across as disingenuous, in its use of sappy piano, churchy choir music, and blooming synths. While not necessarily a money grab, it won’t convert the converted. That is to say that singing ‘we got a problem with guns’ won’t change the mind of NRA members who happen to be fans of the band. The eponymous refrain is supposed to be sardonic, but with the backing vocals, that emotion is entirely removed. It’s melodically infectious, but that’s not exactly same as saying the song can be used as a rallying cry, which is what good political music should do. In the end, all it does it tell me where Brandon Flowers and gang stand on the political spectrum.
The ‘People Just Do Nothing’ series ended where it should have. From first episode to last, it was a show full of awkward moments and cringey laughs. What to make though, of the subject matter, this small group of unemployed, undereducated, overconfident, more-or-less talentless,, hopeless buddies, who live in a small town in Greater London? Their obliviousness and ignorance were the source of humour all throughout the show, and the show’s mockumentary style is a clear indication of the satire and caricatures it makes; yet, the show works because you just know that somewhere out there, if not in Brentford then London probably, that there are people just like them: people who just do nothing. Without a TV crew around them, they live in a bubble. So do we.
The first rule
I finally came around to reading Fight Club. It’s impossible to talk about this book or movie (which I’ve yet to watch and probably won’t) because all people will do is repeat that chorus: the first rule… In any case, I read it because Chuck Palahniuk was recently interviewed on Joe Rogan’s podcast and he came across as an artist completely devoted to the power of the sentence and story, and I like that in writers. I also read it because for the last year or so I have been getting caught up on the MMA scene. It’s obvious to any reader of the book that those looking for fight scenes will be disappointed. In the end, it was a great read, though I might have left it too late. In the interim since its publication in 1997, I’ve clearly read books influenced by the style and funnily enough, I think it sapped a bit of the power away from reading the original.
Critics and explosions
I had time to read A.S. Hamrah’s The Earth Dies Streaming. While I am not into cinema, Hamrah’s style of criticism speaks to me. It has bite and pulls no punches. Critics have many lessons to learn from the collection.
I thoroughly enjoyed Ryu Murakami’s From The Fatherland, With Love’s romp through a warring Japan. In this imagined scenario, North Korea invades Fukuoka by sending a squad of soldiers who claim to be rebels breaking away from the regime. It’s a brilliant device, one that holds up through 600 pages and more. For what it’s worth, Murakami rivals Palahniuk for research into bomb construction.
Elsewhere: Yoko Ogawa’s The Housekeeper and The Professor combined mathematics, baseball, and familial love; Jean-Philippe Baril Guérard again showed how unrelentingly obnoxious the 1% can be and yet still be victims to human emotions in Sports et divertissements as it follows the life of an actress; and I admire the way Ben Lerner hangs on to metaphors and refreshes them constantly in 10:04.