Hi there. I like to tweet stuff. Dumb stuff. brain farts, really. sometimes I feel those brain farts need to be aired out beyond the 141 characters. When that happens, I like to whip up this very column. Admittedly, these are controversial tweets. But they could all use some expanding on. So, join me as I defend my tweets. Or, at the very least, explain them with a little more clarity.
This was pertaining to the recent story about the Frat guys who did a racist chant that was caught on film.
A while back, I was in a short lived comedy rap group called “Party Fun Action Committee”. We made a song called “Beer“, that was a frat rap song of the highest order. Looking back at that song (that we initially made in the late 90’s) I always feel like it’s a little dated. The world has changed so much since then. Frat guys don’t look like the frat guys of my youth. When I was in college, they wore stuffy button up shirts, some dockers and a backwards white hat with a frayed brim. They loved Bob Marley and did keg stands. They were mostly suburban morons who reminded me of dogs with their wide eyed passion for all things stupid. Flash forward and I’ve lost touch of what frat guys are like. Like most aspects of today’s society, style had become blurred. There was a time when you could look at a person’s cloths and immediately tell what kind of music they liked. Something as small as the way you wore the brim of your hat would let me know if they loved Dave Matthews or Tupac. Well, it seems that era is behind us. This could be a testament to me being old but I honestly can’t differentiate between frat guys, hipsters, club kids and hip hop heads. We’re so homogenized that all these stereotypes are simply different shades of the same color. On one hand, I guess it’s nice to not be able to categorize people so easily. It’s harder to stereotype people. But you know what? I think, in some cases, stereotypes are a good thing. Not racial ones but ones related to style and scenes? Why the fuck not? When I went to college, I was a purist rap nerd. I didn’t know anyone. The first day of class, I looked around and saw a kid who looked like he liked the same shit I did. We got to talking and it turned out he was in a similar boat. If he had been dressed like Zac Efron, I wouldn’t have ever have been able to seek him out. He and I became buddies and he eventually was the guy who introduced me to Aesop. See how that works? Not all stereotypes are negative. Sometimes, they just help people weed though the bullshit.
With all that said, watching the U of O racist frat video , I had mixed feelings. On one hand, I was disgusted by the video. But on the other I felt weirdly nostalgic. Like “Oh shit! Frat guys are still the same terrible dickheads they were in my day!” It was a rare moment of “maybe things haven’t changed that much after all!”. It’s unfortunate that the thing that hasn’t changed is entitled rich white asshole racism but on the bright side, it’s interesting to see what stereotypes can hold up. With all the advancements in social issues over the last 20 years, the fact this video is even shocking speaks volumes. If this had come out in 1994, it would have been a short lived story on the local news cause, let’s face it, intolerant frat assholes were par for the course.
You know, it would probably be pretty easy to figure out who this guy is. Funkmaster Flex? Dj Clue? I’m guessing someone from the earlier years like Doo wop. Surely one of you mix tape historians has an answers. But , in the end, it really doesn’t matter who that person was. This whole phenomenon is bigger than one asshole screaming his name or catch phrase between/during every song. This is a matter of people always feeling the need to be seen and heard. For years, the dj’s job was to sit in the back and play music. Maybe drop a scratch here and there. Public enemy’s Terminator X was famous for “Speaking with his hands”. But this wasn’t good enough. The DJ’s wanted some shine too. Same can be said for producers. Before puffy started talking on records, Dj’s and producers played their role. Sure, some made albums. Marley Marl was one who pushed himself to the forefront. But, even though he put out two albums under his name, you didn’t see him shamelessly self promoting himself on every song. He was more a producer in the Quincy jones sense. A man behind the scenes, pulling the strings, making sure everything is how it needs to be. But the moment Puffy was seen shimmy dancing next to Biggie, the game seemingly changed. The lightbulb went off in the heads of people who were typically in the background that “Wait a minute…I can get shine too?”. That was around the time the hip hop super producer was born. I won’t even front. It was great marketing. Seeing guys like Pharrell, Timbaland and Jazzy Pha in all the videos was kinda revolutionary. Add on them having a vocal track on most of the songs they produced and even a catch phrase (“This is a jazzy-phizzle production!”) and you now had celebrity producer. Where as, a mere 5 years earlier, the only people who knew who produced what were nerds like me who obsessed over liner notes. In an abstract way, you can almost connect this whole thing to the emergence of super celebrity DJ’s and electronic musicians. Sure, these types existed well before Puffy ever said “Take that!” but it definitely opened doors for notoriety on a different level for the people who would typically be viewed studio trolls.
I always liked the anonymity of being a producer. I mean, we all gotta make our careers work and extend this life as long as we can but, I dunno…there’s something nice about being under the radar. Maybe I’m weird like that. I probably am cause, for every producer like me, there are 15 producers who won’t let a rapper use their tracks without them dropping their pre rerecorded stamp on it. So much so, that I feel it’s the norm now for newer producers. If you’re NOT letting the people know who you are by force, you’re doing it wrong. They may be right. But, whatever the case, as a listener, I don’t give a fuck what your name is and I sure as hell don’t need to hear you yelling it over my favorite part of a verse on an otherwise enjoyable mixtape.
It’s a sad state of affairs when the opinions others have effect your own. Even sadder if you share the same opinion but , upon hearing a certain brand of person explain why, it makes you question your own taste. This happens in film and music all the time. It’s what’s called a backlash. Take an album like “The score” by the Fugees. When this album came out, people in the know were all over it. It was great. Original and critically acclaimed. Then they dropped “Killing me softly” and a whole new fan base was introduced. It became a staple of all college dorm dwelling cornballs who typically didn’t like rap outside of the beastie boys. This new fan base made people who may have initially liked the album have contrarian feelings towards it cause, you know, “I’m not like THOSE guys…”. This was a long time ago and the cycle of a backlash was a lot slower. It was pre-internet so word had to spread organically. Nowadays, the backlash cycle is lightening fast. No matter how much an album or movie is beloved, there is always gonna be a large group of people who decide they are not on board. Perhaps it’s authentic, perhaps it’s reactionary. You never know. The thing is, everyone is gonna be extreme in their opinions. As you get older, you care about these things less and less. The spectrum of enjoyment shrinks. Where you might have only had two emotions towards art in your 20’s (I LOVE IT! or I HATE IT!) , things shift a lot towards the middle. This isn’t to say you don’t enjoy or dislike art on profound levels when you reach a certain age, it’s just the urgency to love and loath lessens. I find myself thinking most movies, music and TV is just “okay”. I don’t freak out over it and I don’t sit around seething at it’s existence. I pretty much take it in as I see fit. I’m able to differentiate between something I think is shitty and something that is simply not for me.
With all that said, I still have those moments of youthful adverse thought where my natural instinct if to reject what I heard coming out of a certain persons mouth, regardless of it I agree with it. Case in point, I was in a diner in Minneapolis when I wrote this tweet. I was eating alone at the bar, about to catch a flight. The only other people in there were the waiter and some other dude at the bar. They started talking about movies. The conversation was all over the place but, from what I heard in all my judgmental glory, both these guys had shitty taste. well, not shitty…but basic. They were basic bitches with cocks. So, the convo swings around to a Wes anderson film and the waiter starts raving about his catalogue of movies. “Man, I love them all! he can do no wrong!”. Now, I’m a fan of Anderson. He’s made some great movies. I do think they’re all kinda the same but they are definitely entertaining, well made and totally original. But there was something about hearing this particular guy break down the nuances of Anderson films, as he sees them, that made me think “Jesus, maybe Wes Anderson sucks…”. Now, I’m not a person who will flip on something like that for no reason but the fact that even popped into my head said a lot. A lot about me. Can’t say I was to thrilled with myself but that’s what happened. I guess old habits die hard.