“Ur Not a Baller”
In an exhibition from last year about links between the economy and everyday life, Pauline Boudry and Renate Lorenz re-enacted various ‘Class Drag’ performances from the life of Lorenz Hannah Cullwick (1833–1909), a domestic servant in Victorian London.
They describe how “Her diaries, letters and photographs document her labour as well her sadomasochistic relationship with Arthur Munby, a bourgeois gentleman fascinated by working (as in working-class) women. In many of the images Cullwick posed as herself, drawing attention to her powerful muscles, large calloused hands and the black bracelet she wore to mark her servitude to Munby. In others she appeared as a bourgeois lady, a young male and a ‘blacked-up’ slave.”
Serious Thugs are all smooth hands, but their fashion-shoot London pop videos fall on the same lines of class, taste, and sex that Cullwick and Munby’s story epitomizes:
Whereas a band like Sleaford Mods (arguably Serious Thugs’ polar antithesis) return a condemnatory government gaze with spit and rage, ST create enough ironic distance to act as both the ‘subject’ and ‘object’ of class exchange – building an unsettling, cartoon model of council estate life that plays on wider fantasies about working class urban areas.
They fix and eroticise an aesthetic that has been so repeatedly washed out of wider representational existence, or wilfully attacked as repugnant. Musically, it’s a similar story: a cameo by Hannah Diamond reinforces Serious Thugs’ connections to the “BabyCakes” school of proactively saccharine speed pop, while DJ Warlord’s plastic sound-board is dangerously near enough to THE BEST SONG OF 2013 to make the harbingers of taste who compile such lists feel uneasy.
The reception to Serious Thugs’ videos seems to be either outright derision and vitriol or proclamations of ‘liking’ and ‘getting’ it that presuppose such a negative response, theirs is a music acutely interested in finding and amplifying the nuggets of provocative unpopularity within pop itself. Self-defensive assessments like, “you could discount it as a fad or whatever you will but this is actually a mirror of their friends and close realities.” miss the point – Serious Thugs know full well that the world they foreground is not their own, that’s its very attraction.
This is class drag meets accelarationist pop, horrible yet compelling. As such, the song ‘package’ feels scarily fitting for – as the critics it mocks might put it – our shitty, contemporary epoch.
• Serious Thugs : http://seriousthugs.tumblr.com
It’s 47° outside. Totally damp. My car smelled heavy of reefer from the night before. Heartburn like a motherfucker. Hung over just enough. Struggling because Yoncé still in this mouth like liquor. But I can’t. Not even Rick can help jack me up. So I pop on “ENDING” by yeule and fade all the fucked in perfection of aura.
“ENDING” is just the supreme balance of vibration and serenity. Lofty in an ethereal way. Glaring as a bright light that must be stared at. Vocal chops like carefully stacking glasses next to each other on a shelf; chimes happen at random and ring for merely a moment. All this and I’m still in my whip, slinging around cars, drafting them trucks, and majorly getting my angry morning commute on, but it’s melting in yeule melody. So, I take it down a notch. I smile more. I become apart of “ENDING” and share a sound pillow with yeule.
Listen to yeule’s first single “ENDING” below off her self-titled release on ZOOM LENS coming out April 8:
It’s important to remember that, though trap music is most closely identified with triple-time hi-hats, the genre takes its name not from percussive onomatopoeia, but from street slang, and further, that the trap is not just an institution, but a system of institutionalization. What better name for a trap song then than “Willie Bosket?”
If you Google the name, you’ll see two New York Times articles: 1989’s “A Boy Who Killed Coldly Is Now a Prison ‘Monster’” and 2008’s “Two Decades in Solitary.” The titles say it all, except that it was Willie Bosket whose youthful recidivism led New York State to change its laws so that violent offenders as young as 13 could be tried as adults under the Juvenile Offenders Act a.k.a. The Willie Bosket Law. Institutions foster institutionalization. Traps begat traps.
Institutionalization is personified in “Willie Bosket” by two characters (although they could theoretically be one and the same; after all, loss of identity is a symptom of institutionalization) portrayed in verses by Elucid and billy woods: the first, an “underprivileged over-medicated” youth at the mercy of broken courts and schools; the second, a crack and PCP user for whom “every day is drama — Mr. Zone 6.” Their tales are told over longtime woods collaborator Marmaduke’s best trapproximation, and here, captured on video by director Boombaye, who constructs a trap of his own by cutting black-and-white film samples with footage of Elucid and woods rapping in front of a projector playing said film.
“Willie Bosket” was a standout track on Armand Hammer’s Race Music (TMT Review), which, in case I haven’t already said, was my favorite album of 2013. The next Armand Hammer project is an EP called furtive movements, which is both “the most common reason listed by the police for a ‘stop and frisk’” and a lyric from the billy woods/Elucid collaboration “Freedman’s Bureau.” The furtive movements EP will be released digitally and on custom limited-edition vinyl in May.
Staggering toward the end of night. City streets echoing and amber lit. Music lingers out from a ground-level apartment. It’s lush in vocals. It’s lush in beat and sound. It’s lush. Taking a minute on that stoop gives ample amount of time for a smoke. Nodding to the fluidity of production, the window begins to close, and you turn and ask, “What’s that?” Using their hand to wave away the smoke, the silhouette doesn’t answer, stares (maybe), and then closes the window. The beat can still be hear, so wasting no expense on staggering, you turn the sway of your walk into a dance, around the block, and in your head.
MC queen Maria Minerva issssssssssssssssssssssssss unstoppable. “The Beginning” was such a long time about for her, and the only thing she’s really done since that is made her sound slightly crisper through TONS of releases. And her voice, is unchanging. -Err, wait, what am I saying, “The Beginning” is NOW. To be precise , “The Beginning” will be released with her new CD/LP Histrionic via Not Not Fun on April 29. And get ready to LET GO. ‘Cause it’s not-think-let’s-dance time, y’all.
She plucked the daffodils guiltily. Late at night, from a municipal flower bed in the middle of a busy roundabout. A Land Rover honked at her as she crossed back onto the pavement. “They were dying anyway,” she said to nobody. She attempted to prolong that small splinter of life by putting the flowers in a discarded beer bottle filled with mucky puddle water. By the time she had got home, the flowers looked pale and defeated, positively off-putting to any marauding insect intent on pollination. That night she dreamed of being attacked by giant daffodils, who pinned her down in a huge book and ‘pressed’ her into flat mortification for a pretty piece of paper. In the morning, the flowers looked more alive than ever.
Tirzah is all grainy hiccups and incredulous stares on new jam “Malfunction.” A rolling home movie set the morning after her last Ultimate Fighter party anthem. It ploughs a more casual musical and lyrical minimalism, words torn out of an MSN chatbox, one side of a dialogue, partly unanchored from it’s intimate context but implying (as with memory itself) such presence in its absences.
Da Mafia 6ix
“Break Da Law”
Now in (at least) its seventh incarnation, “Break Da Law” is perhaps one of the earliest hip-hop standards. For that fact alone, it’s worthy of more discussion than afforded here. Suffice it to say that this anarchic anthem has achieved folk status as a kind of pre-WorldStar riot song. How fitting then that this latest version actually premiered as a “WSHH EXCLUSIVE.” Returning briefly to the song’s musicological significance, unlike some, I find it difficult to use a word like “ignorant” to describe this call to arms.
Insane? Yes. Injurious? Indeed.
But ignorant? I don’t see it.
If anything, “Break Da Law” is coldly calculated. Just look at how well the above video is edited. It serves as an important reminder that all violence is not by definition ignorant, and the fact that the two words are so often equated in music “criticism” speaks volumes about the pussification of American culture. Perhaps it’s just that I got into Three-Six Mafia around the same time that I got into the Death Wish films, but I’m forced to recall a Charles Bronson interview, in which the character actor describes his first time having sex: “I was five and a half years old, and she was six … I gave her some strawberry pop. I gave her the pop because I didn’t want it; I had taken up chewing tobacco and I liked that better. I didn’t start smoking until I was nine. But I gave her the pop, and then we … hell, I never lost my virginity. I never had any virginity.”
“Break Da Law” is that quote turned to song. It’s America. Stream or download Da Mafia 6ix’s 6ix Commandments mixtape via LiveMixtapes and watch out for the group’s as-yet-untitled forthcoming album, due out June 6.