If Everything is Terrible! ceased to exist, would anyone dare to take their place? Deeply embedded in “so-bad-it’s-good” culture, what once entailed mining VHS relics for absurdist pleasure has expanded into elaborate and far-reaching curation of unfathomable amounts of cultural excrement. Now it’s “so-bad-it’s-mind-altering.” EIT! Does the Hip Hop Vol. 1: Gettin’ a Bad Rap!, one half of a double-feature follow up to Doggiewoggiez! Poochiewoochiez! (TMT Review), presents a hellscape recursion of dead-eyed stylistic re-appropriation. A rap genre so mangled and cannibalized, the texts and cadences warp beyond recognition into an inhuman DJ mix of soulless utterances. A vicious, relentless, and legitimately painful barrage of co-opted sound and image, each syllable a bullet to the brain-stem of artistic spirit, each movement the nightmarish machination of a semi-aborted golem. A true and unflinching declaration that everything is terrible.
The through-line and unifying concept behind the piece is marketing tool hip-hop: instances in which rap is inserted — or rather jammed like a puzzle piece that won’t fit — into a product or situation with the intention of appealing to its existing fanbase. It’s a groan-inducing roll of the eyes when encountered in day-to-day life, but exploded here into a nearly merciless hour-long supercut. There’s imagery here that will feel familiar, as the group has reached past the confines of decades-old video and into the contemporary, incorporating semi-recent entries like campaign spots, local ads, and even an AFLAC commercial. Like a death squad stoking their funeral pyre, Everything is Terrible! shovel one audiovisual disaster after another into the flames, drawing from their seemingly bottomless reservoir of why-was-this-made media. The brutal energy never lets up or reveals weakness, as each abomination transitions seamlessly into the next. Quick, abrupt cuts are used to cram as many grimaced stomps, claps, and wide-eyed head bobs as possible over verses by the Incredible Crash Test Dummies, the leprechaun from Leprechaun, and Tom Hanks’s character from the Dragnet movie. Occasionally, truly horrendous bars will repeat ad nauseum: a malicious record skip that tunnels in and out of the ears as an insatiable tapeworm, ceaselessly flossing the brain like a jagged mobius strip.
Success in conveying a sublime awfulness aside, what allows this project to cut so deep is its role as a formal cautionary tale. Hip-hop, as a medium, was built upon necessitated re-purposing of breakbeats and instrumentals, and repetition of phrases and concepts across multiple tracks and eras as a tool of preservation and contextualization. When it’s robbed of that intent, it’s naked and ugly: a husk, driven by rhythm and posture but completely devoid of meaning. Gettin’ a Bad Rap!, jokey in its premise but lethal in its execution, dredges up these shit-hop zombies and marches them out as a grotesque freak show. One or two people floundering through their campy idea of rap is cringeworthy, but a stream of hundreds is completely maddening. Like a jump scare in a horror movie or a well-placed cliffhanger, the movie invites real physical discomfort. Eli Roth wishes he could make an audience squirm like this. YouTube Poop wishes it was this insane. Art cinema wishes it was this bleak. Whatever psychological trauma and mental erosion allowed or guided the creative process to this end was worth it. There is no one else on earth who could have executed this film. It’s really, really terrible.