American cities have never had walls, only towers — our national narrative far too immature to have witnessed the elitist grandeur of a pre-Ringstrasse Vienna or even the fortifications of medieval Paris. And so the buildings became the walls. These latter-day zoning loci were and are a primary object for planned association, by which some might necessarily be separated from others.
Just give ‘im your fone!”
Although largely deprecated by the parlance of our times, the term “inner city” is painfully evocative. A presentation and critique of aesthetic decay, the inner city denotes a bygone Eden, “to’ up from the flo’ up,” haves and other halves separated by the painterly red lines of a sprawling exurban mote. And yet it is a cop-out’s cop-out. “Inner city” further defines a fate-sealed central drama, one plagued by a constant coercion, by which paranoia is a low bar and counter-surveillance major key. Parties are, to a condescending, spectatorly chagrin, prone to violence.
The term itself, then, connotes a shift of revolutionary, participatory onus onto an unreceptive and unable peer. Its use is ignorant and only inflammatory.
YEAH, FOUR ONE NINE
SECTION OF NIGERIAN LAW WHICH COVERS FRAUD. OFTEN CALLED A NIGERIAN 419 SCAM BECAUSE THE EMAIL SCAM PROMISING A PERCENTAGE OF THE CASH IF YOU HELP MOVE MONEY OUTTA THE COUNTRY ORIGINATED IN NIGERIA. MANY SCAMMERS ARE POOR AND SO MUST USE KEYBOARDS WITH THE CAPS LOCK KEY PERMANENTLY JAMMED DOWN.
“In the city, in the city, in the city / It ain’t pretty, it ain’t pretty, it ain’t pretty.”
419 gives voice to the plaintive, signifyin’ cries and whispers of those left to the forgotten agora: scattered, jigsaw lives waiting to be put back together again, only to fall apart to be put back together again to fall apart. A couple is jacked, a Blackberry stolen. A “sneaky friend” is the source of complaint. “Families are always rising and falling in America,” said no one.
But 419’s setting is not New York City or L.A. or even — though Blunt et al. mostly hail from the UK — London, really. Rather, this series of 14 tracks, many of which were culled from the scattered handful of SoundCloud releases Blunt has dropped over the past year, presents the narrative of every global city’s underbelly, that of the post-adolescent entrepreneur, that yung blud whose desire for survival and success outweighs any ethical predisposition. The mixtape heavily speaks the patois of the Nigerian and Carib diaspora. “Had to sell the yo-yo to get fru, doe.” It doesn’t always make immediate sense, but what does? A stoned Blunt’s vo-coded ego forgets the most cardinal of the 10 crack — in this case, dro; what is it, ‘96? — commandments.
And, speaking of weed, there are a lot of references to weed. I know it’s par for the course, but this is a lot of weed. Case in point: “Smoke that green every hour.”
“Car ain’t got no roof / Feds ain’t got no proof.”
Such is the external appearance. More than that, though: a foreign, suspect sensuality, one impermeable to the suburban gaze, pervades this realm of magnetic tape. “If she’s really good, link her two times.” A rump-shaking, full-belted Nicki is quoted early on — amid dancing, mesmerized piano stabs — on the second track alone. It’s a tough act to follow, but it’s topped by a full-track Blige sample several licks down. A ur-trap low-end solo signals the end of an anguished rallying cry — “HANDS UP IF U WANT 2 DIE — and for every sex scene, there’s a similar, equal, and opposite ascetic impulse. “Tell the girls in the front/ Turn Rihanna off.” This rejection of the female, the physical — a monastic, finger-pointing gesture — is one of many similar ethical and aesthetical choices. “Everybody in the club/ Everybody’s praying.”
It’s performative at best: we all know Blunt, like every great artist, is full of shit at times, but even that’s hardly the point, especially when shit bangs this hard.