Lil Ugly Mane Oblivion Access

[Self-Released; 2015]

Styles: post-hop, [e]sc[h]catological rap
Others: El-P, Dälek, cLOUDDEAD, Death Grips

Nigh-on two years of prophesy, deleted Facebook posts, bewildering prose, and apothecaric fuckery have all been building toward this most twisted of spires. Here lies Lil Ugly Mane; Oblivion Access is his crumbling headstone. Right?

The retirement of LUM, announced by 2013’s PRELUDE TO PANOPTICON: “ON DOING AN EVIL DEED BLUES” Single, didn’t stop the recorded dribs and drabs from seeping out into the internet subconscious: an instrumental tape, previously unreleased tracks, a collaboration with Richmond’s Nickelus F (under the Shawn Kemp moniker), and the synapse-melting THIRD SIDE OF TAPE were amongst the releases culled from the archives. THIRD SIDE was particularly emblematic of the Ugly Mane methodology, characterized by Stefan Wharton as not being “preoccupied with an attempt at being something specific.” Semi-joking, semi-serious, and always aimless: a codified narrative feels beside the point when examining the constellation of debris left in LUM’s wake.

At a cursory glance, Oblivion Access stands apart from the vague M.O. mapped out by previous releases, a counterpoint to a career largely staked on inexplicability. It’s a relatively taut album by LUM standards, clocking in at well under an hour, and every element seems deliberately tooled toward a purposeful end, as opposed to the jagged erraticity of the Three Sided Tapes or Mista Thug Isolation’s horrorcore expanse. It doesn’t exactly compromise on the unmitigated zaniness of old, either; there are still plenty of curveballs to face here, all the way down to noise freak-outs, ghostly samples, and text-to-speech raps. LUM’s carnal urgency, both on the mic and behind the boards, has been distilled into his first (and final) real statement.

It doesn’t take too much parsing of the album’s lyrical content to get a feel for what LUM is gunning for here: death, digital death. Ugly has lived and died by the internet, and this physical detachment and depersonalization courses through the album’s veins. The once no-good pimp type spitting empty street bravado is now afflicted and downtrodden, a “dead weight,” trapped “underground six feet” in perpetual danse macabre. On “ACHILLES FOOT,” he wallows in human futility: “I could read a million books, still not know which pill I took.” Make no mistake, the album harbors Ugly’s most despondent bars yet, but it never truly scans as sincere. Oblivion Access’s, and indeed Lil Ugly Mane’s, central contradiction lies in the collapse of the boundaries between good and bad taste, irony and sincerity, id and superego. There’s no self-serious reinvention to be found, and maybe that’s the point — what started as a jokey pastiche of Memphis rap is coming to an ironic conclusion, even with the former veneer stripped away.

The final track on the album hammers the fact home. “INTENT AND PURULENT DISCHARGE” bubbles away wordlessly for about a minute or so before LUM finally resigns, “I got bad news, nothin’ really changes”. In a big way, he’s right. Critics stay critic-ing, analyzing between lines that never really existed in the first place. If there was any doubt about the intention here, it’s duly quashed in the track’s strangled coda: “What’s it all mean?/ What’s he saying when he says it?/ What’s the underlying topic?/ What’s the motive in the message?” It’s no accident that Ugly’s statement album, a refinement of the near-enough everything he’s toyed with down the line, is one that challenges the critical perception about his music having meaning or saying anything. The gait of “ON DOING AN EVIL DEED BLUES” has been fulfilled; Oblivion Access is a rejection of the PANOPTICON of internet culture, and LUM has finally been eviscerated from the messageboard hype cycle.

One of the most compelling aspects here doesn’t actually reside within the music itself, but in the supplementary PDF, entitled “Clowns and Browns: Special Edition Magazine.” It’s an apt visual/textual accompaniment to Oblivion Access, jiving between poop jokes (courtesy of the mag’s “owner,” Lyle Ugleman) and literary culture, often on the same page. Polemos, Emil Cioran, and Valerie Solanas are all referenced in passing, a neat final twist on a document — and, by extension, an album — expressly designed to be over-analyzed and ultimately lead to nowhere. Perhaps Shawn Kemp, Vudmurk, Dale Kruegler, Lordmaster DJ SK the Subterranean Subject, etc. will reemerge from Ugly’s rotting corpse. Until then, we have Oblivion Access to gnaw on, an eschatological/scatological compendium of life and death in the rap game, and a reminder that LUM had the answers all along. I’ll leave him with the final word:

“C YA L8R ;b”

Links: Lil Ugly Mane

Most Read