Anonymous asked: have you got any advice for a music writer with a lot of passion and ideas, but doesn't have much "hate"? I feel like my writing is boring because I enjoy too many things, and I saw the panel you were involved with on the value of hating and it was pretty eye opening.
Man this is a very depressing question. I know that the current publishing landscape disproportionately rewards stuff like hate and outrage and negativity but if you solely want to write from a place of love and joy then that is wonderful. In fact it’s a good first step towards correcting this problem. It might not get you a lot of attention but fuck attention. I assume writing is one of the many things you enjoy so go on and enjoy it.
Anonymous asked: why do you like shit like Migos? Doesn't this type of stuff pass an irritation threshold at some point? Or are beating hooks into the ground + tinny beats what's hot? Sincerely, A Dumb Question
I honestly have no idea why Migos have become such a lightening rod their shit is innocuous as fuck and basically just combines a bunch of old ideas really effectively. The most confusing thing about them to me is the matter of whether I should be calling them “the Migos” like The Beatles or rolling with the far clunkier “Migos.” (And even that is just the Clipse all over again.)
Anyway I’ve read a lot of very wrong things about them over the past few weeks but the idea that their beats are “tinny” might be the most wrong of them all. The best of their shit slaps and slumps and shatters concrete and that should be pretty close to undeniable. I feel like I’ve been coming back to this idea a lot lately but it seems like at least part of the disconnect in the internet rap conversation boils down to poor acoustic choices. I’ve long suspected that a lot of the dudestalking about “I DONT GET THE APPEAL OF THIS STUFF MUST BE LATENT RACISM” are playing Youtube streams of car and club music on earbuds or laptop speakers or that Beats By Dre tampon thing. The appeal is the thump first and foremost. When I play Migos in my house I try to make it so the walls around me come as close to crumbling as possible. If you aren’t doing the same then you are not equipped to comment on this stuff.
As for “beating hooks into the ground,” that’s part of the fun too man! I’ve never understood why people always take the oh it’s too repetitive when talking down on music. When executed properly repetition can be amazing. It does things to humans and is the glue that holds all of this shit together. Repetition is rhythm. Without at least a little bit of it music would just be organized sound. And when you go further down that line and start to think about stuff like minimalism and semantic satiation shit can actually get very deep.
I don’t mean to say that the Migos are at all aware of or actively invoking these reference points specifically but that doesn’t mean that they can’t be instinctively following in traditions. When you repeat the same word fast in a rhythmic pattern you’re obviously doing so to achieve some sort of effect. If it is an irritating one to you then that’s fine, there’s no accounting for taste. Me, I’m always excited to hear a good sound twice or twenty times.
Well to provide a little context - I wrote that subtweet in response to a mess of folks on my twitter timeline who were taking great pleasure in the fact that Cole’s record was coming so close to matching the sales of Kanye’s Yeezus. This is sort of understandable - Kanye’s a natural heel and he works pretty hard to invoke the wrath of the masses. But come the fuck on thinking people, for better or worse he made a very ambitious album and has a bunch of squares banging acid squelches and metallic shard bursts while scratching their heads. It might only be subversive as a means to amplify Kanye’s ego, but at least it’s subversive. J. Cole made a regular ass mediocre rap record that only appeals to and appeases the mediocre people of the world.
And I do mean mediocre in the most literal sense. I don’t think Cole’s garbage or anything. Dude can rap okay as far as rapping humans go. If he were in a cipher on a corner or in a dorm room or at an open mic or whatever he’d surely evoke the “oh cool, rapping” response that such activities exist to evoke. That old rap rap raprap / rap ra rap rap approach can go a long way in certain social situations. But great rappers and rap stars have historically been expected to transcend that.
I mean this guy is supposed to be a great lyricist, a compelling writer, The Nas Of Our Time but nobody seems to notice that he failed to absorb the most (only?) compelling aspect of Nas’ style - that project window vision. Dude is wholly incapable of seeing outside of himself. Literally every idea on Born Sinner is I / me / my on some elementary school essay shit. His subjects exist only as one dimensional props for him to hang his own personality and narratives on.
The “Art Of Storytelling” beat jack on “Land Of The Snakes” is perfect because it opens Cole up to such a bold contrast against the Outkast original. Sasha Thumper was a fully formed human, one with hopes and fears and slumber parties. She even exits the scene and lives an entire life outside of Andre’s verse. The women of “Snakes" and elsewhere on BS are set pieces. They have no names, no stories, no personalities, no specific characteristics. It’s just “this bitch,” “some hoes” and endless “she”s. Sometimes they talk at him like wamp wamp wamp wamp but that’s where it stops. I’m sure someone could extract an intense gender politics thinkpiece out of this but it’s not just women either. He does the same thing with his family, with physical spaces, even with his own heroes (On “Let Nas Down” Cole makes no specific case for Nas’ talents or appeal, he just talks about shaking dude’s hand and hanging posters on the wall.) It’s flat narcissism and it’s definitely not good writing. Good writing requires a panoramic worldview.
And I can hear you little frutflies spitting out cheetoh dust onto your keyboard and filling my ask box with baahh but Chief Keef and Migos can write? questions. No, of course not. Those guys fucking suck at traditional rhyme writing when compared to Cole’s ample mediocrity. But their goals are very different. They redirect the effort that they would’ve put into pure lyricism elsewhere - into delivery, into structure, into intensity, into flows, into adlibs, into hooks, into sonics. This is perfectly fine. Writing (“lyricism”) isn’t everything in rap. I don’t even think it’s the most important thing. But if an artist is going to make it the focal point of their work - which is what Cole clearly aims to do - then they should be doing it better than he does. I mean not to go all old head on you but if someone is not at least striving to be as vivid as Nas or as emotive as Scarface or as imaginative as Posdnuos or as bugged out as Cam’ron then I’d be more comfortable if they were to just give up on writing entirely and make a thousand kewl grunt noises on their record. I don’t know, maybe this is a generational thing - you young people sure are in love with yourselves and maybe you need stars who are equally self-obsessed - but as a writer it’s hard for me to sit back and call someone a good writer if their shit is as insular and shallow as Cole’s. Wale suffers from this sort of narcissism and lightweight laziness too and you could pretty easily sub his middling ass new album into any paragraph here. These guys are stuck in their own heads and bouncing around cliches that they cribbed from played out Mount Rushmore rap legends like Nas and Jay. They see nothing beyond the mirror and do very little within this narrow perspective. They’re prisoners of their own realities and of the laws of language and it destroys me to think that anyone would consider them the great lyricists of our time. But hey most people don’t pay very much attention to words at all anymore so whatever.
If they remade the movie The Fly but replaced Jeff Goldblum and the fly with Future and Waka Flocka respectively then this this is the song he/they/it would make at the end of the film while twitching and moaning on the floor. You just knew that young Nayvadius was going to snap out of his recent streak of complacency once the Migos started hitting with his style. Biters are his motivators.