Wednesday, June 29, 2011

“Frontier Province”: Super Chron Flight Brothers and the World Tour trilogy

The Super Chron Flight Brothers consists of soothsayers Billy Woods and Priviledge, as well as NYC producers Nasa, Marmaduke, BOND, and Willie Green. Together they form an impressive assemblage of aesthetic elements reminiscent of what made hip hop interesting, subversive, and inherently political in the first place – sample-based détournements, daring storytelling, dynamic lyricism, generational inside jokes, literary and pop culture references, and embedded articulations of current events – wrapped into three palatable concept albums that leave the initiated wanting for more.

The Flight Brothers utilize an arsenal of poetic techniques and linguistic flows unavailable to the majority of rappers today. Their song-long conceits are buttressed with sound internal rhymes, complex metaphors, off-the-wall puns, and linguistic streams of consciousness that leap off the conceptual deep end.

While Priviledge's language-bending tongue twisters often re-enact the higher mental processes of "your brain on purple haze," Billy Woods' slow-mo flow plays the pauses, delivering a heavy handed swath of sociocultural imagery matched only by the weight of his baritone delivery.

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The Super Chron Flight Brothers' “World Tour” album trilogy encompasses a diverse sampling of subject matter, with everything from globalization to gentrification prompted for prodding and negation.

In Emergency Powers, the first volume of the World Tour series, the Flight Brothers undertake a critical examination of world events and trends between 2005-2007, incorporating issues from the War in Iraq to the War on Drugs under polysemous perspectives and personas. As per their group's moniker, “Super Chron,” the consumption of high-grade marijuana aids in their channeling of these transcendental viewpoints. Their flights of speculative critique, mixed with a sardonically tinged sense of stoner humor, give the Brothers license to speak as if they were actually present in various locations, with “half of the tracks co-titled 'Live from Somewhere'” (Nathaniel Long, Hip Hop Linguistics).

SCFB's intercontinental flights across time and space are meant to evoke a need to connect the dots between such seemingly disparate events as the 2007 financial crisis to Yosemite Sam cartoons, disillusioned stoners to child soldiers in Uganda,  and even Islamic fundamentalists to blue collar workers.  This calls for rhizomatic leaps in thought and intuition thats asks a lot from the listener, but which promises to give more food for thought in return.

(This “food for thought” metaphor is toyed with in the album art to SCFB's third album, Cape Verde, which features prominent SLR photographs of various exotic mouthwatering seafoods at the “Wo Hop” restaurant in New York City's Chinatown.)

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Emergency Powers begins with “Drought,” a song which features a spaghetti western soundscape designed to engage sympathy for the small time hustler getting by. The Flight Brothers introduce themselves through tales of their lives as precarious middle-men moving pounds of marijuana in the midst of America's War on Drugs, where undercover “federalis” with cameras play "gotcha with the zoom.” Here the hyperbolic gestures of “bling bling” toted by coke rap acts like Clipse are altogether avoided, the reasoning that “if the weeds blue"--or high quality--"that you should “keep that to yourself / if you value your health."  (Billy Woods, “Drought”).

As another contrast to typical hustler narratives in hip hop, the logic behind the alternative economy of pushing drugs in “Drought” makes direct connections with issues of proletarianization, class mobility and the refusal to subscribe to dead end wage labor jobs. Here the hustler's lifestyle offers a kind of elusive independence from capitalist institutions that can't be found at McDonalds or Sears, but sans the glorified excess associated with the multi-million dollar drug trade:

Dodge City, August 1999, hot than a mug
AC broke sweatin the time
Waiting for these drugs, biting my nails
Daydreaming weights and scales
Big sales, fuck retail, yadda yadda
Type scheming that'll keep me out of jail, eatin' proper. (Billy Woods, “Drought”) 
Think about wage earners, and modern day slave labor
I'd rather brush my teeth, with a rusty razor
Then front and bullshit, with all you fakers
I'm a kind bud breaker - stay quiet, with noise makers. (Priviledge, “Drought”)
On “High Grade,” another track that references marijuana in the title, the Flight Brothers are at their most apathetic, but non-coincidentally at their polemical. Priviledge in the chorus states that he'd rather “Blaze 'til I touch mars and clutch jars / Filled with high grade then race with these cars and trucks."  Taken literally, his refusal to drive on highways functions as a protest to the oil-based economies of suburban sprawl in post-WWII America.  Figuratively, he takes an apolitical stance towards what he critiques as the pointless rat race of  21st century progress, saving his labor power solely for lighting blunts.

In addition, Billy Woods verses' in "High Grade" offer a scathing critique of the War in Iraq, hollowed/hallowed religious movements, and a negation of the ideological pretenses underlying American nationalism in terms of pro-black politics:

Signed up and now you're pretty much stuck
Fuck The Troops
And sorry if that applies to someone near you
But the day you start following orders
Is the day you become a tool, full court jester
Im not a professor, and this is more of an anecdote than a lecture
But walk with Caeser, you're gonna get burned
It's like niggas will never learn
White boys been hearing land of the free so long
They can't help but go along
But black people we know its just a song
We know how they speak right and do wrong
You'd be better off selling crack
Closest imma get to Iraq is the hash in this bong.
(Billy Woods, “High Grade”)

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In "Guy Fawkes," co-titled "Live from Baidoa, Somalia,” Billy Woods posits the figure of “the foreigner – a non-descript character at first glance / who got everything from callahans to exotic plants” as a kind of corrupted Agamben “whatever singularity” inherent to the functioning of late-capitalism in it's individuated formations.  This is in that Woods is able to trace the role of the unassuming “invisible outside investor” present throughout the globalized world that “historically feeds off of, and often helps sustain, war torn areas in selfish quests to profit from death” through various historical instances (Nathaniel Long, Hip Hop Linguistics).  These include references to:
  • drug lords (“Billy Clint on 153rd and Bahrain”)
  • black marketers (“the Chinese counterfeiters”)
  • crime syndicates (“Wu Chang, aka the black bird”)
  • arms dealers (“once the check clears get you past Mogadishu / warheads for those missiles”)
  • African oligarchs (“'Mr. Africa' with perfect penmanship”)
  • European fascists (“who passed the poison to Hitler as Berlin was burning”)
  • pimps (“Hagar the Horrible got Blondie in the oldest profession”)
  • and human traffickers:
Colombian pilots thinking that they hauling bales of Jamaican
But the hull's full of undocumented Haitians
That's international relations, that's immigration and naturalization
He got aliens patiently waiting at 8-mile to body snatch your white Christ
And in the Congo he sold arms to loyalists and rebels alike
So there's little sympathy for the devil,
But it's never his head on the pike
A rolling stone gathers no moss
And not one of those arraigned could identify the boss. (Billy Woods, “Guy Fawkes”)
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“A Million Little Pieces”, co-titled “Live from the Oprah Show,” puns on the best-selling memoir by James Frey, a semi-fictional novel which caused controversy over Oprah's credibility when Frey revealed he embellished and/or parts of his tale of drug addiction.

For the Flight Brothers, this embellishment of reality is essential to the experience of consumer-based subjectivity in the age of capitalist spectacle, in which there are an overwhelming amount “of fake scenarios for me to get 'round” with enough room to “get down on whichever one sounds the best” (Priviledge, “A Million Little Pieces”).

The brothers transmute this theme of vicarious subjectivity into well executed puns that reference books, television shows, and movies that develop into structured poetic conceits. For instance, Priviledge utilizes the names of television shows to embed a larger tale about growing up in a media-saturated culture:

Just chill for “60 Minutes” cause hindsight is “20/20”
Those were "Good Times" we were having, hmm,
What happened? (I dunno?)
What's happening? "What's Happening Now?"
I guess it's all in the "Family Ties"
At one point "All My Children" were "Young and Restless"
Momma said: “Well it's a fact for sure, you know -
You're about to have your “Worst Week Ever," turning “24”
"Welcome to the Real World," she said methinks
You could either be "Survivor" or diver like Michael Spinks. (Priviledge, “A Million Little Pieces”)

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In “First Blood”, the stoner duo take to serious subject matter that most rappers (let alone most writers) wouldn't touch by putting themselves in the shoes of radical Islamic fundamentalists. Billy Woods delves into the cold-hearted psyche of a rogue sleeper cell plotting various terrorist attacks on first world nations, while Priviledge articulates the experience of a Palestinian turned extremist living on edge in Israeli-occupied territory.

The audio samples (and the song title) taken from Rambo: First Blood accentuate a deep historical sense of karma, in which America “[wants] to deny that we're dealing with an expert in guerrilla warfare,” with the counter point being that “NOTHING IS OVER!” and that “You just don't turn it off” (Rambo: First Blood). The conceptual parallel drawn between these two audio samples is that much like with Rambo, the Vietnam War veteran, it is the United States itself that has sometimes funded and given reason for anti-American extremists to become skilled killing machines in the first place.

An infamous example of this uncanny recursive process at work can be found in the blowback of the C.I.A. sponored Operation Cyclone that took place during 1979-1989, in which “the early foundations of Al-Qaida were built in part on relationships and weaponry that came from the billions of dollars in U.S. support for the Afghan mujaheddin during the war to expel Soviet forces from that country” (Tompaine.com).

The video for “First Blood” consists of a montage sliced together from news reports and live footage of terrorists in action, with the tit-for-tat imagery in the lyrics matching exactly that which is portrayed in the video:
It's the two piece of Tunis
Had to get back hand stamped son,
Curfews in effect in Baltic camp
We Guildenstern and Rosencrantz:
All the world's a stage and my props are
Highly flammable, combustible, materials
Tear gas is a snack
A shank is thanks on the West Bank
His fleeting ambition just sank
With the rest of 'em
Next of kin, had they shack bulldozed
A black flower grows in the sand
Don't pick it - that rose is just a ruse
P.L.O is my witness
Cross another name off the hit list
Kids shit, “My First Martyr” kit
Might hurt a little
But that surgeon in Calandia's
A motherfucking artist--
Sharp as a tack, hard to the point,
Ahead of the jeep
Now Jerusalem streets filled with screams (Priviledge, “First Blood”)
Gimme 4 walls and a ceiling
2 laptops, 11 believers with no feelings, Insha'Allah;
I'll have Rome reeling
Satellite phones for my dealings
Spotless prayer rugs
Ammonium nitrate in the bathtub
Don't slam 'em doors, four maytags on
Forty nights straight, a true labor of love
Applied Science, Chemistry double major
More pure than hate, colder than anger
Made a timer out a CD changer,
Allah's A-team in blacked out vans
Come together like Hannibal plans
Cannibal Ox is on planes
That won't fly like V8 rockets
Synchronize watches on Madrid's trains
'Fore I rock away payphones, mad change
Suspicious, long distance
Karachi, Pakistan operative assistance
“Demolition Man”: he's walking dead
Staring at the Queensboro strand
Thinking cap on his head... (Billy Woods, “First Blood”)
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In “Slaughterhouse,” Billy Woods delivers a biopic deconstruction of the commercial rapper's life “back stage, behind the music,” where the political stakes of hip hop as a cultural commodity are worth “more than just words on a page.” He describes the commercial rap artists' thug life persona as a “bitter old masquerade,” with their existence doomed to being “dialectic slaves ever in the rack,” unable to overcome their sideshow act tied to the “mills in the briefcase” offered by the hip hop entertainment industry. He labels rappers as “the great pretenders” and their characteristic diamond engraved “ice grillz” as “new blackface,” with the sloganized couplet of “Live by the gun? / Trust me that Uzi weigh a ton” further signaling the theatricality of gangsta rap marketing.

The latter half of Woods' verse is reminiscent of the symbolic green light at the end of The Great Gatsby, in which “the American dream” is “written in stifling tenements by flicking florescent lights” (Billy Woods, “Slaughterhouse). In the case of the commercial gangsta rapper, “the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us” (Fitzgerald 143) is found in the selfishness of “B.M.W's sitting on the biggest kicks” that represent “every black man's wish personified” (Billy Woods, “Slaughterhouse). For Woods, these empty signifiers represent a distorted dream for the majority of the disenfranchised blacks in the United States, a group which he further as lost “in the dark, searching for that light switch” (Billy Woods, “Slaughterhouse”).

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Throughout the Flight Brothers' World Tour catalogue, but especially in their dubstep infused sophomore album Indonesia, Woods draws several parallels between various parts of the African diaspora, ranging from “child soldiers” that are “African Robotics” in Uganda to “baby faced lookouts” in New York City's drug-ridden midnight streets (“Low Tide”). A general theme that Woods articulates in respect to the African diaspora is a lack of centralized leadership in black communities, an absence with is correlated with an overabundance of child soldiers and “youngings [that] cut class to pledge blood,” groomed to commit violence at a moments notice (Billy Woods, “Jumpstreet”).

On Indonesia, Woods tropes on the figure of “the New Negro” who “got his swagger right watching Huey [Newton] hit that pipe” (Billy Woods, “Xanax”), and how the “Pepsi generation” of “Toys-R-Us kids / didn't grow up [but] did bids (Billy Woods, “Gatwick”).  Woods expresses similar sentiments in “Drought” about how kids “eyes numb” but how “that same PlayStation thumb can cock a gun,” with the logic being that “if we ain't getting out the slum / then why should you?” (Billy Woods, “Drought”). The most that Woods himself offers to a younger generation in terms of guidance and 'getting over' is found on “To Catch a Thief,” when he states:

My advice: stay in school, hit the books good
And marry that girl already
Option two: bake the pies, stay on the grass,
Tell Mom a few white lies, hit the ground running. (Billy Woods, “To Catch a Thief”)

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The third album in the World Tour series, Cape Verde, offers an introspective view of American life and current events through the conceptual lens of “a day in front of the TV” circa 2010. In an interview with the Village Voice concerning the theme of Cape Verde, Billy Woods states that “if you want to know about America, what better way than TV--that's how most of the world absorbs the idea of America. When I was growing up in Zimbabwe we still had G.I. Joe, Cosby Show, all that...So American TV, to an extent, is universal” (Billy Woods, Village Voice).

This universalizing sentiment associated with American TV is channeled through the intro tracks of “Reggie Miller”, “Golden Grams” and “Strangers With Candy,” which function as contemporary bildungsroman for the 21st century adolescent growing up in a world saturated with pop culture and high-fructose corn syrup.

The title to “Reggie Miller” is a reference to both low-grade marijuana and the 1970's Indiana Pacers shooting guard, functioning in the song as a nostalgic throwback to an time where watching “The Wonder Years” was the norm. Willie Green's signature organ pipes create a sonic space in which the Flight Brothers “juxtapose youthful reflection with the jadedness of old age,” where “it's a fine line between schwag and midgrade / Jail cells and heydays / Classics and stuff that's just old” (Billy Woods, “Reggie Miller”).

What results from the juxtaposition between old and new, as well as memory and souvenir, is the characterization of what Bernard Stiegler might refer to as the opposition between anamnesis and hypomnesis, whereby "we discover that a part of ourselves (like our memory) is outside of us," left in traces of objects that haunt us as living spectres, whether canonized or obsolete.

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“Golden Grams” has a similar thematic to the song “A Million Little Pieces” on Emergency Powers, where Priviledge re-appropriates the names of cereal brands to tell a larger tale of how “we savor these variety packs” in the first world spectacle of commodity fetishism. He elaborates in the chorus how “kids'll choose their own adventure” but be “minus the map,” only to “find their way right back” to the vicious circle underpinning late-capitalism's ideology of predatory greed and logic of endless accumulation, where you can end up “six feet under rocky roads over some cookie dough,” or cold hard cash.

 The Looney Toons samples at the beginning of “Golden Grams” détournés a seemingly innocent kind of neo-liberal ideology found in American animated cartoon characters, where Rocky and Bulwinkle dream of “[becoming] so rich that [they'll] have to hire people just to count [their] money.” Taken in the subversive context of the song, these samples of Saturday morning cartoons are deterritorialized from their childhood body of virtuosity, transformed and “re-membered” as a seditious form of capitalist propaganda.

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The songs “Jumpstreet,” “Good Country People,” and “B More” come in where “Drought” in Emergency Powers takes off, concerning tales of precarious drug deals sans the hyperbolic glory of gangsta rap era troping.  In fact, these songs produce just the opposite effect, by offering an introspective look into the drug dealer's paranoid psychology.

For example, the music video for “B More” contains super-close up shots of Billy Woods hiding in a safe house, where juxtaposed scenes of empty Heineken bottles, platters of cocaine, and mixtapes littered on the floor project the claustrophobic affect of the drug dealer's self-imposed prison.




Billy Woods further tropes on the drug dealer's internalized delusions in “B-More” by utilizing allusions to Edgar Allen Poe, specifically with regard to his most famous poem, “The Raven”:
Once upon a midnight dreary
While I pondered, weak and weary
Through bingy curtains
The movement of serpents lurking
Pinch-faced merchants
They have the last thing you need and
All it costs is everything you have,
Only the slave is truly free
Put pen to pad, but the truth never comes
Empty out the bag but instead of a boost your numb
And the raven/raving ain't done,
Perched above my chamber door, having his fun
Wings black as a dead son/sun. (Billy Woods, “B More”)
In addition, "B-More" doubles as slang for the city of Baltimore, Maryland, where the HBO television drama “The Wire” is set. Throughout its 5 season run, “The Wire” reveals “class issues and the social order of contemporary life” in Baltimore through a kaleidoscopic view of the city's larger organizational frameworks, where individuals are forced to “contend with whatever institution they are committed to,” whether it be the illegal drug trade or the city government and bureaucracy (The Wire Wiki).  Thus, the song “B More” features prominent samples of audio clips from “The Wire” as a warning against the dangers of hustling drugs in a vicious systemic cycle designed to get you killed, and where the chances for success are slim to none:

Live the life, lead the life, ain't no big thing -
He used to talk that shit all that time and believed it,
You know what I mean?
See, the thing is, you only got to fuck up once.
Be a little slow, be a little late, just once.
And how you ain't never gonna be slow? Never be late?
(Avon Barksdale, “The Wire”)

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In “No Spin Zone,” Priviledge takes a satirical saunter through the playland of cable TV's so-called political analysts. The producer BOND makes sure to accentuate “No Spin Zone's” satirical theme with embarrassing samples taken from the the O'Reilly Factor, one in particular which depicts the Culture Warrior “flipping out,” as per the YouTube video title, screaming “we'll do it live... WE'LL DO IT LIVE! FUCK IT! DO IT LIVE...Fucking thing SUCKS!” (Inside Edition). Priviledge openly mocks a swath of prominent right wing pundits “reading [off of the] teleprompters that spew lies” by depicting them in ridiculous situations, breaking through the fourth wall and toying with the hermetic seal of their feigned patriotism:

Now really I was giving it to Nancy Grace in the face,
Staring up at her picture frame, and inside,
Was Arianna Huffington with Ann Coulter
Posing like the chicks from that lesbian kiss poster.
(Priviledge, “No Spin Zone”)

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“To Catch a Thief” from Emergency Powers, co-titled “live from Wall Street, NYC,” captures the ruthless affect of late-capitalism's worst offenders over electronic bleeps and bloops that evoke the rattle of New York Stock Exchange ticker tape. Direct samples taken from speeches by corporate C.E.Os and U.S. Presidents, including George Bush Sr. and Ronald Reagan, harp on neo-liberal propaganda and speculative finance capital in-between verses concerning the disenfranchised blue collar worker's slippery slope to drug deals and armed robberies, as well as stories about fleeting encounters between out-of-work romantics.

The most solemn subject matter found in Cape Verde picks up where “To Catch A Thief” in Emergency Powers left off. “Wheel of Fortune” and “Travallier” depict an apocalyptic caricature of neo-liberal ideology in the wake of the financial crisis of 2007-2010, where the topography American life has shifted in accordance with the shock waves felt from government bailouts, the failure of banking institutions, and the collapse of the American housing bubble, "where a lot of families got screwed out their nest egg” (Priviledge).

The off-kilter beat produced by Nasa for “Wheel of Fortune” frames the financial crisis through audio samples taken from hysterical game show contestants on “Deal or No Deal,” with the implication being that average wage earning Americans have gone crazy and are ready to take whatever they can get in this time of financial uncertainty. Priviledge articulates a lyrical jigsaw puzzle that juxtaposes Bernie Madoff's billion dollar ponzi scheme to government bailouts, as well as America's precarious ties to the World Bank, just one of many quasi-governmental organizations known for manipulating the financial institutions of entire countries:

Now watch the ticker tape as it falls so fast
Credit to false swap stashed in a burlap sack out back
With a card attached that read
"Thanks for being a friend –
Love, U.S dot gov”
Now send it to the world bank on the hush hush
No muster fuss with us, large with fiddles
You not working get a job, sparkling wiggles*
You know its pretty criminal to leverage a principal
Thirty times over in a ponzi scheme
I've seen it in once in a Fonzie dream sequence
On an old sitcom with a grown up Opie. (Priviledge, “Wheel of Fortune”)

In “Wheel of Fortune” and “Travallier,” Billy Woods takes on various personas that characterize the systematic underpinnings of white collar crime, the dark side to speculative financialization, and America's addiction to predatory late-capitalist logic, even in a time when it seems most prudent to abandon these ideals.

In “Travallier” Billy Woods describes the figure of the globe trotting speculative financier as a “clockwork diplomatic” and the proud owner of a “Howard School of B Georgetown associates degree.” His business is in “strip mining the margins for dollar signs,” and to him the sound of “stock ticker” tape is like “XXX porn,” with his involvement in the “free market” being akin to a “crack” addiction (Billy Woods, “Travallier”).  The allusion is fitting, considering that global markets have been spiraling into an addiction for speculative capital since the Bretton Woods system of monetary policy management for industrialized states was dismantled in the 1970's, which simultaneously led to the termination of the U.S. gold standard.

In “Wheel of Fortune,” Billy Woods becomes a mouthpiece for money-making schemes and infomercials that lure the unsuspectingly desperate and fiscally ignorant into further and further debt:

Face foreclosure, it's the eye of the beholder
You see a boarded up duplex I see a copper mine
That's the power of positive thinking
That's the genius from my work from home
Online free money system
The road to perdition is paid with debt consolidation forms:
Arm, leg, and your first born
Midnight marauders, robo-calls from my answering machine
Piña coladas at the Marriott in Wichita Falls for a seminar
Living the dream, crunching the credit
Learn how to make so much money you cant spend it
As seen in USA Today...
Piled up like flap jacks, flipped his house like loose crack
Nigga, Rich Boi just bought a Cadillac
Two bedroom, two baths and hacky sack, black
I'll definitely holler when the SMB* bounce back.
*SMB = Small to Medium Businesses
(Billy Woods, “Wheel of Fortune”)
The musical contrast drawn between "Wheel of Fortune" and "Travallier" is that of the manic-depressive state of late-capitalism, where brief spurts of economic growth only signal the spasmic death throes of a consumer-based system in jeopardy of total collapse.


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Cape Verde ends with a self-referential audio sample alluding to the state of hip hop and the political potential of music in general, in which Pat Robertson, better known as right wing media mogul and owner of the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN), preaches:

"You know, I can't stand some of these churches today and all these rock bands. Even Al Sharpton, the great black leader said, “We are fed up with the filthiness of these songs, and all the vile language they use.” Someone said, “Do you believe there'll be music in hell?” Well, if it is it'll be rock n' roll and rap, and I make no apologies for saying that. 
"We've done away with the old hymns of the faith, the old rugged cross, I'd rather have Jesus; what have I to fear, what have I to dread? Nothing, I'm leaning on the ever lasting arms – you cant even get a decent message out in most of today's 'music,' and I'm not afraid to say it.” (Marion Gordon "Pat" Robertson, The 700 Club.)
Thankfully for us, rap groups such as the Super Chron Flight Brothers are putting out quality music with a decent message--one which they aren't afraid to say (or sample) either.

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Works Cited

Anonymous. "Super Chron Flight Brothers." Cooleh Magazine. 24 Aug. 2010. Web. 26 Nov. 2010. <http://www.coolehmag.com/frontEnd/booth.php>.

Anonymous. "Cannibal Ox | Definitive Jux Records."Definitive Jux Records. Web. 26 Nov. 2010. <http://www.definitivejux.net/jukies/cannibal-ox>.

Anonymous. "It's Been a Long Time Coming..." Backwoodz Studioz. 2002. Web. 26 Nov. 2010. <http://www.backwoodzstudioz.com/>.

Woods, Billy, Priviledge, Marq Spekt, and Hi-Coup. Emergency Powers: The World Tour. Super Chron Flight Brothers. BOND, 2007. CD.

Woods, Billy, and Priviledge. Indonesia. Super Chron Flight Brothers. Marmaduke, 2009. CD.

Woods, Billy, Priviledge, Marq Spekt, and Big Jus. Cape Verde. Super Chron Flight Brothers. BOND, Willie Green, 2010. CD.

Long, Nathaniel. "Super Chron Flight Brothers "Emergency Powers: The World Tour" Review." Hip hop Linguistic. 11 July 2007. Web. 26 Nov. 2010. <http://www.hiphoplinguistics.com/reviews/albums/2007/07/super-chron-flight-brothers-emergency-rations-the-world-tour>.

Kantor, Matthew. "Reviews: Super Chron Flight Brothers: Emergency Powers -The World Tour." Allhiphop. 4 June 2007. Web. 26 Nov. 2010. <http://allhiphop.com/stories/reviewsmusic/archive/2007/06/04/18136948.aspx>.

Ducker, Jesse. "Fifth Element Online :: Super Chron Flight Brothers-Cape Verde (2010) « Fifth Element Blog." Fifth Element Online :: Home Page. 28 July 2010. Web. 26 Nov. 2010. <http://fifthelementonline.com/blog/super-chron-flight-brothers-cape-verde-2010/>.

Weingarten, Christopher. "Download "Reggie Miller," Super Chron Flight Brothers' Wonder Years-Sampling Stroll Down Rap Nostalgia Lane - New York Music - Sound of the City." The Village Voice Blogs. 3 June 2010. Web. 26 Nov. 2010. <http://blogs.villagevoice.com/music/2010/06/download_reggie.php>.

Anonymous. "Super Chron Flight Brothers | Indonesia." Highsnobiety. 21 Apr. 2009. Web. 26 Nov. 2010. <http://highsnobiety.com/columns/timbrodhagen/2009/04/21/super-chron-flight-brothers-indonesia/>.

Pettman, Dominic. Love and Other Technologies: Retrofitting Eros for the Information Age. New York: Fordham UP, 2006. Print.

Bahn, Jimmy. "YouTube - First Blood Terrorist." YouTube - Broadcast Yourself. 6 Mar. 2008. Web. 26 Nov. 2010. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zIRIT3pWGo0>.

Fitzgerald, F. Scott, and Matthew J. Bruccoli. The Great Gatsby. New York: Scribner, 1996. Print.

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Photo Credits

Lotte Grønkjær, “The World Tour” May 21, 2008 via Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution.

Tim Boyd, “Oprah Freaks Out Over A Category” January 26, 2006 via Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution.

Ukhomeoffice, “Cannabis plants in box” September 13, 2010 via Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution.

Jon Feinstein, “grillz” February 1, 2009 via Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution.

Hdptcar, “Demobilize child soldiers in the Central African Republic” June 20, 2007 via Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution.

Daniel Horacio Agostini, “Kicking TelevisionJanuary 19, 2006. via Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution. 

DelScorchoSauce, “’That’s All, Folks!’” October 27, 2007 via Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution.

Theleetgeeks, “Bill O’reilly Goes Crazy on The Set of Inside Edition” May 13, 2008 via Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution.

Nationaal Archief, “Cleaner sweeping the floor after Wall Street crash, 1929” January 20, 2011 via Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution.

    “Representing That World Town”: M.I.A. and Kala / Arular

    With alternative forms of imaginative labor, economies of scale, and modes of distribution available to the post-industrial hip hop generation of the new millenium, the meaning of "underground" and "mainstream" in the American mediasphere are losing their once clear cut significance. Just a decade prior, the only way for an artist to get national exposure was to “sell out” and sign a deal with a major record label. In contrast, the contemporary relationship between popular music and the populous is no longer the one-way street managed by the music industry's corporate gatekeepers, as I have demonstrated in my analysis of the street driven "mixtape hustle" and its post-millennial relationship to internet file sharing; a shift which has largely democratized the consumption, production, and distribution of hip hop culture and music.

    Maya Arulpragasam, who goes by the moniker of "M.I.A." (for Missing In Action,) is a seminal example of a post-millennial hip hop artist that blurs the line between the underground and mainstream, and who stages provocative symbolic border crossings within her performance art. According to M.I.A., "It's not a war between the mainstream and underground... It's about polluting the mainstream, or hacking into it" (SPIN). As such, her particular form of "agitprop pop" is an eclectic mix of Madonna-esque sensibility, hip hop gangsta troping, and militant third world slogans serendipitously packaged as a first world pop commodity. M.I.A.'s mash up functions as the monstrous/chimeric return of the becoming-global Other into the first world's sterile signifying space of the Spectacle, in which nothing is supposed to "happen" until it is represented as such (Marcus 98). Her aesthetic functions as a symbolically disruptive crossing-over of genres and discursive genealogies which is appropriately reflective of contemporary events, in which the the decline of the United States as dominant economic hegemon are disrupting the taken-for-granted discursive ideologies of the neo-liberal/terror stricken "global" as such.

    Before becoming a musician, M.I.A. began her career as a graffiti based visual artist at London's Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, where she earned a degree in fine-arts and film production (SPIN, VIBE). While shooting a documentary of fellow graduate electroclash artist Peaches, Maya was introduced to the Roland MC-505 sequencer/drum machine. Out of boredom, she began producing demo recordings in her studio apartment, developing into the singles “M.I.A.” and “Galang” (SPIN Magazine).

    Her sample-heavy bricolage is a tribute to Public Enemy, whom Maya grew up listening to in the U.K. after she fled Sri Lanka with her family as a refugee during the intensification of the ethnic Civil War there in 1986. Public Enemy is a cornerstone in the political rap genre, known for their 300+ sample sonic collages (courtesy of Terminator X) and their consciously infused lyricism (via Chuck D), which champions black nationalism and an ideology of systemic justice for the disenfranchised (Chang 318). It is thus that M.I.A.'s Chuck D/Terminator X inspired music is one that champions resistance and solidarity on behalf of people at the global ‘margins,’ with the aim of causing ideological and aesthetic tension in the American mainstream through a concoction of provocative signifiers and styles.

    M.I.A.'s aesthetics, made up of catchy electronic pop beats infused with politically cryptic messages designed to "hack into the mainstream" and to "give war a chance," presents an ideological challenge to first world discourses on nationalism, particularly with how nations such as the United States define themselves against the generalized 'Other' of "terrorism.” In 2004-2005, M.I.A. created a "near hysterical buzz" on the blogosphere with the sardonically titled mixtape "Piracy Funds Terrorism," the title of which pokes fun at American policies on intellectual property theft, and specifically how the entertainment industry's lost profits from illegal peer-to-peer file sharing is in current reactionary discourse mutually linked to the destruction of American ideals and safety in a post-9/11 age. The tape contains sneak peek remixes of songs from her first full length album Arular, named after her father's code name in the Eelam Revolutionary Organization of Students (EROS), a separatist movement in Sri Lanka that fought for an independent Tamil state from the ruling Sinhalese population in the 1980's. (SPIN Magazine).

    M.I.A. has received major flak from music critics and Sri Lankans alike regarding both her father's militant Tamil ties and references/images of tigers in her cover art and music. Some, including fellow Sri Lankan artist named DeLon, have accused her of proliferating support for the Tamil Tigers, "one of the top terrorists groups on the FBI's most wanted list":

    These people try to link me to the Tamil Tigers, then link them to Al Qaeda, which is ridiculous. It sounds small, but I'm pretty sure DeLon has made it so I can never go to Sri Lanka again. And If I can be called a terrorist for just saying what I say, I feel for the people in Sri Lanka who don't have a name or a lawyer or who aren't a British citizen. If you live in a village there and get called a terrorist, you're dead. (M.I.A., Interview with Papermag 29, Nov 2007)

    The song "Sunshowers" on Arular functions as a self-conscious rejoinder to M.I.A.'s critics who accuse her of being a terrorist, and is a larger critique of how "you can't separate the world into two parts like that, good and evil," particularly with reference to the Orientalist fashion in which "America has successfully tied all these pockets of independence struggles, revolutions and extremists into one big notion of terrorism" (web.archive.org). The song begins with the lines "To Congo / To Columbo / Can't stereotype my thing yo," which is self-referential in the sense that this song can't be stereotyped, either as a pop song or as advocating a stance "for" or "against" terrorism. Though there are references to terrorist tropes that play into her critics' expectations ("You wanna win a war? / Like P.L.O. I don't surrendo"), she also subverts these expectations by humanizing the narrative which turns the 'Other' into monsters, taking the perspective of a man who was killed for simply associating with people who fit terrorist profiles:

    He told them he didn't know them

    He wasn't there they didn't know him

    They showed him a picture then

    Ain't that you with the muslims? (M.I.A., “Sunshowers”)

    The chorus, sampled from a pop song by Dr Buzzard's Original Savannah Band, transforms the terrorist's enmity born from injustice into sugary disco-cliche, rendering it's searing malice present in it's seeming absence:

    The sunshowers that fall on my troubles

    Are over you my baby

    And some showers I'll be aiming at you

    'Cos I'm watching you my baby. (M.I.A., “Sunshowers”)

    To complicate the discourse of terror further, the man who was killed for looking like a terrorist is described as having "colgate on his teeth / and Reebok Classic on his feet,” who also works “at a factory” where “he does Nike / and then helps the family” (M.I.A., “Sunshowers”). These subversions and détournements of terrorist sentiments into and out of tropes signifying American capitalist production problematizes the ties between first world and third world discursive ideologies, bringing a sense of personal depth and historical complexity to political issues which have otherwise been "stereotyped," categorized, and "made into good and evil."

    The political potency of M.I.A.'s aesthetics is part and parcel to the multifaceted nature of her work, which borrows, remixes, and represents sounds and concepts from several global localities. Her sonic collage can best be described as world music with a vengeance, a kind of ambivalent pop toting hip hop's stylistic vigilance, resulting in a mix that invokes political integrity in the face of many seeming contradictions. In an interview with the website Papermag, M.I.A. defends herself against critics who say she’s “sold out” by framing her corporate-sponsored mash up music as social experiment:

    Every bit of music out there that’s making it into the mainstream is really about nothing. I wanted to see if I could write songs about something important and make it sound like nothing. And it kind of worked. It sounds like a pop song, but if you really listen to the lyrics, it’s about what I see on the telly and news and what’s going on. (M.I.A., Interview with Papermag 29, Nov 2007.).

    Over the years, M.I.A. has been branded as "world music" by various music critics. I want to go further and suggest that M.I.A.’s remixes represent a kind of "worlding" music which symbolically refracts how various subjects within the globalized world filter information, culture, and economics, re-defining themselves according to "the crossroads, the space of convergence and endless possibility; the place where we put down and discard the unnecessary in order to pick up that which is necessary" (Weems 180). The prime example of M.I.A.'s "worlded" music is found in her sophomore album, Kala. Though originally set to work on Kala in Virginia with hip hop super producer Timbaland in 2005, she was denied a U.S. working visa due to “immigration issues,” which some suspect have to do with her references to the P.L.O in “Sunshowers”.

    Fortunately, as a result of this denial of entry onto American soil, "the recording of Kala brought M.I.A. to Trinidad, Liberia, India, Jamaica, Australia, and Japan," the album’s multilayered composition reflecting M.I.A.'s pamimpcestual journey through these lands:

    "Every song has a layer of some other country on it. It’s like making a big old marble cake with lots of different countries and influences. Then you slice it up and call each slice a song." Kala thus samples and remixes musical and cultural influences from around the globe, with intricate urumee drums from Tamil culture patterned over Baltimore club hits (“Bird Flu”), Sri Lankan temple music mashed up with electronic hi-hats and breakbeats (“World Town”), and Australian didgeridoos (“Mango Pickle Down River”) dancing alongside revamped disco hits (“Jimmy”) and British warehouse rave throwbacks (“XR2”).

    To do the work of "crossing over" linguistically as well as sonically, M.I.A. takes the hip hop trickster figure of the "style chameleon," incorporating it's conceptual dynamism into the highly territorialized symbolic discourses of terrorism, pop music, gangsta rap, and the third world, so as to unmoor the ideological "point de capitons" that keeps these terms situated within their Americanized perspective of the global (Slavoj Zizek, “Key Ideas”). In the Americanized view of the global, economic and political disparity locate the globally marginalized as a voiceless "Other" to be exploited/"freed" through neo-liberal globalization, or dominated through force (the "with or against us" discourse that labels people as terrorists, via the image-event of 9/11). What is at stake in M.I.A.'s chimeric aesthetic is how the global "Other," which in its broad ideological solidarity encompasses a wide range of political and ethnic groups (aboriginal Australians, immigrant Africans, girls in the Amazon, "Boyz" from Jamaica,) functions and negotiates within and against the forces of first-world privatization, the Spectacle, commodity fetishism, and neo-colonial domination.

    For example, in the song "World Town," M.I.A. lyrics draw attention to the economic exploitation of third world countries by the first world's "corporate jackals," who exploit and privatize the third world's national assets under the guise of benevolent philanthropy (John Perkins, Speaking Freely). Over militant Indian drums and flat vocal affect, M.I.A. enters into the persona of a disenfranchised third world citizen "Dead from the waist down" and "Sick of all the shit that's keeping me down" (M.I.A., “World Town”). When she raps, "Look at what you did, you done it before / Every little dollar just keeps me down more," it is a reference to the economic disparity that is masqueraded over in "charitable donations" and "plans for building infrastructure" from the same first-world corporations that plunder and privatize national assets in the first place, causing widespread poverty in the name of quarterly profits. With sampled click-clacks of semi-automatic weapons being loaded, the song posits an ideological solidarity among child soldiers that "represent the World Town," with their "Hands up / Guns out," who as a product of first world abuse simply won't take it anymore. The song "Bucky Done Gun" has similar sentiments of armed resistance against the first world:

    Can I get control

    Do you like me vulnerable

    I 'm armed and I'm equal

    More fun for the people. (M.I.A., “Bucky Done Gun”)

    Coupled with lines like ""I'll hard drive your bit / I'm battered by your sumo grip,” and Lucky I like feeling shit / My stamina can take it,” as well as"Heavy weight wrestler / Fight me in your comforter / Let you be superior / I'm filthy with the fury ya," what makes “Bucky Done Gun” particularly complex is that these rebellious sentiments are framed in sexual tropes of rough sex, signifying the relationship between the first world and the third world as mutually complicit in the same system of domination, with both first-world dominators and third-world dissidents gaining a form of pleasure or fulfillment through it (the former through exploitation, the latter through unerring righteousness born in fire).

    In the song "Hussel," M.I.A. takes gangsta rap tropes that have been "shopworn, depleted, and theatricalized" in American media and reterritorializes these emptied signifiers into a worlded signified, where African immigrants as well as African Americans have to "Hussel" in order to live (Jonah Weiner, “Do Real Rappers Rap?”). Taken in an international context, the "Hussel" takes on various forms, ranging from professional dentistry (“We do it cheap, hide our money in a heap / Send it home and make 'em study fixing teeth”) to selling bootlegged media (“Buy one song, get one free / Maybe me, a bootleg CD, colour TV”) to human smuggling [“We got barrels in the sea / It's big enough to take a whole family”) [M.I.A., “Hussel”]. These polysemous forms of viable exchange are a testament to the liquidity of capitalism and it's ruthless desire/drive towards endless accumulation and distribution, with anything and everything caught in-between capital's global crossfire considered fair game for trade .

    M.I.A.’s most popular single “Paper Planes” serves as the primary example of how her politicized aesthetics intentionally muddles the binary discourses that categorizes the first and third worlds, particularly with regard to the way in which immigrants and refugees in America are seen as people that do not “contribute to culture in any way. That they're just leeches that suck from whatever.” Commenting further on “Paper Planes”, which samples abrasive gun shots and cash registers in the chorus (“All I want to do is BANG BANG BANG BANG! / And KA-CHING! /And take your money,”) Maya is quoted as saying that “It’s up to you how you want to interpret. America is so obsessed with money, I’m sure they’ll get it" (M.IA., Interview with The Fader, 7 September 2010).

    Although the revitalized gangsta rap troping in “Paper Planes” can easily be read as a satiric representation of stereotypes against third world refugees and immigrants, the lyrics are ambivalent enough to leave room open for the opposite interpretation, in that this song may really be about the neo-liberal discourse of late capitalism that comes from the first world. References to being “high like planes,” having “visas in my name”, and “sitting on trains” conditions the ambivalent prehension of this song as one of various border crossings, with actors from both first and third worlds included. In addition, there are some lines in the first verses about “pirate skulls and bones” and “lethal poison through their system” that are subversive enough to suggest that the song represents an ideological solidarity amongst the globally marginalized (M.I.A., “Paper Planes”). However, this solidarity is problematized in the next verse, which references the United States' ill-fated obsession over oil, lucrative drug deals and it's role as the globalized center of exchange for fetishized commodities :

    No one on the corner has swagger like us

    Hit me on my burner prepaid wireless

    We pack and deliver like UPS trucks

    Already going to hell just pumping that gas. (M.I.A. “Paper Planes”) 

    The ideological ambivalence behind “Paper Planes” seems to posit the suggestion that actors from both sides of the first/third world divide contribute to the perpetuation of globalization as a dysfunctional and exploitative system. Thus, when M.I.A. proclaims “Third World Democracy” in the middle of the song, it is not definite what she is signifying to: does she mean to represent the kind of third world democracy we know today as neo-liberal globalization, in which the marginalized are given a false democracy through capitalism? Or does she mean to posit a new kind of third world democracy, a militant one born from the bottom up, which genuinely represents the economic and political interests of the disenfranchised?

    “The Ultimate Flow” of Capitalism: Clipse and Hell Hath No Fury

    The second model that mixtapes can follow is the one practiced by the Re-Up Gang and their We Got It 4 Cheap mixtape series, where the quality of lyricism can be akin to, or in this case even rivals, that of an official studio album. In comparison to Lil Wayne's output of 3 mixtapes a year, the Re-Up Gang has released an average of 1 mixtape every 2 years, but always with the intent to deliver a well polished, high quality product. The Re-Up Gang consists of Virginia duo/brothers the Clipse (Pusha T and Malice), as well as Philadelphia phenoms Ab-Liva and Sandman. The We Got It 4 Cheap series was born in hiatus between Clipse's first and second albums, and is a testament to how the mixtape circuit can operate beyond the marketing schemes of big record labels, and even function as a form of protest against the corporation.

    Despite the success of their first album, Lord Willin', Clipse's second album Hell Hath No Fury was shelved due to internal label politics with Jive Records, who had undergone a merger with Clipse's former label Arista Records. The logistics of this merger between sister companies prevented the release of Clipse's long awaited sophomore album for nearly 4 years. But instead of changing their style to fit Jive's brand of corporate pop ( which included acts like Brittney Spears, N*Synch, and the Backstreet Boys), the brothers Thornton decided to raise the ante instead and formed the Re-Up Gang, a mixtape quartet of “street musicians” who rap exclusively about selling cocaine.

    As a side project not officially endorsed by Jive Records, the Re-Up Gang was able to exercise their “criminal minded formalism” without restriction in their We Got It 4 Cheap mixtape series. The intensification of the Re-Up Gang's esoteric wordplay in these mixtapes is conflated only with their vehement claims to actually being drug dealers, to the point where the two worlds become indistinguishable:

    Neighborhood P nigga, don't get it fucked up

    36 O's still through the front tuck

    How could you ever think rap had me pumped up?

    When that powder white coming by the dump truck. (Pusha T, “Run This Shit”)

    The claims to moving powder, both lyrically and in actuality, during Clipse's hiatus serves two functions; the first as a form of damage control against Jive Records (“Nigga, fuck Zomba / I sell nose candy... / Willy Wonka", Zomba being a subsiduary of Jive); the second serving as a metaphor that connects selling rap and crack as part of the same economic labor, where rapping can serve as an alternative to dealing, and vice versa. This latter function of crack/rap as being alternative hustles is revealed in the first song on Hell Hath No Fury, aptly titled after the mixtape series We Got It 4 Cheap, where Pusha T states that “A four eleven Cuban helped us weather the storm / Pyrex and powder, it was back to the norm / Through all the adversity the fury was born” (Pusha T, “We Got It 4 Cheap”)..

    By the time the official Hell Hath No Fury was released in 2006, it had undergone several rewrites, reflecting the darkness and animosity between Clipse and their new found corporate masters. The tone of Clipse's second album channels a much colder worldview than their first, and is as relentless a manifestation of gangsta tropes about hustling free base as could be expected in an era where the crack epidemic has winded down and the black market sales of cocaine has evened out (Coates, “Keeping it Unreal”). Although Clipse released the highly acclaimed “Grindin” on Lord Willin, a single specifically about selling crack on the streets of Virginia, it was in Hell Hath No Fury that 'crack rap' found its lyrical renaissance, with the brothers Thornton waxing poetic on a set of gangsta tropes long due for a stylistic overhaul.

    In Hell Hath No Fury, Clipse revels in the artifice of rapping about selling cocaine at a international level. They utilize cryptic references to high end luxury commodities from Europe and Asia to paint a convincing picture of the dealer's life of riches, including “Ferraris and Salvador Dalis,” Versache models, “Dior whores,” Japanese Bapes (“Bathing Apes”), as well as “PETA screamin' murder. / Furs you never heard of” (Malice, “Momma I'm Sorry”). In “Ride Around Shining,” the global circulation of cocaine capitalism reaches its symbolic apex, where real time stops (“so much ice in they Rollies the shit don't tick man” / “minute hand is like Parkinsons”) and movement in space slows to a crawl (“float around in the greatest of Porsches / feel like a chuck wagon cause I'm on twelve horses”), the lyrics matched only by a beat consisting of an ominous synth, in which nothing but the pierce of sweeping piano strings plays.

    In “Keys Open Doors”, the title itself a pun on how distributing kilos of cocaine can new avenues of wealth, an angelic hymn turned daemonic chant is designed to “make ya skin crawl” over lyrical images of the dealer's “life through the windshields of choppers” (Pusha T, “Keys Open Doors). Fully conscious yet relentless in their wordplay, Clipse takes you behind the scenes of the coke hustle like a highlight reel, where there's “so much white you might think ya Holy Christ is near,” and where they “cook money clean through Merrill Lynch / accountant just gasp at the smell of it” (Pusha T, “Keys Open Doors”). Following the stone cold catch phrase of “money's the leash, drag a bitch by the dog collar”, the song “Dirty Money” turns “college hos” and “stripper bitches” into disposable commodities, where both the ruthless drug dealer and the gold-digging whore are nothing but actors playing roles in a game of “money falling out of tree” (Malice, “Dirty Money”). The production for the album's single “Mr. Me Too” harps on a decontextualized white background and a minimalist soundscape in which global signifiers of wealth (cocaine, Ferarrais, Versacci, etc) float around in capital's claustrophobic anti-productive recording surface / miraculating machine space. Like “Mr. Me Too,” the track “Ain't Cha” is a sangfroid acknowledgment of Clipse being trendsetters for a generation of street hustlers, who are “Tryna get some good fame / Slang in the rain / [To] get a big chain” (Malice, “Ain't Cha”).

    What separates Clipse and the Re-Up Gang from their “so-called peers” like Lil Wayne is that they promise “through sheer volume and detail of drug talk, [they] can rehabilitate rap by reconnecting gangsta signifiers—shopworn, depleted, and theatricalized—to their pungent, gritty signifieds” (Jonah Weiner, “Do Real Rappers Rap?”). Pusha T confirms this in an interlude on We Got It 4 Cheap Vol 2, in which he refers to Re-Up Gang as “the Black Cards,” a reference to the American Express Black Card, where “the value of these motherfucking verses are 100% guaranteed,” both as a language for and an acknowledgment of street hustler authenticity. By revaluing the currency of gangsta rap tropes which have been watered down into stylish caricature (“niggas too high on they stilts;” Lil Wayne, Soulja Boy) and mere theatricality (“niggas dunce cappin and kazooin;” Young Jeezy, Rick Ross), Clipse and the Re-Up Gang are able to bring back a spirit of urgency to “street music” as a whole, the kind of urgency found with N.W.A and their aesthetic ethos of instant gratification and excess.

    “I really feel like its the beginning of the end for a lot of motherfuckers. Think about it – Live nigga rap is back! All that “get over” shit, all that “super stupid shit,” that shit is done – that shit is done. Keep it real...I rhyme for my niggas on the corner, all 20,000 of 'em. 20,000 money making brothers on the corner. Lets go.” (Pusha T, “20K Intro”)

    According to Louis Chude Sokei, signifying is a practice “in which hyperbolic speech and disturbing images are necessary in the attempt to articulate revolutionary desires without a revolutionary politics.” (Worlding 135). The Clipse and their “excessification” of the coke rap genre functions as a type of revolutionary signification for disenfranchised street hustlers, one that is the inversion of Outkast's creative appetition, in which the patterned contrasts of variations of a theme (selling cocaine) makes for novel concepts and musical chimeras. The Clipse's inverted version of creative appetition is to take one subject, the illicit exchange of cocaine, and to expound on it with encyclopaedic wordplay, esoteric references, and polysemous beats, so as to create a revitalized language of signification which symbolically counters/negates/reverses the dominant economic reality of young black males, in which some of the only viable/lucrative options for making money (rapping and drug dealing) are outlawed, censored, or “shopworn and depleted” in theatrics (Jonah Weiner, “Do Real Rappers Rap?”).

    The picture that Clipse and the Re-Up Gang paint of their personas as coke dealers functions in a similar manner to that of the anti-heroes in blaxploitation films and spaghetti westerns, “both of which critiqued American culture and politics by reversing, rejecting, and revising its moral structures” (138). In the case of the Clipse and Re-Up Gang, this moral reversal of the status quo takes on the form of the raw celebration of cocaine as an international commodity, which functions as an inside out reading of gangsta rap's internalization of predatory street capitalism restructured to fit the promises of wealth and freedom in a globalized world. As a type of “post-ideological resistance” that offers” (136) an alternate reading of dominant stereotypes of black men” in the absence of conventional employment opportunities, Clipse's figure of the international hustler channels a revolutionary impulse within their young black male constituency to escape the confines of disenfranchisement in the hood. Malice articulates this position best in his verse on “Momma I'm So Sorry,” when he conflates selling coke and rapping as one and the same hustle:

    Youngin', learn from me, let's not be at odds

    We're more likely than not, two peas of a pod

    Same hustle, 'cept my hustle now flows

    I once gave it away, at 30 grams an O

    That accounts for all them days in the cold

    Feels like kissing cake mix, can't wait to lick the bowl

    But it's a bigger picture, homes trust I done seen it

    From Frankfurt to Cologne, Oslo to Sweden

    From Italy's Milan to the shores of Napoli

    Now I consider Ferrari and Salvador Dali's

    I'm no longer local, my thoughts are global

    That's why I seen distance, son expand ya vision

    Even adored by Norwegian woman, blonde hair and blue eyes

    I'm getting back with a vengeance. (Malice, “Momma I’m Sorry”)

    In “The Ultimate Flow,” Malice claims that he's “accustomed to a certain way of living” and that he “only knows] two ways of getting – either wrap or unwrap.” In either case, there is “a sense of systemic injustice allowing even the most uncomfortable viewer to sympathize with (or justify) the criminal” (137); specifically for Clipse and the Re-Up Gang, this tale of systemic injustice takes on the form of their disillusionment with Jive Records and the shady hip hop's industry's ability to deliver on promises of wealth:

    The wall's removed and now I see

    My leg was pulled, the joke's on me (haha)

    So heartbreakin, like lovin a whore

    Might hurt ya once, but never no more

    It's like tryin to fly but they clippin your wings

    And that's exactly why the caged bird sings

    Who can nickname it, the shame rings true

    Seems to me reparations are overdue

    I done been to the top, I done sipped the juice

    And with that bein said, bird crumbs'll never do

    Even on my last not a penny in the bank

    I'ma stand on my own, so thanks but no thanks

    Keep the pranks as I bid farewell

    I gotta answer to Marcus and Jennel

    And to little brother Terrence who I love dearly so

    If ever I had millions never would you sell blow, never (Malice, “We Got It 4 Cheap”)

    By referencing Maya Angelou, black disenfranchisement, and familial obligations along with “the excessively hyperbolic gestures” of selling coke on a globalized scale, Clipse speaks “for the very general of race in America” within a “particular universe of moral reversal,” in which power is in the hands of whoever controls the most capital (138). Here with Clipse as in Lil Wayne's Dedication 2, the selling of crack/cocaine gets conflated with the labor of rap, and vice versa, as mutual halves of the same hustle; a way to make the absolute best of a bad situation through the anti-hero's stylish ruggedness, sheer determination, and wit. The hustler emanates a quasi-romantic notion of a will to power/”amoral individualism in which greed, revenge, and raw power become the core values that uphold the style aesthetic.” (Chude Sokei 154), one that young black male audiences can connect with in terms of “authenticity”/keeping it real to the streets, in which there is no option but to hustle. “You can't say that it don't beat starving,” says Pusha T on “The Ultimate Flow”. To put it shortly, drug dealing and mixtape hustling exist as viably lucrative alternatives in a post-industrial world where there aren't a lot of options for young black males to have more legal/legitimized work. In the case of rappers like Clipse in the coke rap genre, who conflate the economic stakes of two worlds through wordplay and signification, the anti-hero aesthetic of the ruthless hustler becomes a way of exercising power against the dominant and globalized forces that be, a way of recuperating the black male's political and economic impotence with unrelenting stylish wit that turns the tables on the status quo. When Pusha T claims on We Got It 4 Cheap Vol 3 that he 'Prepared for the worst, that blood's on Jive's hands/See, when the 'Fury' dropped, so did 80,000 grams/ Now add that to my 80,000 fans,” it is simultaneously a form of swaggering and an acknowledgment of the dynamism inherent within the anti-hero hustler's aesthetic, his ability adapt to an absence in ideological leadership or conventional labor.

    “Hustler Musik” and Mixtapes: Lil Wayne and Dedication 2

    Two years after George W. Bush was re-elected as President of the United States in 2006, an up-and-coming rapper from the Dirty South named Lil' Wayne emerged in the American mainstream as the self-proclaimed “Best Rapper Alive” and “President” of Cash Money Records. Wayne achieved national fame through a widespread network of media exposure, which not only took form in numerous guest collaborations with rappers such as Fat Joe, Rick Ross, and Young Jeezy, but also in the creation of two popular series of underground mixtapes, The Drought 1-3 and Dedication 1-3. These full length 'promotional' discs, distributed for free on the internet and for a nominal fee in hip hop mom and pop stores, created a market saturated with Lil Wayne's persona and the post-gangsta revitalization of hip hop’s “Get Rich or Die Tryin’” thematic, the “Best Rapper Alive” moniker a signifier that the masses would vote for and buy into with the success of the multi-platinum album The Carter 3 in 2006.

    Beginning with the emergence of early hip hop culture in the 1980's, but especially since the advent of internet file sharing in the post-millennium, mixtapes have been an integral source of exposure, audience creation, and income for both underground MCs and corporate sponsored rappers alike. Mixtapes have come far from their pristine origins in the Bronx, where lo-fi cassette recordings of MCs and DJs at block parties were traded amongst hip hop’s early die-hards in the hopes of recapturing the magic of the moment.

    In comparison, the making of the contemporary mixtape has become an underground commodity and an entrepreneurial endeavor, where professional DJs will “jack beats” from the most popular hip hop/pop songs at the time and remix them with exclusive verses from rappers like Lil Wayne. The practice of “jacking beats” carries the benefit of significantly cutting down on the DJ's production time and costs, and allowing MCs to come up with novel remixes of the same song, but it is also a practice that is illegal according to copyright law. Nevertheless, without an official code of conduct and with almost no respect towards intellectual property rights, the underground mixtape circuit functions as a no-holds-barred, anything goes aesthetic arena, in which the streets and the fans, not the corporate gatekeepers, are the judges of who or what is or isn't hot in hip hop.

    Mixtapes occupy what Jonah Weiner has dubbed hip hop's 'minor leagues': a highly competitive freestyle forum where rappers show off their lyrical prowess and pay homage, call out, or one-up the original artist on their own beats/songs. They are distinct from official albums in that mixtapes are more street-driven, freestyled, and packaged on the fly, operating in a grey-area economy that sidesteps the mainstream distribution networks of the corporate record labels and their all-or-nothing blockbuster mentality. As a quasi-legal source of income, it is possible for DJs and rappers to make a better living off of the mixtape hustle then it is to go through the multimillion dollar advertising campaigns of the corporate hip hop world, which often take huge cuts for “advertising costs” from the artists’ profits:

    “One day I really sat down and did the numbers. You get a dollar per record, and after the recording and promotion of the record, it might be $800,000 spent, which comes out of your cut. You sell 500,000 records, which means you wind up owing the record company $300,000. You’ve blown the record up, toured all around the world, how in the hell do you owe them $300,000? If they sold half a million records and got $9 per unit, they made nearly $5 million! And you still owe them!!! (DJ Jazzy Jeff, “Stealing Empire.”)

    The corporate hip hop industry has turned a blind eye to the technical illegality of the bootlegged mixtape because it also functions as the primary “promotional” means through which rappers give a taste of their work to the audiences/constituencies that support them. The mixtape circuit is also one of the only way for up-and-comers to establish a credible presence in the hip hop world. A seminal example is how 50 Cent got discovered with the buzz from his mixtape “Power Of The Dollar,” which featured the controversial song “How To Rob,” a ballad in which 50 Cent fantasizes about mugging prominent Hip Hop and R&B figures for their cash This track was successful in creating enough of a buzz that established rappers Jay-Z, Kurupt, and Ghostface Killah all responded with their own rebuttals, confirming through negative prehension 50' cent's newfound established presence in the hip hop world:

    Aiyyo the bottom line is I'ma crook with a deal

    If my record don't sell I'ma rob and steal

    You better recognize nigga I'm straight from the street

    These industry niggaz startin to look like somethin to eat. (50 Cent, “How to Rob”)

    There are two models to follow at either extreme of the mixtape hustle. The first approach involves mass production, or getting as many verses over as many hot beats out in the streets as quickly as possible. This practice began with ‘DJ Clue?' in the mid 1990's, who legitimized the mixtape as a hustle in its own right through selling 1 million units of his “The Professional” series, and who is credited with having produced over 200 mixtapes in his lifetime. This is the path that Lil Wayne has taken in terms of saturating the market with his omnivorous presence, who since 2003 has released around 3 full length mixtapes a year. In terms of mass production, almost no one can lay claim to having matched the amount of output Lil Wayne has delivered in the last decade. Around the time that his mixtapes Dedication 2 and The Drought 3 were released in 2006, Wayne had created so much buzz in hip hop's beehive that audiences were forced to prehend his presence, whether they loved to hate him or hated to love him.

    Lil Wayne lives up to the “lil” in his moniker in that he has been a signed rapper since he was 9 years old. Growing up in poverty in Hollygrove, New Orleans, he was taken under the wing of rapper Birdman and C.E.O of Cash Money Records, Bryan “Baby” Williams, who Wayne refers to in his lyrics as a father. As a result of these extenuating circumstances, where the record label becomes a kind of surrogate family, Lil Wayne has been raised as a workaholic who lives and breathes in the recording booth, whether its in one of his “mansions in Miami” or on one of his tour buses, which comes fully equipped with a portable studio. Wayne claims on a Dedication 2 interlude that “you never retire out of what you do, if what you do is your life; rapping is my life” and that “I'll retire out when I die out” (Lil Wayne, “Weezy on Retirement”).

    The particular brand of mass produced rap that Lil' Wayne popularized in his mixtape series consists of punchlines and non-sequiturs delivered in a distinctly southern drawl, in which he puns on familiar gangsta tropes including selling cocaine (“Sit it in the pot and watch me rise to power / Getting off twenty American pies an hour”), smoking dro, “working them bitches”, semi-automatic “weaponries,” and last but not least, getting money “like Daman and Keenan (the Wayans brothers)” (Lil Wayne, “They Still Like Me”).

    While Wayne’s fast food lyricism often bursts with an absurd sense of humor and unexpected turns of phrase (“I'm a G / And you ain't gotta know the alphabet to see,”) his surface-level wordplay comes off as more of a cartoon than authentically “thug life”, a testament to the post-gangsta era of the rapper as a stylish caricature (Lil Wayne, “Ride 4 My Niggaz”). There is much left to be desired after Wayne’s brand of juvenile swagger is digested, in terms of food for thought or more self -conscious subject matter; but in fairness, this formula is intentional, in that Wayne's bite sized tracks always leave you waiting for more of the same.

    Released in 2006 as the last song on Wayne's mixtape Dedication 2, “Georgia...Bush” offers an unexpected turn towards the more “conscious” rap indicative of the underground groups I have analyzed prior. “Georgia...Bush” is a scathing protest track that speaks out against the government in general and President Bush in particular for their responsibility in the scale of the disaster that was Hurricane Katrina in 2005, where 1,836 people lost their lives either during the hurricane or in the aftermath of the floods. Lil Wayne critiques how the levees were allowed to break as a kind of conspiracy theory against poor southern blacks:

    So what happened to the levies, why wasn't they steady?

    Why wasn't they able to control this?

    I know some folk that live by the levy

    That keep on tellin me they heard explosions. (Lil Wayne, “Georgia...Bush”)

    Wayne also cites another disaster in Louisiana’s history, Hurricane Betsy, drawing conspicuous parallels to the two events: “Same shit happened back in Hurricane Betsy / 1965, I ain't too young to know this / Young President Johnson but now it's 'Geeoorrggiiaa' Bush” (Lil Wayne, “Georgia...Bush”).. The sample “Georgia...” taken from “Georgia on my Mind” is a haunting remix of the legacy of racism in the South, a reference to Ray Charles in the 1960's and his refusal to play to a Jim Crow segregated audience in the state of Georgia. This reference works in Wayne's song as an implicit accusation of bigotry against George W. Bush in particular (“the one with the suit / thick white skin and his eyes bright blue”) and white supremacy in general (“We see them Confederate flags, you know what it is / A white cracker motherfucker that probably voted for him,”) channeling sentiments that Kanye West may have summed up best: “George Bush does not care about black people.”

    “Georgia...Bush” runs at 8 minutes long, the track consisting of a second half that switches gears and collapses back into the juvenile gangsta trooping indicative of Wayne's obsession with capital when he raps:

    Money money money get a dollar and a dick

    Weezy Baby that crack, muthafucka get a fix

    Got money out the ass, no homo but I'm rich

    Bout to go get surgery and put some diamonds on my wrist (Lil Wayne, “Georgia...Bush”)

    This uneasy tension between juvenile gangsta rap troping and serious 'conscious' rejoinders about Hurricane Katrina is found throughout all of Dedication 2, with positively charged messages directed at the disaster's victims scattered between Lil Wayne's swaggering. The most significant of these asides is an interlude directed at the “young money makers” out there on the streets of New Orleans, who Wayne claims he is proud to see “getting money in different ways” (Lil Wayne, “Dedication After Disaster”). The resulting collapse back into the economic grind is indicative not only of the state of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, but of where rappers and young black males stand as a whole in relation to American late-capitalism's status quo. The ideology of the hustle that Wayne posits isn't far off from most other rappers advocating the hustle – of drugs, of mixtapes, of rap - as a viable/lucrative source of income, as a way to make the best of a bad situation in which black disenfranchisement and low unemployment are a daily reality. When DJ Drama says “Oh...you thought we was done?,” it functions as a kind of provocation to work harder and keep on hustling by whatever means necessary, where if you “See us in ya city man, give us a pound / Cuz if a nigga still movin then he holdin it down” (Lil Wayne, “Georgia...Bush”). Even in just this line, the term “pound” functions as intentionally ambiguous doublespeak, alluding to both a literal “pound” of narcotics, as well as a “pound” of the fists, signifying mutual respect and a sense of comradery amongst the poundees.

    “Accidents Don’t Happen” in the Spectacle: El-P and Fantastic Damage

    Although Eminem's emergence in the American mainstream led to a dialectical reversal in hip hop's racially defined discourse of black authenticity – or ”keeping it real” - the truth is that the game itself was still one of political economy, played out according to the rules of record sales determined by Nielsen SoundScan and hip hop's corporate gatekeepers. For all of the rebellious politics and anti-censorship messages found in his music, Eminem's well-mediated image of rebellion still functioned as a glorified sideshow, the main attraction to an economic Spectacle feeding into the post 9-11 era's hyper-consumption of goods and representations. Marshall Mathers was just one more distraction for the masses to keep them passive, in that “in its particular form of hegemony, the spectacle naturally produced not actors but spectators: modern men and women, the citizens of the most advanced societies on earth, who were thrilled to watch whatever it was they were given to watch.” (Marcus 99).

    Eminem plays into his role as “the spectacle personified, the star of social life,” that everyone hates to love and loves to hate in the single “Without Me,” where in the chorus he sings “Now this looks like a job for me / So everybody, just follow me / Cause we need a little, controversy / Cause it feels so empty, without me.” (Eminem, “Without Me”). Regardless of how self-reflexive his lyrics, the fact stands that Eminem's retorts against his censors only provoked more controversy in the media over his ludicrous image, boosting his record sales amongst disaffected youth amidst the larger reactionary social mechanisms at work on “terror” at home and abroad. The Eminem Show, both as an album and marketing scheme, was a commodity designed for mass deliberation and consumption, a streamlined representation of rebellion which with it's blind spot towards the corporate structures it supports could not disseminate a more articulated form of dissent against the passivity of the Spectacle itself, the Pax Americana’s most subtle method of social control.

    In contrast to Eminem, whose close affiliations with the corporate music industry place somewhat of a smudge on his project of rebellion, the subversive history of El-P, another seminal white artist in hip hop culture, has been one of relentlessly breaking the corporate monotony of the Spectacle through negating expectations with def-defying production and overbearingly dense lyricism. El-P, real name Jamie Meline, is best known for his role as a producer/MC for the groundbreaking rap group Company Flow. The group released the album Funcrusher Plus in 1996, an abstract hip hop classic, which set the precedent for the success of many other “underground” rappers on the Rawkus Records label, including an up-and-coming Eminem in 1999. El-P's relatively brief stint with Rawkus Records, whose management had trouble balancing its budget with its roster of highly talented artists, left a bad taste in his mouth for the business end of the hip hop industry: “Signed to Rawkus / I'd rather be mouth fucked by Nazis unconscious” (El-P, “Deep Space 9mm). In 1999, El-P went on to found his own internet-based label Definitive Jux, which has released some of the most acclaimed underground hip hop albums to date: “Rawkus was like, 'we're gonna take this label to another level' / (Fuck that) I'm gonna take this level to another label” (El-P, “Truancy”).

    As “the hybrid founder of / a militant anti-mime faction [that] operates on the fringes of establishment,” as well as an independent “anti-pop composer sonically robbing the nation,” El-P has been able to articulate his “sicko malnutritionist” ideals against “the walls of new Roma” without the formulaic crutch of radio singles and gangsta rap tropes, or what he refers to as “Lucasarts graphics / rendered cuddly comic relief creatures or terrible child actors” (El-P, “Fantastic Damage”). Meline’s ”mongoloid melody” speaks for itself through old-school breakbeats and “syncopated fragments of vinyl splashed to looseleaf,” laced with détourned audio samples (such as snippets of narrative from George Orwell's 1984) and varying pulses of electronic noise channeled through “converted mic digital 8-bus-Mackie Avalon compression” (El-P, “Deep Space 9mm). The uncompromising density of his D.I.Y, sci-fi styled production makes for a striated dystopic space, in which El-P's “newspeak” lyricism (a term also lifted from 1984) paints a crylon-based Francis Bacon portrait of American empire and its mass Spectacle, where “Megaplex is stress caress” and the “tainted droids of dummy noise cancer get unhinged” (El-P, “Delorean”).

    Fantastic Damage, El-P's debut solo album of 2002, encapsulates a kind of hip hop that is the antithesis to the “dummy noise cancer” of Dr. Dre's smooth space of undulating rhythms and Eminem's “stress caress” of carnivalesque personas, which more often than not results in a turn away from the historical Real of social oppression. If in 2002, listening to the Dr. Dre produced The Eminem Show was like looking into a fun house mirror refracting the image-event of 9/11 and the Invasion of Iraq, then listening to El-P was like swallowing the broken shards of that mirror whole, without so much as water to digest the contents. Fantastic Damage is hip hop at it's most uncompromising; not just a commodity made for the ears of teenage “newjacks” and “martyrs without causes,” but for a grown-up generation of b-boys as ignored in the era of the second George W. Bush as the first (El-P, “Tuned Mass Damper”).

    In “Truancy,” El-P details his history as a “vagrant of “Reaganomics” who “lived for the four-course artistry” during hip hop's genesis in “eighty-six” (El-P, “Truancy). He evokes through lyrical tales of his own personal experiences how the battle-ready aesthetic of the Brooklyn b-boy, first birthed in New York City's “juvenile-non-approval and loosely smoker's school cut abandonment,” functions as a political stance of dissent against the passive affect of the Spectacle and the American State's daily oppressions. Before the “eerie malevolence of commerce combined with backspins”of corporate hip hop, the Brooklyn b-boy's grimy but pristine way of life, saturated in breakbeats and graffiti writing, was “hardly a game” with “no marketing, just art in the train,” and a way to “get live” in the face of urban containment (El-P, “Dead Disnee” and “Tuned Mass Damper”). El-P raps In “Truancy” that as a wayward youth he “went with truancy and the bad apple” and how it “slowly formed [his] spirit”, so that “when [he] couldn't fit the scholastic structure of [his] peers [he] didn't fear it” (El-P, “Truancy”). Instead of conforming to the expectations of the dysfunctional social institutions which abandoned his generation (“figure they ate the kids homey / so fuck em save the adults”), El-P chose to “cipher in the subway without money my pocket,” coming to “recognize that this” – or hip hop - “[was] the new truth,” a new way of living in the modern world and the means by which he and a generation of b-boys “[refused] to suckle the empire's ruse” (El-P, “Truancy”).

    The b-boy's creative appetition is not only what links El-P's aesthetic ethos to the beatific vision of Outkast and the revolutionary agenda of The Coup, but also to Guy Debord's “Critique of Separation.” in which “the artistic impulse,” or the “will to change the world” is linked to “alternative ways of living, to the demand for a new way of life” (Marcus 210). In “Tuned Mass Damper,” El-P frames the b-boy's artistic impulse/creative appetition as an primordial bid for life, in which aesthetics in itself give license to live:

    Let’s rearrange the whole complaint

    Who the fuck is down to steal me some paint?

    We could get ancient with this shit

    On some cavernous wall description, I'm lit

    Trying to draw this figure eight with a twig

    As if the symmetry alone is a prescription to live...

    My generation is beautiful coma, REM hold the bliss

    And the answer that just eluded you my friend don't exist

    Unless we torch our own entrapment and exact our own scripts. (El-P, “Tuned Mass Damper”)

    By evoking the energies of creative appetition inherent to the b-boy's way of life, El-P utilizes a “worlding” tactic inherent in hip hop's subversive mode of production for fighting back within and against the apathy/terror/sedation of the post-9/11 Spectacle. The chorus to“Deep Space 9mm” explains El-P's aesthetic ethos best, where he raps:

    Existence on the fringes and such

    My generation just sit like ducks

    See the rubble glisten that what I trust

    Thank god for the drugs and drums

    Tell history that I'll be right here hiding from guns. (Deep Space 9mm).

    As the self-proclaimed “leader” of the contemporary b-boy's “banality rally quest,” El-P's beatific mission is to awaken the “hypnotized herd” out of their complacent terror. He describes how contemporary “writers block [functions as] a prison camp where free press regress,” and how hip hop is the only “true form of com[munication] not tapped” and“trapped strong / in the cranium of future rebel infants whistling the song” (El-P, Deep Space 9mm). This turn towards hip-hop's creative appetition is placed in contrast to the post-industrial urban space of late capitalism. For example, the affect of terror and trigger happy paranoia floating in the streets of post-911 New York City is characterized in the video to “Deep Space 9mm” as the proverbial elephant in the room turned firearm, it's admonishing signifier made explicit through a coat of caution-orange neon.


    To wake the listening masses up and do the work of “torch[ing] our own entrapments” and “exact[ing] our own scripts”, El-P uses the counter language of his “newspeak” style of hip hop as a form of détournement, defined by Greil Marcus as “the theft of aesthetic artifacts from their contexts and their diversion into contexts of one's own devise” (Marcus 141). Hip hop as détournement functions as a type of aesthetic terrorism, in which the “reversible connecting factor” inherent to modernity's Spectacle of representations can be turned upon its head through a “demolition of symbols,” which in Guy Debord's book “was the surest way to reveal the invisible terrain on which people actually lived” (Marcus 141).

    In “Dead Disnee,” this aesthetic détournement takes on the form of the undead vocal chords of Mickey Mouse, made to speak the “vomiting rotted language” that will mean the cartoon character's own hegemonic demise. El-P takes the concept of soundbombing to the next level when he raps that he “Slayed Bambi / sprayed his whole family / tried to act cute, got his hoofs in my pantry”, which is as violent a metaphor as any demolition of symbols can be (El-P, “Dead Disnee”). The misappropriation of traditional Disney characters in this song reveals a dark underbelly to the Spectacle of the Magic Kingdom, where “Gepetto the lecherous” is the “manipulator of oak, the sick joke”, and “the design of modern culture is modeled after new Sodom / bottled and packaged with emotions for kiddies to get robotic” (El-P, “Dead Disnee”). El-P posits himself as an anti-hero, the “Lord of the island where Piggy got stuck” and a rebel “Born to make a thumper in the scorched earth,” who pulls the uninitiated through to the “the wrong side of the looking glass,” and whose ultimate mission is to “kill the paradigm” with “damage that's fantastically uncomfortable” (El-P, “Dead Disnee”).

    In another song of symbolic détournement, El-P takes on the persona of a Vietnam War veteran on “The Nang, the Front, the Bush, and Shit,” a song made in light of the contemporary military actions in Iraq and Afghanistan. El-P becomes “Little Billy Blunderbuss looking for more recruits” amongst “kids [that] are patriotic, robotic, operate catapults,” using the language spewed by army U.S. army recruiters to get the young and overeager to fight and die on behalf of their country:

    Well you'll get power, respect,

    An audience, a check,

    A car, money for school,

    Honey with uniform fetish on your tool

    You'll have travel, form bonds, be a part of something

    Have a structure, catch bullets...

    “Catch bullets?”

    I meant cash bonus.

    (El-P, “The Nang, The Front, The Bush, and Shit”)