2.3.11

Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All \\// Lil B

Sole paired Lil B against OFWGKTA the other day, solidifying a style of opposition that has become increasingly apparent, at least when "content" is the frame through which the two are viewed. In this characterization, the unironic Buddhist positivity of Lil B is elevated over the violent, atheistic "nihilism" of Odd Future. While I don't think this opposition is necessarily invalid here, this frame immediately makes me more skeptical of the Lil B funscape and more disposed to Odd Future's more radical claims.

There are two questions then: whether Lil B or Odd Future are preferable within this frame, and whether this frame is preferable to another. Let's first accept the premise and contrast the two on the level of content.

The important difference to me is most clear between Lil B's song "Bitch, I'm Bill Clinton" off the recent RedFlame mixtape, and "Sandwitches", the single by Tyler, the Creator and Hodgy Beats that broke them.





"Bitch, I'm Bill Clinton" is clean, even by Lil B's standards. Even the references to guns are absent, just a celebration of Bill Clinton, his ability to fuck all these women, and the fantasy of power, where Based god has "got guns and the lawyers". "Sandwitches", on the other hand, has the trademarks of OFWGKTA, the rape, murder and forced abortion fantasies, anti-religious violence, satanism, etc.

If we stay with this content, these songs are apt distillations of the two styles; Lil B is banal and repetitive, celebrating power that gets you to fuck women. The motherfucking president, who ran the world and smoked marijuana is saluted and emulated. The White House, the power of the presidency, is somehow swag. And the song ends with a nonsense (as far as an actual political stance goes) shout-out to Hillary Clinton, exclaiming that soon she'll be the president too.

On the other hand, Odd Future not only don't celebrate power, they explicitly radicalize the superficial sexual violence toward women as class war, anti-christian revolt, and a rejection of family as such, usurping even the superficial violence before the song begins with the celebration of their immaturity ("what the the fuck you think I made Odd Future for? To wear fucking suits and make good decisions?). Seeing Odd Future with swastikas and 666s and upside down crosses soothes the violent images; these were the fucking punks, kids who revel in the terrorism and disruption available to symbols made meaningless, not their pacifying banality, teenagers who reject that being serious, even about violence and mass murder, is worth succumbing to the cold bourgeois class whose murders are so easily disavowed. The end of the track is used to bookend the song with the same distance, as Tyler responds to the burgeoning criticism of their content, mostly tired retreads of 90's Eminem complaints with:

And we don't fuckin' make horrorcore, you fuckin' idiots
Listen deeper than the music before you put it in a box

If we allow that their "violence" is no more literal than Lil B's, it's still silly to deny that OFWGKTA are more "violent"; measuring particular lyrics doesn't overturn the evident difference between them. The violence is, again at the level of content, in the social, religious, political, class and moral disruption that makes Odd Future so fucking good.

Come on kids, fuck that class and hit that bong
Let's buy guns and kill those kids with dads and mom
With nice homes, 401k's, and nice ass lawns
Those privileged fucks gotta learn that we ain't takin' no shit
Like Ellen Degeneres clitoris is playin' with dick
I'm jealous as shit cause I ain't got no home to come to,
so if you do, I'm throwing fingers out, screaming fuck you

To reiterate the earlier point, Tyler here ironizes his rant by ending with in nothing more than middle fingers and fuck you. But more importantly, unlike Lil B's unthinking (based, yeah) shout-outs to the Democrat's preeminent class warriors, Tyler's verse is call to murder the bourgeoisie, quit school and do drugs.

The Golf Wang hooligans is fuckin' up the school again
And showin' you and yours that breakin' rules is fuckin' cool again

Tyler ends his verse with perhaps a similarly unthinking anarchism and anti-authoritarianism, but I would insist that unthinking of this kind is "youthful" as a superlative.

While Tyler focuses on class war, Hodgy attacks the church with a similarly violent and youthful energy.

Fuck church, they singin' and the shit ain't even worth it
In the choir, whores and liars, scumbags and the dirt, bitch
You told me God was the answer
When I ask him for shit, I get no answer, so God is the cancer
I'm stuck in triangles, lookin' for my angel
Kill me with a chainsaw, and let my balls dangle
Triple six is my number, you can get it off my Tumblr

and clarifies at least one strain of the song's misogyny as the rejection of his mother, the dominating authority figure for almost all the kids in Odd Future—

My love is gone for you mommy, you could ride in hearses
I'm sick in the brain dumb bitch, can you nurse this?
You told me life would never, ever, ever get this perfect
Then you smoke a J of weed, and take his kids to the churches

The Mother is also figure who, rumor has it, sent OFWGKTA member Earl Sweatshirt ("Free Earl") to "boot camp" because of the "content" of the group's songs. The misogyny is generally more complicated but it seems to nearly always come from being anti-bourgeois ( “I want to scare the fuck out of old white fucking people that live in Middle fucking America.") or anti-"moms". The latter includes their own mothers, elderly women and pregnant girlfriends, a sexual violence against figures. Particular in something like the repeated forced abortions that occur in Odd Future songs, these two collide in a fucked up, terrifying mess. To take these as merely content, or even merely shock tactics from kids who want to rough up the staid, traditional sexual violence of rap music, or as an elaboration of Eminem's personalized maternal and spousal violence, misses the particulars of its use and what differentiates it from that tradition and other rappers who have engaged in similar seeming tactics.

It's important to notice here that, overall, there aren't necessarily fewer references to "violence" in Lil B. There is tone in some of his work, and particularly his twitter, facebook and tumblr output, that grant him this sense of being "positive" when his "content" reaches similarly violent points if not reaching for the most sensitive points in contemporary discourse. Another possibility that is worth exploring is how much Lil B's content is dismissed because of the superficial lack of "craft" while Odd Future's obvious skill contributes to a sense that they "mean it".

Given this frame, that the two musics are on traditional poles of "positivity" and "negativity", consider me on the side of the kids who don't sing fucking songs about how swag Bill Clinton is. As content, "positivity" is as often a retreat from the power of a work to undermine and attack as it is any kind of active or productive practice.

But again, is this the right choice? I don't think so. The anarchism and nihilism of Odd Future is present in Lil B, is even preeminent in Lil B, if we don't restrict ourselves to the content. Instead of attacking the bourgeois and authority, the meaning regime of the contemporary, the Based God works hard against meaning in general and the authority and structure of music distribution in particular.

Take Lil B's recent "I'm" string of songs. A read I've seen recently is that these are, or are merely, Lil B "deconstructing of celebrity and identity". This reading corrupts Lil B to a generic cultural studies thesis; what is more interesting, and different, about Lil B, is the use of small fragments of sense around which he distributes his nonsense adjectives. Most Lil B songs will take a chorus or a phrase, returning to it to build rhymes more quickly but without any line to cohere necessarily to the others. The mixtapes, and better, the oeuvre, turns into strings of sense over the course of songs, "Left wrist Clinton, right hand Clinton", "I feel like Ellen, Right hand Ellen", "Left hand Cyrus, Right Hand Iced Out", even to the point of returning lines from entirely different songs ("I'm Miley Cyrus" is a sort of peak and collection of lines of his "I'm" theme.) There are other marks here, in the Cook line, and the broadest marks are more obvious, "swag" and "fucking my/your bitch", and "hos on my dick" that work in exactly the same way, points on which strings of words hang. The sense works as a structural base that prevents the repetitive words from degenerating into the half-slurred nonsense syllables that words tend to find when given this kind of working over, a superficial escape from nonsense that can, at times, give the words to work on themselves (this is the unconscious that is misunderstood as stream of consciousness, partly because of Lil B's explicit descriptions of what "based" is.)

The choice between radical aesthetics and political radicals is always a false, and usually a reactionary, choice. The two forces here are in a relation, with Lil B undermining the modes of meaning, structure and images in rap music ("Swag Bill Clinton, car Bill Clinton, House Bill Clinton, I love women" is such a good line) while retaining strands that don't so much undermine rap conventions as engage them with as much nihilism as Odd Future. It's been remarked elsewhere that both OFWGKTA and Lil B use faggot as a slur and a self-identification; in neither case is it somehow a lessening of the attack or merely an inversion, but a use that adds weight, targeting those who would call you a faggot and those who are uncomfortable with its use (here I wouldn't ascribe some "anti-pc" notion to Odd Future, but another rejection of propriety and "adulthood" that would undermine and attack gay rights while attacking the use of the word "faggot", always in order to keep their violence stable, disavowed and bourgeois). Both exceed themselves, routinely. Lil B turns in some songs that are simply bewildering, and when he disrupts his nearly permanent cadence it isn't merely a shitty line but a momentary collapse of an entire project. In Tyler, The Creator's video for Yonkers, the classic teen angst student film ending, a hanging suicide, is so close to parody that only Tyler's gleefully twitching expiration stabilizes it. But both are excesses only available because of the rejections explicit in their work. That both are nihilists in their own domain is why both are important, and more importantly, really fucking good to listen to.

6 comments:

okafor said...

damn bro i was thinking the same thing a while ago. very nice.

HeWhoLovesYou said...

I felt that you could have perhaps used another Lil B song. One of his more "real" songs along with this comparison. Analysing only "bill clinton"(..or the songs with similar sceme) doesn't break him down too much. I'm quite sure you're aware that what Lil B is doing is all a plot. He attacks social issues with his more solid gems...I merely searched this because ofwgkta seems to be associated with lil b lol so I respect your opinion as it was quite informative. P.S. Don't take my comment as a "hate comment"

IlllllllllllllI said...

@HeWhoLovesYou I agree entirely. I don't think "Bitch I'm Bill Clinton" is a representative Lil B track. I used it primarily because it fit with the OFWGKTA track and displayed, clearly if, again, not fairly, an element of Lil B's politics. That is, if we're taking politics as an important part of what Lil B is, there can be read a dangerously conservative shade of what has been called positivity, and supposed as that on which "based" is, well, based. If this piece is what I think it is, jumping off from Sole's comments, then I'm more concerned with how bad the argument in the first half of the post is, especially for someone like Sole who uses negativity so well in his work and whose politics, as theory-laden and "spectacular" as they are, are much closer to the deep radicalism and revolutionary murder fantasies of OFWGKTA than to the moderately apolitical stance of Lil B. A lot of this was sparked by a description of Lil B as "buddhist positivity", meant as a compliment. It's not terrible as a description, but awful as an ideology and as someone who really like Lil B, I wanted to defend him from the charge of being "positive" or "buddhistic" in that sense. There are parts of Lil B that, I think, we should be skeptical toward if the interesting and valuable strains, in my argument, generally aesthetic ones, are to be dealt with more clearly.

Anonymous said...

Omfg if you think odd future reps the devil do some god damn research he's just another normal kid tryin to get his music out there 666 is for all his wolf gang members and the up side down Cross is a thing he used to do in therepy
So back the fuck off

Odd future is the shit
OFWGKTA !!!!

Lee Shin said...

spot on with this write-up, i like the way you discuss the things. i'm impressed, i must say. i'll probably be back again to read more. thanks for sharing this with us.

Lee Shin
www.trendone.net

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