Monday, July 23, 2007

Music Stands for Comfort #1: The Game


Music Stands For Comfort #1: The Game
Category: Dreams and the Supernatural

'Music Stands for Comfort' is my new blog series, in which I will write about my favorite albums. I'm obsessed with music, or more accurately, music is my gateway to understanding the world. I will write about records, and the context in which they exist. This first entry is about a rapper, the Game.

First though, I'd like to pay tribute to a friend of mine. His name is Reginald, he lives in New York City. He is rad and interesting and popular, but the two qualities I liked best about Reginald was that he was always hustling- he always had a show or an art project or a video or pins or something to promote. He didn't care whether you liked his band, whether the show was good for you, he just wanted you to support him. He was also totally unembarrassed, and was always trying to work with what he had. He is an incredibly active person.

The other quality I loved about him was that he is rebellious. Reginald is black, and as an artist, he is obsessed with race, particularly as to how it effects eroticism. His songs have titles like 'White Pussy' and 'Plantation Fantasy'. Furthermore, he is not just a black indie rocker, which is whatever, he is a black goth.

What I find so admirable about that is to be a black goth, especially from the south (probably a real bitch island), must be a fantastic act of rebellion against wherever he came from. I admire rebellion for its own sake- I think rebellion is the place in which we sharpen ourselves. He is one of the sharpest people I know, a razor like sense of aesthetics and desires. I hope I express this well. [Edit: Later Reginald told me that he didn't think being a black Goth was any big deal- he was like 'well everyone from the South is a goth', so I could be totally wrong].

My personal rebellion has take a different form. My family is California jewish, and my grandparents were immigrants. For them, life was something fragile and weak, and the world was a constant threat. No matter what they had (pensions, property, etc.), they could never see themselves as secure. For them, doing something big, something grand, was not only difficult, but ridiculous and dangerous. They did not want to stand out, and thought by doing so, they could be harmed. Safety was always in there minds.

My dad and his brother were conflicted. Part of them were like my grandparents: they felt like the world had very narrow options, that everything was hard and that life was something vicious. Yet both of them also tempted limits: my dad through drugs, girls, motorcycles and pornography, my uncle through a pugnacious resistance to immediate authorities.

My uncle, the older of the two, was the one more effected by my grandparents 'Wolf At the Door' mentality, and as he aged, he began to think that maybe you had to really hunker down and avoid trouble. When I was in 6th grade I got some C's, and this was a big deal, and so I was told that I wouldn't ever be able to go to college if I didn't improve my grades. I did, but I also became a total tweak about grades- I worried a lot about them, never quite believing I'd get an A until I saw it. It was ridiculous, especially after I turned 16 and decided to drop out, because you know, I had better things to do. I should have dropped out in ninth grade.

My parents, uncle, grandma, they never bought nice cars, though they could have. My dad and uncle did not wear nice clothing, they did not wear there status.

I also did not, accepting there anti-appearance stance, that what mattered was some sort of authenticity and you were an attention seeking asshole if you tried to flash or shine. This was until I discovered rap music, and I found something that finally told me what was up.

What was up ? Sneakers. Cars. Hoodies. Diamonds. Sick shit. Looking fresh. ALL THE TIME.

Rap music taught me the joys of material goods, how fun it could be to dress up, to look good, and how appearance is who you are more than anything inside. I realize now that one some level, we are the totality of our appearnce in the world: this can include our posessions and creations as extensions of ourselves. Where my family was wrong was that clothing, appearance, comportment was not important communication: it is vital communication. It tells people who you are as much as what you say. Let our diamonds talk: lets your hair speechify: let your paintings sing your praises.

The Game is not an archetypical rapper. He desperately wants to be though. The contradiction at the core of Game is the contradiction between his macho fetishism and his blubbery emotionalism. He is a petty rapper: he is obsessed with people using him, with people slighting him, with not quite being enough. He cries on two songs, he is generous and then regrets it: you get the sense he is always coming on too strong.

He is also obsessed with forms. His clothing is immaculate and fitted: he has the form of SoCal gangster down perfectly. When his career was at an apex, he had the glamorous/dangerous rapper in the 50 mold down perfectly. He is very careful with his appearnce. This care is undermining: his perfection of forms reveal that they are costumes instead of authentic selves. This is the choice of life: you can do one thing authentically (the Ramones) or many things inauthentically (Blondie).

You get the sense of an enthusiast listening to him rap: he knows a lot about whatever he is talking about- his groupie love song lists off reels of video girls, eye candy and famous lovers: he discusses there careers with an enthusiastic display of knowledge. Unlike many rappers, he revels in being a fan of other things, in that surrender.

The Game is fascinating because he is in love with dominating masculinity, but he displays himself as submissive. He internalizes others, instead of externalizing himself.

His two albums are night and day: his first is called the 'Documentary' and it is a masterpiece of high powered, expensive gangster rap. Every song is immaculately produced, written and performed. There is not a wasted moment on the record, and it drips with hooks and feeling. It is a hungry, confident album. It is the third compnent of Dr. Dre's trio of masterpieces (with Eminem and 50 Cents debuts being the first two).

His second album was recorded after he had suceeded in destroying every relationship that had brought him up: Dr. Dre and 50 Cent had both abandoned him. His crew had dwindled from forty to seven, his brother said that he was a fake gangster. The second album might actually be the better of the two: the entire album is west coast rap in drag- it is so west coast as to be almost too much, like a perfect, ridiculous distillation of the genre.

Further, the primary theme of the second album, called 'Doctors Advocate' is his total dissapointment with fame and his new life. The record is about how nothing works out. He is still the same, and yet everything changes. He seems shocked the whole time, like he's in a daze.

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