Hey guys! I’ve been seeing these numbered quizzes floating around online for a while where people reblog and answer some of them, or ask the poster to answer certain numbers, or some shit. So, I thought I’d write one of my own to fit in with what the youngsters are doing with themselves these days.
If you message me the numbers of the questions you’d like me to answer, I’ll be more than happy to ignore you completely. Because fuck off and mind your own goddamned business.
1. What’s your favorite song?
2. Choose one: fame or fortune?
3. What’s your favorite knot?
4. Favorite bigoted celeb?
5. Choose one: bigamy or celibacy?
6. What is your very favorite outrage?
7. What was your biggest failure to recreate a porn move in real life?
8. Can you wear your favorite underwear when you are likely to fuck? What does your answer say about you as a human being?
9. What was the raddest time you shit your pants?
10. When you and all the other millennials are whooping it up at your Tinder sex parties, why don’t you work harder at life?
11. Choose one: stabbing or shooting?
12. What polygon do you feel best represents your sexuality?
13. Do you have a favorite genocide? If you don’t, and are American, how do you justify Thanksgiving as a holiday?
14. If your genitals were a rodent, what would you give them to chew so that their teeth wouldn’t grow too long and loop back around to pierce your nether parts in a painfully debilitating, but entirely preventable, condition. Seriously, if you don’t take the time to give your rodent junk something to chew on, you’ll only have yourself to blame. (If you want, this question could be developed into an oblique metaphor for masturbation with some kind of low-brow angle on “giving a log to the beaver,” but I’m not telling anyone how to live their life here.)
15. If you had the power to eradicate all of humanity instantly, including yourself, would you do it? If no, then I hope you’re not such a hypocrite to consider yourself an environmentalist.
16. If you could only shave one body part for the rest of your life, what would it be?
17. How many people have you killed during prison riots?
19. When jolly Father Christmas brings you a present, how merry does it make you on a scale of 1 to 10?
20. Give yourself 1 point for every person you’ve kissed. Give yourself 2 points for every person whose private parts you’ve touched (tee hee!). Give yourself 3 points for every person you’ve had sex with. Give yourself 20 points if you’ve ever engaged in fisting while on heroin. Give yourself 50 points if you’ve ever paid someone NOT to have sex with you. Now add up all your points and divide that number by your age. The number this gives you is completely meaningless.
21. Cell mate: Barney the Dinosaur or Elmo? (Keep in mind here that Elmo is a goddamned maestro with a shank and has adjusted all-too-well to prison life.)
When I was eighteen, fresh out of high school in 1994, I got a job working at a full-service gas station and automotive shop. Overall, it was a great job for a young man and the lessons I learned there (up to, and including, how to potentially get away with murder) have generally served me well.
The first regular coworker I had, who we’ll call Marley, was a real education for me.
I grew up in a kind of hippy, intellectual, liberal bubble in an older neighborhood near the university. While there were people who worked with their hands in my parents’ crowd, they were craftsmen with serious theories about what they were doing. I could ask my dad’s friend (who was also my friend’s dad) what he was doing to that chair, and the ensuing lecture could wind up drifting into 19th century wooden church framing before I’d gotten free of it.
So heading out into the world of work at 18, I did think I had an idea of what people who work with their hands are like. I was wrong.
At the gas station, I was plunged into the real Albertan blue-collar world; where serious physical assault is on the spectrum of acceptable human interaction, and ideas die a miserable, lonesome death from neglect and abuse. Not a week of work had gone by before I was physically accosted by a mechanic in the stock room for spraying dirt on his tool box with the pressure washer. In his late fifties, and nicknamed “the Badger” by the other mechanics, he followed me in there, cornered and ambushed me prison assault style, and grabbed and shoved me into the lockers to tell me to clean up his fuckin toolbox.
My fellow pump-jockey, Marley, was about three years older than me, and having worked at the gas station since he was fifteen, was my first guide into that world. He had his beefs and his allies in the station, and would tell people where to go in a dialect of Edmonton English that was more fascinating to me than any of the car repair I was learning.
Marley was a burly, oafish loudmouth who could pivot from affable to belligerent in an instant. Generally his default setting was friendly, so mostly he was okay as a coworker. As is typical with burly, loudmouth oafs, he was lonely (but would never admit it) and would glom onto anyone who gave him the time of day. Then, being a loudmouth oaf, he’d alienate them sooner or later (sooner, usually) and the cycle would repeat and intensify.
Over the first couple of months we worked together, he made a couple overtures at friendship, but I had him well figured out and was able to avoid those without too many hard feelings.
Marley’s younger brother, Travis, also worked at the gas station, and he and I actually hit it off. (In case anyone is paying attention, I have written about these two hosers before.) Travis was a year younger than me, had also worked at the gas station since he was fifteen, had dropped out of grade 10 (although pretended he hadn’t), and was intelligent, quirky, funny, and completely perverse. Over my first year at the station we wound up working together a lot and became good friends.
At some point in that first year, Travis and I were making plans to go downtown to see a movie and I suggested walking over to the apartment he shared with his brother, Marley, to meet up. Travis looked sort of pained about this and said:
“Yeah, okay, I guess so. You can meet our friend, Spanker. He’s coming over to do a Spankfest with Marley.”
Okay! Lots to unpack here!
Yeah, the friend’s name is actually Bob, but they’ve all called him Spanker since junior high school since he loves porno and masturbation so very much.
A Spankfest is when Spanker, Travis, and Marley rent a bunch of porno tapes, and Spanker brings his VCR over to their apartment to make copies. They plug one VCR into the other and record the tapes one at a time, playing in real time. They also will make more than one copy of many of the tapes, so for each rental porno, they might play it through from start to finish up to three times.
This meant a Spankfest was a minimum of a twelve hour affair, and sometimes could wind up being an all-nighter.
I show up at ten in the morning so that we can catch a bus in plenty of time to see a matinee (number 46 from Whyte ave to Eaton Center downtown – E-town represent!), and I’m trepidatious to say the least. Porno and masturbation, for me, had always been a deeply private and embarrassing affair. I quickly learn that this crew has no such shame in their game. (I would later be told that Travis’ Indian [Native American] name in this crew is: “Spanks With Lotion.”)
Travis buzzes me into their basement apartment and there’s porno tapes, blank tapes, sharpies and cables everywhere. Spanker is introduced to me as Spanker and nods amiably from the floor where he’s organizing the tape sequence. He has an impressive mustache and goatee for a nineteen year old.
On the TV behind him was a group lesbian scene with a daisy chain of awkward, fake 90s lesbian porno cunnilingus. I believe the title was an earlier ,“No Man’s Land.” Marley was sitting on the sectional watching it with a glazed expression. He barely looked away from it once.
Then we sat around and watched porn together for about an hour. It was all very normalized. I do have the feeling that there probably was going to be some furtive group wanking later, but perhaps the boys had matured out of that behavior by that point.
We get done with the lesbo gangbangs, and Marley gets one of his titles loaded. Pretty soon they get to a blowjob and Marley tells Spanker to stop recording and just fast-forward through it. I can’t help myself: I have to ask.
“Okay, so why don’t you want the blowjob scene?”
“Whad’ya mean? It’s just a fucking blowjob! Why would ya wanna see that?!” Marley shouts.
“Uhhhh… I like blowjobs?”
“Yeah, but you aint fuckin gettin it! It’s just some guy’s dick in her mouth! Ya can’t even see her pussy or tits most of the time. Yer just lookin at dick! Ya like that?!”
“Yeah… It’s my favorite kind of scene, actually.”
Marley busts into high pitched, manic cackling. “His favorite scenes is blowjobs! He likes lookin at fuckin dick! Yer just lookin at cock! That’s fuckin gay! It’s fuckin gay! Ya like lookin at cock! It’s gay!”
This goes on for a while, with Marley laying it on really thick for far too long. I suppose even then I realized this was pretty blatant misdirection in trying to throw off any notions about the latent homosexual eroticism in the room. But I couldn’t get into it. I was intimidated of Marley, and was basically short-circuiting on an intellectual level.
I knew Marley wasn’t the sharpest tool in the shed, but was now realizing that the shed I’d wandered into was all fucked up. Came in looking for a boxcutter and there’s only trashed wood saws and stuff made out of wire and animal bones.
Anyway, I got out of there okay and went to the movie with Travis.
Afterwards, I took to having Spankfests of my own with Travis: bringing my VCR and rented titles over. However, Travis and I would just run the VCRs without watching the tapes and play video games. Marley would lurk around and talk shit about video games and dicks and gayness and how meat is murder and fight about Star Trek characters with his brother. Once he interrupted our movie and forced us to look inside a big cut on his hand; pushing it open with his fingers like a porno pussy.
About a year or two after that, long after the whole gay thing (or that element of it) had died down, Marley was hanging around the gas station while I worked with his brother. I’m bored, having a smoke, holding the counter up, and Marley comes sidling up to me with a sly smirk on his face.
“Hey,” he says, like he’s really proud of what he’s about to lay on me. “I figured out why ya like watching blowjobs in porno.”
“Yeah?” (oh no)
“Uh-huh. Ya like watching the blowjobs cause ya pretend that the girl is giving you the blowjob, right? Like, ya watch it and pretend that it’s yer dick she’s suckin. That’s it, isn’t it?” He’s even more excited now, but still all quiet about it.
“Yes. That’s what I do,” I answer, totally deadpan.
Marley gets a really big grin and nods deeply at me. Then he moves off slowly, never breaking eye-contact, really happy, and clearly filled with a new-found respect for me. Like I had cracked a big code or discovered a cure for his herpes.
I guess that notion blew his fuckin mind. (In more ways than one.)
It does beg the question: what the fuck was going on in his head when he was watching porno before that? I can’t even begin to imagine.
So, if I have accomplished nothing else in my life, at least I gave Marley the gift of the power of his imagination. The power to imagine so many blowjobs and whatever other stimulus he decides to stick directly in front of his eyes. A whole internet full of possibilities!
But, keeping it real, it’s probably mostly blowjobs and anal sex for Marley. And why not?
I came to enjoy hip hop rather late. Before I did, I admit I had all the typical complaints I tend to hear from white people about it. So I can certainly understand why many people can’t get into it. As with any art form, it all comes down to a matter of taste. I certainly would never suggest that everyone should enjoy hip hop.
But I do expect people to give it a fair chance.
There is too often a condescending dismissiveness about hip hop that other musical forms are not subjected to. This can be hard to take because the criticism often goes beyond the all-too-common personality malfunction of expressing differences in matters of taste in pejorative terms. With hip hop, there is often an unspoken or coded racial component to the criticism of it.
When encountering encoded racism in so-called argument and debate, I tend to ignore it and focus purely on the substance of argument. I do this not just as a rhetorical strategy, but also because it pisses off the people employing it. I’m white, they’re white, everyone around is white, and, as Jimmy Dore put it: racists tend to assume everyone else is also racist and simply lack the courage to be open about it. Thus all the buzzwords and coded language to get around the “fascist” plague of political correctness.
Doophus doesn’t like hip hop because he doesn’t like black people, but he can’t say that these days. So he constructs what he thinks is an argument out of tired, racist tropes he’s picked up over the years. Whatever his actual tack (usually involving the form’s common use of the n-word, which serves the double purpose of allowing him to say it out loud himself), the intention is always the same. He’s essentially saying: “I have no means or ability to critique the art form on its own merits, so I would rather make this about race.”
Well, fuck that. By feigning ignorance and ignoring the loaded language, you force them to either abandon their position, or get a lot more clear about what they are saying. This really pisses them off. There are few things a racist hates more than being “on the record” with what they really think. You’re supposed to either agree with them with a nudge and a wink, or else “put words in their mouth” and fly off the handle on them, proving that you are the unreasonable, crusading libtard.
Sorry, Doophus, I’m smarter than you, better educated, and, unlike you, don’t give a shit what you or anyone like you thinks about me. So, fuck you, lets talk about rap as a musical form now. Even if you want to get right out in the open on your race hobbyhorse, I can still outmaneuver you thanks to the quality work of the Beastie Boys or Eminem.
So, with young Doophus put to bed, the adults can have a substantive conversation about hip hop. Again, I understand the complaints well because I used to have them myself.
The most common of these is that rap is “just talking” and “I can’t understand what they’re saying.” This is totally understandable, but stems from a fundamental misunderstanding of the vocal form.
It is certainly fair to say you can’t get into a form of music because you can’t understand the lyrics. That’s completely understandable and an acceptable position. We are, after all, discussing matters of taste. However, I don’t need to understand lyrics to enjoy music.
You might enjoy an Italian opera without understanding any of what is sung. I can listen to Black Sabbath and not catch more than a word or two from Ozzy. It doesn’t diminish my enjoyment in the slightest.
With hip hop, I think people fixate on understanding the lyrics because to their ear the vocalist is just talking. To them, if he’s just talking, then, of course, one should be able to understand what he’s saying.
In this, they are missing the point of the vocal form.
Traditionally, vocals fit into a song’s arrangement as though they were another musical instrument. The vocalist’s voice is as a horn, or flute, or (in Robert Plant’s case) another electric guitar. So while we don’t understand the opera singer’s Italian, or Celine Dion’s French, there is enjoyment to be had (for some) in listening to the quality of the voice and the notes sung. There is melody to follow.
Not so with hip hop.
In hip hop, the vocal performance is not one of melody; it is one of percussion. The rapper’s instrument is percussive. The lyrics drop in a rhythm. With a simple snare and a heavy bass beat, the performer fills out the percussion section with just their voice. Listen for that, realize there is a very skilled artist at work (possibly), and understanding everything they are saying becomes secondary. Just as with “traditional” musical forms.
Then, if it’s a question of understanding dialect, may I suggest urbandictionary.com as a resource? Check that shit out. These cats are funny, clever, and very often have more to say than anyone else in popular music. It is well worth anyone’s time to make an effort to understand what rappers are saying. But, as I’ve stated, it is not necessary for enjoyment of the art form.
This segues nicely into another common complaint about hip hop: the lyrical content. Sometimes it is all too easy to understand what they are saying, and people freak out about it. There is no doubt a lot of hip hop material that is problematic (to say the least) in terms of violence, misogyny, and homophobia. Fair enough.
However, the specific material of individual performers does not represent an art form entire. If you don’t like what a rapper is saying, I’m not suggesting that you have to accept it. But to pillory the entire form based on its extreme elements is completely unfair. It is not just hip hop that has this problematic material.
Check this shit out:
Here we have lily-white country musicians singing graphically about the brutal murder of a woman; a song with deep roots in the culture, no less. These are performers who generally plied their trade singing Baptist gospel songs. So I guess they, and the genre, get a pass. Nice for them.
I could also delve into the toxic sump that is the intellectual content of the rock genre, as well as the personal lives of its performers, but I think you can see the argument I’m making here. I’ll suffice to point out that when Ted Nugent goes off on an anti-Semitic, racist, or otherwise repugnant rant, no one thinks that this somehow means that Rock and Roll is the problem.
The hypocritical bias shown to hip hop by most of its social critics is clear. Eminem, in his song, White America, takes this on directly as only he can, and I can’t put it any better than he did, so do check it out if you don’t know it.
I approach music as I do any other form of entertainment. It’s entertainment. Gangster rap for me is scratching the same itch as a Quentin Tarantino movie. I like that it goes to extremes. I like that it makes people uncomfortable. And I like that even in its worst extremes it often has very important things to say about society and human life.
If you don’t like it, or can’t accept it, that’s just fine too. I certainly can understand why. But if you take to attacking the entire genre because of its worst elements, be prepared to throw a bunch of white dominated genres on that same pyre. Or, you can also just show yourself to be a complete hypocrite. That option tends to work well for most people, so you can stick with what you know best. You do you, and I’ll go on avoiding you and your type.
With the troublesome aspects of vocal performance and lyrical content out of the way, we can finally delve into the criticism of hip hop as a musical form. There are good arguments to be made against it, musically speaking, and I disagree with them.
Musical criticism of hip hop tends to be the same as criticism against electronic music in general. These aren’t real instruments. This takes no talent to produce. It’s simple and repetitive. This isn’t music!
Well, fine then. You go enjoy your classical music and jazz LPs on your headphones, and I’m sure your relatives and coworkers are all very interested in being endlessly told all about what is or isn’t proper or correct about any number of other topics. You do you (over there, thank you very much), and I’ll be over here enjoying myself.
I’m not interested in arguing with people over their finely parsed categorizations of all things. You don’t like what I like? It’s not for you? Fine. We can agree to disagree.
I tend to prefer music that is simpler, rawer, and that has more balls than sophistication. That’s me.
To illustrate what I’m talking about here, let’s look again to the genre of rock. Specifically, AC/DC’s Back in Black album. I don’t listen to it much anymore, but I would still rank it in my top five favorite rock albums. The music is incredibly simplistic (seriously, check out the guitar tablature sometime; there’s really not much going on there), the lyrics are bordering on cretinous, and Brian Johnson’s vocals are the tortured scream of a train derailment. And in its entirety it’s balls to the wall awesome that forever changed me when I first heard it.
When it comes to rock, I’ll listen to AC/DC before Stevie Ray Vaughan (who is by every measure a vastly superior musician). There is an accessibility there. It’s not just that it is easier to consume (although it is). It is that it is easier to perform. As a longhaired headbanger with a Korean made Squire Stratocaster, I could pick up a guitar magazine and start banging out power chords. I could make sounds like that too. This created an emotional connection between myself, the consumer, and the artist.
With hip hop, it is that much more direct. Lay in a beat and say what you’re going to say. That’s as fuckin pure and as raw as a performance can get. Perhaps that’s the problem, right?
If black performers’ content is fundamentally frightening or upsetting to you, the white listener, that really only says something about you and your assumptions.