Time and How it’s Fucking You Up

The notion of acceleration is not a new one. Deleuze, Land, Negerastani all have had more interesting things to say about time and decay than me. The underlying conception of time in this essay does not deal directly with the occult or capital. My goal is to think in rather strict terms, loosely guided by the ideas of Thorsten Veblen, about human time, machine time, and the cultural impulse to merge the two. To be clear, when I say “cultural impulse” I do not refer to a collective desire but rather a collective submission to the will of technocrats who are motivated to further engender technological time into our lives.

Super-computing and soon quantum-computing reframe time in ways the human brain is incapable of conceiving in a meaningful way. Calculation machines go fast and that’s wild. Before human sapience, the world moved at what humans would consider a glacial speed. This is what we think of as geological time —time shaped by natural events, seasons, changes in weather patterns and climates, migration patterns of animals, and of course geology. Rocks are our best connection to the deep past, the future, the ocean, and space.

When humans became sapient and stopped living in the eternal present, started looking towards the future, and slowly started trading goods and information, we as a species became mentally detached from this geological time, and as computers become increasingly intelligent and efficient at gathering, analyzing, and sharing information, we see ourselves losing touch even with human time, which must seem not only small but slothful through the lens of a KH-11 crystal electro-optical recon satellite linked to a series of NRO super-computers. 

KH 11 Image of Iran Declassified By President Trump in a tweet on 20 Aug 2019

I’m not the first to remark on the feeling imposed by digital time. Many agree, it seems that time is spiraling and the loops are becoming tighter and moving faster. Technology flourishes, decays, and progresses at exponential rates, while human life expectancy diminishes for members of the underclass.

It has become harder for me to concentrate on things because algorithms and natural impulses compel me to consume as much media as possible, in the form of social interactions, memes, short video clips, and all these small dopamine-hit-producing transactions through technology that drives my need to further consume. Maybe, time is fucking you up too. Only you would know.

A few obvious questions raised are: should the influence of digital time be curbed, can it be reconciled with human time, does it offer the eventual promise of more leisure time for all humans in the future, does it eliminate the need for human time, and thereby humans altogether, etc. These are fun things you can think about while you are scrolling through your phone, I guess. I don’t have the answers but I can tell you that progress is a liberalizing force that seems to be marching firmly in one direction.

But here you are now, maybe several minutes in, and you’ve been thinking in human time for a while. Maybe you stopped to look at your Twitter but that’s ok, if you want you can train yourself not to do that. I am here only to offer the idea of Art as a means of reclaiming your time, which is intrinsically valuable, maybe not according to labor theory but according to my good opinion. One might say that the value of time is imposed on our reality from Outside, from God. So, sit down and watch The Stalker. Write a shitty script. Be pretentious, ironically. Be sincerely pretentious. Listen to a whole album. Write a sanctimonious essay. Walk around taking pictures. Listen to a twelve-hour podcast. Human time is good, it feels right. Take notes on the sky clock, and observe how the moon waxes and wanes. Watch the world move through space around the Sun, that’s how you know what time it really is. I love you. 

Slayyyter

How did you start making music and who inspired you?

I started making music in high school using shitty iPhone apps like alchemy studio and stuff! It wasn’t until I got my first laptop before I went off to college that I started recording songs I wrote over beats I’d find on Soundcloud! As for idols, I’d say Britney Spears had a huge impact on me when I was younger! I also really love Heidi Montag. And Robyn!!!

When did you start working with Ayesha Erotica?

Someone actually dm’d me in like late July telling me I looked like a blonde Ayesha Erotica. I was like “who is that??” and googled her and became fully obsessed with her music. Her songs blew me away, I was immediately a fan so on a whim, I dm’d her on Instagram asking if she wanted to do a song and we did!!

That is awesome, what other producers are you collaborating with right now?

For my album in November I’m collaborating with Boy Sim a bunch, Lynden Rook produced and is featuring on a track, and maybe a few more Ayesha produced tracks!

Ok so… design your ideal mall, what’s in it?

A big food court, a BEBE store, and a Juicy Couture store!! I was so upset when all the juicy stores closed down, so I would definitely need that. Also Louis Vuitton and Gucci stores… I’m in loads of credit card debt, lol!

Who would play you in the major motion picture about your life?

Tara Reid

Wow true, you should recreate that picture where she is handing like 20 dollars to a dog.

THAT PIC LOLOLOL!!

What’s your songwriting process? Every song seems to have a distinct theme. 

The process itself is pretty fast! I write fast and if a song takes to long I trash it. I pick themes for songs after listening to the beat, I’m lucky to work with such amazing producers! Usually, I just listen and a concept forms within the first minute. I always start with a title then I make liner notes in my notebook of words that fit the concept. I like making really thematic music.

How did the early club influence on your sound work its way into your music?

The club influence comes from my love for like 90’s/early 2000s euro club music — Barbie Girl by Aqua, Shoes by Kelly, This is Your Night by Amber, Cascada, etc. That’s the music I remember being most drawn to when I was younger.

What are your favorite emojis?

I hate the emotion emojis. Like the crying laughing one. It’s so weird to me lol! My favorites are 💖🍒💅🏻👻

Thank you, lastly, can you tell us 2 truths and a lie?

I’ve been arrested 3 times!
I got breast implants when I was 20!
And my legal name is Slater!

Follow Slayyyter on Instagram, Twitter, and Spotify. Slayyyter has been recently been anointed as the future of pop music by The Fader. 

GOTH MONEY RECORDS AT AMFM


When it comes to the rap underground, Black Kray is one of the true living legends. Though he has historically shied away from the limelight, Kray has managed to build an extremely strong, organic, and like-minded fan base. His supporters are the product of tireless and innovative music-making rather than tireless public relations –for that reason he will always have loyal fans, especially here in Chicago. It is almost appalling that Kray and Kane’s Grocery’s had never performed in our city before so I felt extremely blessed, if not a bit jealous when I found out that IC3 3NTERTAINMENT was bringing the figureheads of Goth Money Records to Pilsen’s AMFM Gallery.

Inside the impeccably curated gallery was a small stage adorned with soft pink cassette tapes. To say the venue was “based” would be an understatement. But it was based. It was drippin. It was everything you could ask for. The lineup was programmed with an acute attention to detail –all of the performers made sense performing side-by-side and many were featured on each other’s songs. The shared influence of Spaceghostpurrp, Lil B, and Black Kray was palpable –all these young performers had clearly worked extremely hard to push the underground sound forward in the years since Kray first burst onto the scene. Easeworld, Muddy Mick, Sovren, and BiGBODYFiJi were four rappers that stood out particularly to me and I hope you will listen to their tracks below.

Juno Reactor


How did you first conceive the idea of “The Mutant Theatre” and how did you bring this concept into fruition?

I met the Russian dancers in 2011, the first time I met Stigma Show was on an island in India, we were playing at a really strange festival that we had to travel to on a small boat across the sea at night, with only the aid of the moon light. The festival was promoted by a man we later nicknamed “The Master of Disaster” as not much seemed to go right for him or his punters. One thing he did schedule properly was when the dawn rose and Stigma Show jumped onstage in their mirrored costumes as we played Conga Fury, jump-starting the LSD… I remember they just looked amazing. The other performance group was Agnivo I met in Moscow whilst DJing. It was then when I thought The Mutant Theater was a possible big show. Agnivo reminded me of militant guardians of an Orphean World. Then in 2015 we played Ozora Festival as a band, After the show the organizers said I should come back next year but with something different. The budget was there so that was the time to test it out 🙂

Is there a narrative element behind this project and if so can you tell us a little about it?

There is not a story in particular, I see the show as being a cross between Pan’s Labyrinth and Barbarella. Reality caught in a web of fantasy and science fiction, the world around us surrounding us –distilled, regurgitated into an cosmic cartoon reflection. I’ve also got a really great band, singers like Taja Devi and Tula Ben-Ari, Budgie from Siouxsie and the Banshees on drums and the amazing guitarists Amir Haddad who now also plays with Hanz Zimmer as his solo guitarist. This combination of performance and devilish musical ability really excites me as we can improvise, shut down the computers and just make things up on the spot, these moments are my favorite because it can all go so wrong…

What styles of dance influence the troupes of The Mutant Theatre?

The dancers have a wide range of dance from contemporary to ballet, hip-hop, and a lot more that I don’t know. Russian country dancing and robots on acid, I think…

What art inspires the set design and costumes for the performance?

Futurism mixed with nostalgia, at the same time it could only be made now with the help of modern day technology. The robot costumes have over 3000 led lights in each costume controlled via Wi-Fi or SD card. Sasha loves his 3-D printer and is always coming up with new costume ideas. Then, we have Erik Steijvers the lighting designer who is totally off this planet and brings it all together.

Sonically can we expect you see influences remnant from your days scoring The Matrix?

We do perform some Matrix tracks like Mona Lisa Overdrive and Navras, which work great in this show because they’ve been remixed specifically. I have almost forgotten how the originals sound.

How has collaborating with the Wachowski sisters affected your practice of art-making? Do you share their passion for the science fiction genre?

Working with the Wachowski’s was the best thing I have ever been involved in. It was as unique as they are, they didn’t intend to teach me anything, but they did  –they gave me a whole new vision and breath of life. Yeah I have total respect for them. Outside of The Matrix the film of theirs I watch the most is Cloud Atlasbrilliant.

[From the Voight-Kampff Test]
You’ve got a little boy. He shows you his butterfly collection plus the killing jar. What do you do?

I shoot the director so he can never make another Blade Runner film again.

The Mutant Theatre will stage a live performance at the hacking conference DEF CON 26 in Las Vegas on August 11 2018. 

Art Sucks

Image by: Donnie Fredericks 

Kardashian, Kim (@KimKardashian). “SMH means shaking my head” 17 Aug 2009, 6:07 p.m. Tweet.  

According to The Guardian, the term neoliberalism was coined in 1930. From that moment it took over seventy years for Lana Del Rey to announce her “pussy tastes like Pepsi Cola (™).” Because we live in a society, many social changes occurred between 1930 and 2012 but the most pervasive and flattening change was the rise of neoliberalism. We created a multi-headed beast hell-bent on destroying the poor, the arts, and everything else I hold dear. Neoliberalism represents a global change in thinking that has affected everything, even and maybe especially the art world, despite what many people may believe. When economist Friedrich Hayek first posed the idea he thought he was solving the problem of objective knowledge, his fundamental assertion was that truth could be derived absolutely from the marketplace. In essence, neoliberalism is the idea that competition is the only meaningful way to regulate society, SMH.

When market value is the only objective truth; other values — ontological, sentimental, moral, logical values all fall into the realm of subjectivity, which we know to be relative and thereby open to debate, scrutiny, and devaluation. Because every consumer is entitled to an opinion —even when it comes to life-saving vaccinations, opinions are in high supply and low demand, so they are worthless —that’s my theory at least. The notion of individuality is expressed through product consumptions. This is a reality that I’ve often tried to rebuke: for a few months I only bought fake fashion, which of course is an extension of art, this was a small attempt to devalue things of “real” value. My bank account was the only casualty of this experiment. It was a fruitless effort as I was still participating in the free market and still reinforcing the power of these brands through simulation and representation. Ethical consumption is a pipe dream. In this way, neoliberalism is constantly tricking me into buying things. I love my “Chanel” phone case. In the end, the most effective way to combat fast fashion and the idea of clothing as a disposable good can be offset slightly by shopping sparsely and only second-hand. Neoliberalism would prefer if you did not do that, thank you so much.  

In 1989, Margaret Thatcher wrote a letter of thanks to Friedrich Hayek. She didn’t believe anything she or Ronald Reagan had accomplished “would have been possible without the values and beliefs [of Hayek] to set us on the right road and provide the right sense of direction.” What these monsters had accomplished was a massive deregulation of the market through the removal of unions and other fail-safes that protected the working class. Social norms, cultural values and many deeply embedded ideas of morality have been superseded by the market. Under the current system, anything that cannot be quantified cannot be true, anything not tied directly to a numerical value is merely fodder for the court of opinion. Neoliberalism makes the irrational rational.

The economy or marketplace derives significance from the exploitation of our planet’s mineral resources as well as from itself. Economic value is either violently extorted from the earth at the expense of poor and indigenous workers through the means of sweatshops, fracking, deforestation, factory farming, and so on, or value is completely arbitrary, like in the case of art auctions or beanie babies (see: Greater Fool Theory). Some scholars have posited that the economy is an artificial intelligence system based on a set of complex symbology that few humans have the knowledge or training to access. In this way our lives are dictated by a man-made system of intelligence that has no basis in truths except those that can be violently reduced to dollar values.

Corporations dominate the landscape of our lives, a cliche notion espoused and reinforced by the likes of Andy Warhol and more efficiently in recent years by Michael Pybus and even Lana Del Rey. When values are derived from a singular source they become easier for the rich to manipulate. Our bodies become physically entwined in the culture of corporations and our pussies taste like Pepsi Cola (™). It is like we are trapped in “The Matrix” but infinitely less cool.

On top of all these harsh realities, the value of art was nebulous and unregulated from the beginning. In the pre-modern era, most arts was of the religious ilk. Pieces in the canon could be judged together by “objective” standards —the quality of brushstrokes, use of perspective, palette and color theory, motion, theme, realism, among many other characteristics. These works were either considered successful or unsuccessful in their goal of glorifying God. Art continued to be primarily religious in theme until after the industrial revolution. In the early 20th century when Alexina Duchamp, her husband, and their cohorts pulled up to the scene it was time for these objective standards to take a seat. The goal of their collective, now known as the Dadaists, was to discredit the bourgeoisie and reject the aesthetics of capitalism. This was, of course, a noble goal. Their work often asked: how do you evaluate something that rejects systems of valuation? This question was answered for me in 1999 when a replica of the Dada movement’s most enduring piece “Fountain” sold at Sotheby’s for 1.7 million dollars. In 1999 a replica of an anti-bourgeoisie symbol sold for 1.7 million dollars. This value was derived from the marketplace, somehow. Basically, someone was willing to pay that much money. This is what neoliberalism does to art. This is why art sucks.

Whatever meaning an artist puts into their creation is robbed from the work by the indomitable force of the market. Aesthetics are not just everything, they are the only thing. On the consumer level we are robbing meaning from art on a daily basis, when we place the anti-capitalist Frida Kahlo on a tote bag that generates profits for corporations that exploit the earth and its workers or emblazon Keith Herring’s struggle against homophobia and HIV on a colorful t-shirt that homophobes and art lovers can all enjoy on an aesthetic level, with no desire for deeper knowledge or investigation. Art’s significance is no longer dependent on the creators or their merits, but rather the consumers and their willingness to pay money to be tangentially tied to a piece of art either through real or simulated ownership. Today, artists are only as good as their merchandise. I personally own a copy of Kim Kardashian’s debut photography compilation  “Selfish” (hailed by Jerry Saltz as “something self-created, self-aware, and sincere, with its own essences and vulnerabilities”) as well as a miniature Koons balloon dog (pink), though I did break its nose off with a hammer so it would look like the Sphinx. Speaking of Jeff Koons’ sculptural pieces, they all have to do with breath which I find to be rather fascinating considering “The New” juxtaposed with the aforementioned iconic balloon dogs. But no one knows that and the people that do know typically hate him. Koons, who became a Wall Street commodity broker so that he could fund his first art show. It doesn’t seem like such a bad idea and I wanted to do it too but I guess I can’t because I’m not rich and white and tall. I saw you on Artforum, Jeff, you were wearing cool pants.

As a society, we cling to notions that pre-existed neoliberalism. We believe ourselves to live in a meritocracy. SMH, we are taught to believe that the wheat and chaff are separated by virtue of distinction, that works of value need only be created to be recognized by the marketplace. This is untrue of the condition we currently live in, though the notion harmfully persists. If we are to believe that value is always rewarded, then we are to believe that popular subjects are intrinsically valuable. The world tells us we should value Forever 21 over Manish Arora. Forever 21 doesn’t even bother to organize their stores. The art world tells us to value artists with prestige educations over the blue-collar artisans, Jeff Koons over Donnie Fredericks. The literary world tells us to value J.K Rowling over Octavia Butler. We are meant to believe that works can be judged only by the profits they make. The systems tell us true art exists within the all-encompassing profit machine.

When Lynn Warren became the first female curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago in the 1980’s, no graduate programs for curatorial students existed. She had a bachelor’s degree from the School of the Art Institute. When I started working at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago in 2015 it was necessary to have a bachelor’s degree to work in the coat check and a master’s degree to be an assistant to the curator. During the gap between Lynn Warren’s arrival at the MCA and my own, the price of higher education had septupled. Here is another instance of neoliberalism dicking me over. Art school was and is a sophisticated gatekeeping method designed to take art away from the blue-collar innovators and artists who historically populate the canon of great works and hand it over to people of means and privilege.

Now in addition to art collecting, art-making has become the realm of the elite. Artists who are not taught to engage with the canon, who do not have professional relationships with working artists and curators, do not have sizable financial backing or grant writing abilities, and most importantly, do not possess a degree from a prestigious school are deliberately excluded from engaging in the art world in any deep meaningful way. These people can have a tote bag if they know their place.  

Lynn Warren curated the MCA’s latest Surrealism exhibit, it was populated by pieces owned by the MCA as well as MCA board members and local collectors. She led a staff tour of the exhibit during which she talked about each piece in terms of its monetary value. She said the Neeson family were big patrons of Magritte and the MCA’s own Jeff Koons bronze lifeboat originally sold for $25,000. At one point someone paid $25k to be really in on this inside joke: all bronze statues are hollow, so casting a hollow object out of bronze is actually a funny and infinitely expensive gag.  During the tour, Warren mentioned nothing of the artists themselves and none of my coworkers seemed perplexed by this. I was startled if not impressed by the lack of pretense. She didn’t shy away from the fact that art exists to make rich people richer. It is a fact of her everyday life.

Sneaky rich people established the first Free port in 1888. For those not in the know, a Free port is a storage facility outside of any country’s jurisdiction and its purpose is to provide “the temporary exemption of taxes for an unlimited quantity of time.” Originally they were maybe meant to store grain, but grain goes bad after an unlimited quantity of time. Wild. Art, on the other hand, is typically dry and non-edible so it’s actually a pretty great thing to store in a Free port. It’s almost as if freeports were designed to house art. I say that because they allow for art to be stored and sold with anonymity and without tax. They are essentially the Cayman bank account of art. The Free port in Geneva, Switzerland is believed to house at least 10 billion dollars worth of art, gold, carpets, and other items. The one in Zurich is believed to be roughly around the same value. Unfortunately, it is likely that these numbers are gross underestimations. It has been observed that freeports can be used to corner the market and even bolster the value of burgeoning artists, as was the case with the early work of Damien Hirst bought by Charles Saatchi. The added bonus for collectors was that these pieces could exchange owners without ever leaving the Free port or being taxed a dime. Apparently, rich people really do not like to pay taxes.

Given that the art world is this shady and this wrapped up in capitalism and the free market — what is left to care about? Do people really enjoy standing in starkly lit white rooms looking at bronze lifeboats? Do people still cry when they see Mark Rothko’s “multiform”? It seems trite, knowing all that we know. I mean Christ, Rothko was part of a CIA conspiracy to prop up Modern American art in the culture war against the Soviet Union. No one actually cared about the way he layered the colors or his preoccupation with death. He was a toy.

I have spent the large majority of this essay being a defeatist, but that’s not what I am. Hating art is about hating what the aristocracy has made art into. It’s a rejection born out of bitterness. It’s born out of a resentment and an incongruence between what art could be and what it actually is. I really think it is up to creators to reclaim art for ourselves. It is important to value doodles, poems written by friends, and the little plasticine keychains my homie Julia makes at her house.

One time working at the MCA I saw a bird land on a two-point-one million dollar primary-colored Calder mobile —I wanted it to shit so bad. That bird was punk rock. I always have the urge to touch the artwork. To punch it like that brave man who punched the Monet. Many times I have watched children gather wide-eyed in large groups on the third floor to flap their arms in synchronicity to affect the position of the Calder mobile, that’s art. Another time in a grassy area in front of the museum I saw a pack of crows savaging a live rabbit, they first attacked its heels and ankles so the animal could not make an escape. One of our exhibits was a room full of meticulously laid out broken glass. After it closed, I got to see the preparators sweep it all up with push brooms. It only took a few minutes. Things moments of realness that interrupted the sanctified facade that museums try to incubate were more artful than many of the exhibitions I saw while working there.

 Art is exchanged between friends, not collectors. It’s not plastered on white walls or on tote bags. It doesn’t evade taxes or fill the void in your lackluster personality. It’s not what they want it to be, it’s what I want it to be — because this is my essay. We can find value outside of the economy, it existed before and it never ceased to exist, people just ceased to give credence to it. We can trade art pieces with our friends. We can tell stories about the creation of each piece, attach an oral history to each piece — this is value! We can make art that educates people! Education is inherently valuable. One evening I was hanging around the museum after my shift had finished watching a performance piece by Jenny Kendler. She took the projections of future elephant death caused by ivory sales and converted that data into sheet music for a player piano. We sat together in a group of about thirty and listened to the atonal swan song of the elephants. The lights were dim and the sense of community was palpable. Jenny used her performance piece to educate and encourage direct action. As contemporary artists, we have to understand that art and activism are inseparable in our traumatic political climate. At a solo show at the University of Illinois in Chicago, I saw a collection of pieces by Christa Donna, who envisioned a world guided by feminine and maternal values, drawing parallels to the mostly feminine colonies of bees, while exploring plant communities and other eusocial colonies of bugs. Art is still so valuable for its ability to inspire and to imagine a better life. The minerals and material used to make work have value. We can show people that all material has vibrancy, that to separate humans from nature was a gross philosophical misstep that has led to centuries of increased disconnection with nature. We can use materials discarded by society and repurpose them into art thereby re-invigorating their value. It can be like JunkYard Wars only fundamentally opposed to wars. We can plant plants and rob banks and vandalize the Hobby Lobby (who smuggled five thousand and five hundred different pieces of art and artifacts out of Iraq). We can develop our own dialectic community in order to talk about our art in an agreed upon way. We can give trash a value outside of capitalism, a system which deems it worthless but produces metric tons each and every second, like Michelle Reader who has been making sculptures out of discarded toys and clock parts since 1997. We can learn to live off the trash. This is called Trash Magic and there is a whole manifesto you can read about it. We could abolish racial and class antagonism within the art world. Can we please put a drag queen in the Louvre? Preferably Alaska. Can we once again believe that maybe revolution through art is somehow attainable, as long as you refuse to play the game?

We could, potentially, create an economy of art that operates independently from money,  if neoliberalism doesn’t swallow us whole first. I don’t know what value that would generate for us in a capitalist society. Maybe community is value enough. I don’t know what the next step after this would be, but wouldn’t it be great to have a value system outside of the economy? Too bad we all have to generate monetary value or else we will literally die so if someone wants to buy your art you should probably sell it to them. SMH, you should probably get a job at an ad agency.

Swezy, Zachary (@SolarisHilton). “art is just a trick to get people with mood disorders to participate in capitalism send tweet” 4 September 2017, 9:27 a.m. Tweet.

Source Material/Recommended Reading:

https://medium.com/age-of-awareness/winners-losers-fuck-false-meritocracy-10369b3c4a0b

https://www.theguardian.com/news/2017/aug/18/neoliberalism-the-idea-that-changed-the-world

http://www.mas-ultra.world/topics/art-and-culture/about-hating-art

https://www.artsy.net/article/artsy-editorial-freeports-operate-margins-global-art-market

https://lafelabs.github.io/Trash_Magic_Manifesto.pdf

Lil Tay: A Brief Overview

Lil Tay has been making big waves this month. The nine year old, previously known for her provocative instagram videos (she likes to swear and discuss precisely how broke you are), was seen first in a video alongside Chief Keef on April 7th, before clips surfaced of an April 15th altercation between Bhad Bhabie, Woahh Vicki, and Lil Tay herself. According to Bhad Bhabie, conflict arose after Lil Tay and Woahh Vicki called Bregoli’s best friend a “dumb n*****,” leading Bhabie to challenge them to a fight outside a mall (both Woahh Vicky and Lil Tay frequently use the n-word online). Lil Tay has previously gotten into internet beef with youtuber Ricegum, who you probably don’t remember from the time he made a Jake Paul diss; open conflict with Bhad Bhabie seems just as much about courting internet clout as it does personal differences and bigotry.

Digging up information on Lil Tay online proves difficult; her instagram has been repeatedly deleted (probably because you have to be 13 to have an account), and Tay has only done a single interview to date, focused primarily on her music rather than the artist herself. While we don’t know who Lil Tay’s parents are, her old twitter bio claimed the account was run by her mom, who may be the woman seen adjusting a Glo Gang headband for Tay in the aforementioned Chief Keef clip. It’s also safe to surmise Lil Tay’s parents are extremely loaded, given their daughter’s penchant for rocking Gucci and Vuitton.

Now, the music: “Money Way” by Lil Tay is a boilerplate trap track for 2018, clearly derived from the Lil Pump formula, but substituting the shock value of a 9 year old white girl for Pump’s oddball charisma (note: Lil Tay may be half-Asian, specifically Filipino?). Two months prior to the March release of “Money Way” came “On My Wrist,” with lower production value and even less attempts at “rapping;” that’s probably why that song remains unavailable on major streaming services.

Lil Tay shocks on first encounter, but the trends precipitating her rise have been apparent for a minute. White rappers have been en vogue since the 2010s started, typically at the edge of the scene but increasingly carving out larger and larger swaths of territory. In the last year, we’ve seen G-Eazy and Lil Pump go #1 while hewing closer to traditional rap aesthetics of the moment.

The success of rappers like Rich Brian (FKA Rich Chigga) in translating vine personality into hip-hop star power presaged the current wave of rappers utilizing a personality-first model to break big (think Boonk Gang and Woahh Vicky). And this digital incarnation of the cult of personality is just a retooling of how celebrities and reality television stars used to parlay screen success into studio smashes (Paris Hilton and Tila Tequila both had short-lived musical careers; Bhad Bhabie rose to infamy on Dr. Phil). And we would be remiss not to cite the talented-as-hell (fight me) Matt Ox, a 13 year old white rapper who performed at the same illroots party as Chief Keef, boxed with fellow-Philadelphian Lil Uzi Vert, and contributed a standout hook to “$$$” off XXXTentacion’s recent #1 album.

Rumors are currently swirling that Lil Tay has signed a record deal of some sort, though there appears to be no official substantiating evidence. And while she’s currently making the rounds as a meme, much like Matt Ox and Bhad Bhabie before her, there is a clear dearth of musicality that ought to preclude her from capitalizing off her 15 minutes of fame in the same way. Moreover, it seems hard to believe that Tay will remain attached to the idea of rapping; she seems more preoccupied with flexing, using well-worn hip-hop tropes to accentuate the flex as opposed to flexing to highlight her rap bonafides. If Rich Brian asked “what if all the aesthetic markers of a rapper were transplanted onto a figure with absolutely no connection to them,” Lil Tay asks “what if all the aesthetic markers of a rapper were transplanted onto a figure with absolutely no connection to them and no interest in performing that connection?” While the answer might amuse for a moment, the moment is quickly passing.

No, Nicki Minaj is Not Guilty of Cultural Appropriation

This is why we can’t have nice things. After announcing two singles this week, Nicki Minaj found herself under fire for perceived cultural appropriation after dropping the artwork for “Chun-Li.” The title refers to the character from Street Fighter II, the first female character in a fighting game, while the artwork depicts Minaj decked out in Fendi and sporting Chun-Li’s signature “ox horn” hairstyle.

Let’s start with the obvious: we’re talking about a character in a videogame. If we consider Minaj’s new single appropriation, we would implicitly be accepting the premise that Chun-Li is somehow a Chinese cultural touchstone, despite being programmed by a group of American and Japanese men with little regard for political correctness. As NPR noted in 2014, Street Fighter is filled with racist caricatures and ethnic stereotypes, from Russian characters who fight bears to Indian ones who fight with yoga. While Chun-Li’s character design sees her wearing a revamped qipao (a traditional 20th century Chinese dress), her cultural connection is superficial at best.

Secondly, the song itself barely focuses on Chun-Li at all. Much like 2015’s “Shanghai,” Minaj’s lyrical content is preoccupied with flexing and stunting, notably free of cringe-worthy Orientalism present on songs like Migos’s “Chinatown” (Quavo’s “ching-chong” adlib is painfully ridiculous). The track uses Chun-Li as an avatar of female power, placing her in the company of Lara Croft and Storm. This lends itself to a much more benign reading than Minaj’s detractors have intially suggested.

Third, and perhaps most critically, accusing Minaj of cultural appropriation mistakenly suggests the power dynamics at play are the same as when Katy Perry dressed as a geisha or Iggy Azalea put on a blaccent. Antiblackness is rampant in Asian communities, and Asians in the West tend to lean in on the myth of the model minority in order to gain standing under white supremacy. Consider the recent incidence of blackface on Chinese state television, salt in the wound of China’s economic exploitation of various African nations. To suggest a black woman has the privilege to appropriate Chinese culture seems inane at face value, let alone after critical analysis.

While some have defended Minaj by citing her Asian heritage, this strikes me as misguided; born in Trinidad and Tobago, Minaj’s heritage traces back to South Asia, rather than East Asia. Even considering cultural diffusion across the continent, I cannot in good faith suggest that Minaj has any more “right” to Chinese culture than I do as an American of Indian descent.

This conversation highlights the ways social justice discourse has, for better or worse, permeated online culture, and how the buzzword-ification of various topics has led to their dilution, being tossed around without proper understanding of their origin or context. Feel free to get up in arms when the music video drops and is chockful of Orientalist stereotypes, but until then, let’s just revel in the return of the queen.

CHUCK TRASH


When and how did you start making music?

I would say I started writing first. Most people don’t know anything about this, but rapping is a major passion for me. I’m working on a full-length album “Total Trash” that I also produced. It’s really different than the beat tape, and it’s also almost done. So I would say I started writing at like 10, some raps, some poetry. Then I mostly just rapped after high school. Like 3 or 4 years ago I started to produce on Ableton. I do everything manually on my laptop, and then just tweak kits to my liking to catch a sound that works for me. I don’t actually use an extension of a device, which is weird, but I also feel like it’s worked til this point.

Who are some artists you’d like to produce for?

I got a track with KC Ortiz on the album I’m working on, but ideally, I would love to make more beats for her. She has a really awesome sound and her raps challenge me to make beats that are more…modern. Aside from her, it would be like a dream come true to make a beat that the Alchemist would rap on, or like, Roc Marciano. Al does it all. He is an amazing producer and a sick rapper, so if he rapped on a track, it’d be like, ‘damn, this dude I idolize vibes with me’.

Given your background in music journalism I think it would be interesting to hear you describe your music to us. 

I would say at this point it’s like a split personality type deal. “The Sample Vandal” is like, heavily influenced by 9th Wonder and The Alchemist. Those guys have done the best job staying relevant with a classic sound. All my stuff on that tape samples old soul and jazz mostly, and I did my best to put a more modern twist on them, specifically with heavy 808s, because I don’t wanna be boxed in with a nostalgic sound. The other side, the rap side, is all over the place. That’s also very sample-based, but it’s really bizarre and eccentric samples. Like Throbbing Gristle, or even just sheer noise on some of it. So that’s a bit more experimental. I listen to a lot of music so I like to take what I listen to and utilize my knowledge behind that the best I can.

How do you feel about the rap renaissance that seems to be taking place in Chicago?

That’s a killer question. I think it has been very good and very bad at the same time. From one perspective, it is amazing that Chicago is on the map the way it is now. This is the city to be in if you are trying to make it in rap. The problem arises when every single person is a rapper or producer, and not everyone is talented. That’s just reality. I think it has become a ‘trendy’ thing to be a rapper now, and like that sucks. Also, I feel this vibe that a lot of low-key rappers who rule, such as those Pivot Gang guys, they would blow up if they were in a different big city. It’s just so competitive here right now, it’s tough to break out of Chicago without a GOOD Music deal, or a cosign from a major name. And that sucks too. Lastly, I think Chicago has been boxed into a limited amount of sub-genre, so if you’re not making soulful hip-hop in the Chance lane or drill in the Louie/Keef lane, no one cares and that’s awful. There is so much more out here. It’s just over saturated. But don’t get me wrong, I am thrilled Chicago is on the map. That’s amazing.

Aside from the pivot gang folks who else in Chicago do you think is flying under the radar? 

I mentioned KC Ortiz earlier, definitely her. My boy Saint Icky. My guy Zip aka Lil Flame for sure. David Ashley, although I am not sure he is still local. That dude means business. He is rare talent.

Are there any songs that make you want to quit making and critiquing music because they’re so good (or so bad)?

This is so cliche but when I hear a Kendrick verse for the first time, I am generally blown away. I think he is the best rapper alive at a time when it is insignificant, but a part of me is still a major old head so I think the competitive aspect of rap should exist. Even if it doesn’t. But when I hear Kendrick spit, I’m kinda in awe, like, I will NEVER be able to do that. With production, also cliche, but kanye is revolutionizing music every time he drops something. 808s was 5 years ahead of its’ time and still is in some ways. And I didn’t even love that album when it came out. With music I hate, I listen to so much music that at a certain point, if I listen to it enough I’ll probably end up liking it which is a trait that I love about myself.

OK, so hypothetically a major label signs you after hearing your next project and you go on to have an illustrious career, what do you think your biopic would be like?

That’s something to process, no doubt! I think if I had a biopic–depending on when it was made, the first part of my life would be significant. I had a tough time in high school and struggled alot with depression and bipolar disorder. I’ve definitely learned to live my life and am extremely comfortable with who I am at this point, but there were a few years where I was really struggling mentally that I think define me at this point. Like, overcoming that stuff and getting to this point where I can thrive creatively and live life as optimistically as possible. So that would be interesting but hopefully after that and from this point forward, it would be inspiring and happy ideally. Who knows what the future looks like.

What advice would you give to kids going through similar struggles?

I would say to just try your best to get through adolescence. Growing up is hard man. Everyone is hormonal and going through new sets of experiences and emotions, but those experiences and emotions mold who you are, and once you get beyond that point of high drama, people grow up and grow into themselves. Everyone has something in their life that makes them struggle. But once you grow up, you can pick and choose who and what you deal with way more and that makes things way easier. One of the reasons I don’t go through it as much is because I just learned that this is who I am. Having mental setbacks from time to time is a big part of me, but it’s also not the only part or even the biggest part. So find an outlet that allows you to let go of some of those feelings and just be mindful that it really does improve, and that the idea of ‘it gets better’ is not just cliche bullshit.

DON’T DO IT FOR THE CULTURE

Last night, Migos dropped a 24 song slog album. Somehow, even though the record is 9 hours old as I write this, approximately 85% of twitter has a half-formed opinion about it. More interesting than the record itself are those behind the music, caught time and again with the proverbial foot in their homophobic mouths.

In an era obsessed with deeming things “classic or trash,” we also love to deem things “woke or broke.” And when we find something decidedly broke, we love to find ways to excuse the actions of the people behind the microphone, either by accepting half baked apologies or contorting ourselves like knotted up earbud cables.

And of course, when it comes to Migos, their behavior falls more neatly into hip-hop history and what we, as a society, have deemed permissible. After all, they’re just using some unsavory words, which barely registers in a country so desensitized to violence, whether linguistic or physical. On top of this, the shift of music to streaming obscures the flow of money, and easily lends itself to the bystander effect: it doesn’t matter if I stream this person’s music, because it’s really only a fraction of a cent, and anyway, other people with greater moral fortitude won’t.

Personally, I’m of the opinion that on a micro level, very little of what we do matters. No, I don’t stream XXXTentacion’s music, but Capitol Records president Steve Barnett still took time out of his day to tell uneasy execs working under him that XXX was economically worth the moral malfunction. After a certain point, it’s easy to throw your hands up, say fuck it, and listen to some Kodak Black, or Rich the Kid, or Chris Brown, or R. Kelly, or Famous Dex, or 6ix9ine, or or or (And to be clear: white artists are just as abusive and sick: think Brand New’s Jesse Lacey, The Gaslamp Killer, Real Estate’s ex-guitarist Matt Mondanile, to name just a few)

The flip to this is that we have to be able to stomach the culture we create and enable. Action Bronson really said Close up of Drunk Mexican Tranny after Bes poured a Bottle of water on its head” in an instagram caption, and 4 years later he has a tv show where he gets paid to travel and eat delicious food. Fuck that’s disheartening. And as much as I would like to claim the fault lies with the artist, or the cultural gatekeepers, or the record label executives, or or or… at some point, I, like many of you, have to face the fact that when it comes to music, we vote with our ears every time we open Spotify. Migos’s homophobia is so jarring not due to its violence, or its obscenity, but because of its banality. We discuss it not because it is new, but because of what it reflects about ourselves.

tchan

tchan is an artist and DJ that I have been following for quite some time, we first worked together when I debuted a guest mix from tchan on local Chicago radio station, WLUW. I have been closely following her career ever since. Her latest project is full of old school vibes that are guaranteed to make listener’s move their feet and bounce their hips.

How long did you spend crafting this latest project? 

It’s been overall 3 years! fast track was the first tchan track  -it made me really come to grips with what I should do in music and it made it easier; quick fast one takes with as little flare as possible. The rest of the EP developed over the course of the last year and a half but the idea behind this release is that it’s a collection of tracks that have been shrouded in a lot of self doubt and finally have been given the light they deserve.

Tell us more about this “fast one take, no flare” approach to club tracks?

So, I don’t have a gripe with modern music, I love a lot of what’s coming out but because people are given digital software with no limits anything is possible which is amazing but there’s been less love in modern day for bare bones trax. I came to footwork because it was bare bones, no glitz, no glamour -just complete drum machine brutality. A lot of the dance music I grew up with only had a couple of elements total and people really had to make it work. My idea isn’t a reaction to the big room techno or NXC glitter or high quality club trax rather it comes from a longing for a time that was much simpler. fast Track in total was 4 different elements and 12 loops total, and on top of that I did it in one take. The feeling I got from the process really made me feel a certain kind of special, it reminded of the stuff I grew up with but it was made with my hands. So, from that day I kept the process in mind and have kept tryna one up myself. I don’t mind spending a lot of time on tracks but I love the complexity of simplicity, and a lot of people have lost the idea and feel for it. Hopefully others will get my process and try it in their own unique ways.

So on that note, where did you tend to find inspiration, especially in terms of this album?

Most of the inspiration for this album was drawn from ghetto tech, ghetto house, dis-associative experiences and DOS games. A lot of the sounds I used were ripped from 90’s games. tailwhip is almost all done with “Star Wars Force Commander” samples, the track door creek I swear uses Half Life samples, I don’t remember for sure though -lol. All the rhythms used are from modern Midwest dance music fosho but the glue of all these sounds and how the tracks work out are from the dark period of my life when I was on drugs all the time and transitioning. I don’t really do drugs anymore but 2015 – 2017 I was really into research chemicals and other weird shit. It really fucked w my psyche and how I thought about stuff but it also really made everything much easier to handle. When I put on music during that time it was life saving and even silence or Lowercase felt like music to me. I’d play a video game and hear music and overall my whole idea of music and non-music was blurred for a very long time. I still have that feeling, it’s been a while since I’ve been in that place but how I interpreted reality at that time really gave me the ability to say fuck it to conventional structure and pandering to what others want to hear. That’s why this took so long, because no one makes stuff close to me. I still don’t know how I ended up with a lot of these ideas but I love where I’m going and what’s happened, even though parts of my life have been very detrimental and awful.

I’d like to know more about how video gaming has influenced your music.

I’d be down to do music for a video game, I feel like I’d be good at it -but I’m not a gamer! I wasn’t allowed to play many games when I was a kid and it always was a point of contention for me -and I’m still bitter about it, lol! But I love the abstract nature of the sounds in video games especially during the 90’s. That’s all I could ever play I had a shitty computer for years and was left w 90’s DOS box games.

What would you want your biopic to be like?

I’d like my biopic to be like “Arrested Development” but instead of everyone being a deplorable mess just have everyone act off of emotions and showing (most everyone’s) good side. Everything up to this point in my life has been a hilarious train-wreck and I’d really love to highlight the experience that no one is even close to perfect and none of us knows what’s we’re doing really. I really don’t know who’d play me not many people look like me,  they’d need to b really short, lol. I’d love to get someone who does tongue-in-cheek horror to do it, like Lloyd Kaufman or even someone like Larry David to do it. The reason why is because even at the worst moments in my life there’s always a bit of humor added into it. Also miscommunication is a big part of my life, so I’d really love to highlight that. The plot would definitely be along those themes with added surreal and dis-associative horror in it, along with a general theme of never giving up no matter how heavy the punch is.

Can you make us a short 5 track playlist?

Ray Ray – Tell Em (DJ Rashad Remix)

Karen Dwyer – The Workers Are On Strike

Cue-tek – Frogger

If you need info on any of these lemmie know.

(Editors notes: these are some rare tracks, but maybe tchan would be kind enough to share the rest with you) 

So Jubilee recently spun one of your tunes on BBC, how do you feel?

I’m fucking stunned I didn’t know I’d be on the BBC ever especially with that track…… If you told me 3 years ago fast track would be liked by anyone enough to be played on the BBC I seriously would think you’re fuckin whatever. God bless Jubilee though, she’s always been mega inspirational to me. Never thought I’d ever get a message back from her.

Anyway, tell the kids to eat their vegetables and make a thing a day and tell them “Lost Data” is out on usb and soon floppy.

Dress Code Aquarium by Ben Niespodziany

We’ve got a sneak peek of “Dress Code Aquarium” for the real heads. For those not in the know, “Dress Code Aquarium” is a 40-page collection of poetry and micro-fiction by Chicago’s own Ben Niespodziany, also known as [neonpajamas]. Below are two excerpts from the book which is set for release on December 1st.

__

Shelled

When the ex-pat found the empty turtle shell on the shore, he dragged it back to his place. He scraped off the minimal guts with sand paper and cleaned the bumps with a damp sponge. He rubbed it with two tins of surfboard wax and later placed the shell out in the sun to be properly bleached. At the end of the week, he brought the turtle shell into his home, crawled inside like an old cat with a new box, and for the first time in half a decade, the ex-pat got a proper night’s sleep.

Art Parents

Just because
the twenty something’s
paint strokes
are elementary,
uninspired, uninteresting,
just because
patrons mutter
and flee from
coffee shops
if they see him
creating at a table,
doesn’t mean
that he isn’t the best
artist his parents
have ever seen.