Thursday, June 7, 2012

further to the post on Bat, Bean, Beam and the "don't be a dick" video -- are we no longer allowed to disapprove of or even critique mass taste, or the cultural likes of specific populations? - the big spat between Nicki Minaj and Hot 97 threw up some relevant matter.... check some of Minaj's rebukes of the Hot Jocks "this ain't real hip hop" on-air dissing of "Starship":

• "I'm a grown-ass woman, and everyone is grown enough to keep their opinions to themselves in order to give people a great time. I've traveled all around the world, and people come with one agenda, and that is to have a good time. Not to have their favorite artist be ridiculed or be made fun of.."

• "When you disrespect Nicki Minaj — and I don't care if it was in front of 2,000 people, which can equate to 2 million people when it's streaming live — you're disrespecting my fans. See, I don't have a problem with anyone saying what they have to say to me. But don't make those 3 million people that downloaded 'Starships' or whatever they downloaded, don't make them feel like they're inferior in any way for their personal taste in music."

this basically boils down to "don't be a dick about what other people like"

which has all the problems that Tiso brings up 

as does Minaj's repeated reference to the number of records she's sold and amount of money she's made

as if that made one immune to criticism!

it's basically 50 million Elvis fans can't be wrong

but surely criticism should cling onto the possibility, remote as it is, that 50  Million whatever-fans might actually be wrong (i  felt really tempted and almost compelled to place scare quotes around wrong but then the very point i'm making here, or toying with, is the idea that wrong might really be wrong... so no Rorty-esque equivocations here)

political criticism after all always contains the possibility that very large proportions of the population -- sometimes entire populations -- can be completely wrong in their ideas about the economy, how a society ought to be run, what is sexually proper, the respective roles of men and women

and in pop cult, 50 million people being wrong about something is naturally worth analysing,  it is highly interesting in fact, something to take seriously, it might actually tell you something about larger phenomenon ... you might get something out of being not tolerant of, but literally understanding vis-a-vis that mass wrongness

i should say at this point that I generally really like Nick Minaj and "Starships" doesn't bother me at all, it's fun

but it's intriguing and striking, the utter elasticity of her persona/music

i wonder, is it strategic, in a kind of board-room, market-positioning, maximum-market-penetration kind of way (as has been the norm since Thriller, arguably) ? or is this lack of stylistic integrity  actually more "authentic" in that she is just a product this Shuffle-culture....  so it's more like an integral dis-integration of taste (cf Grimes,. "post-internet" etc)...  unrealness (in all senses) is her real

but back to the meta-critical issue

something about the uniformity of the pro-Minaj/anti-Hot97dicks position taken by all critics everywhere makes me uneasy...

well, they're professional generalists, most of them, so naturally they are pre-disposed to the idea of genres not having borders, "death to the taste police", etc....  there's an occupationally-acquired reflex to reward those who don't stay stuck in one genre, aren't purist, exhibit diversity and versatility in their albums...

that in turn reflects on the kind of flexibility and open-ness required to actually do that kind of generalist job

it means that you can't actually ever become fanatical about one kind of music, you can't become a genre-ist -- because you are required to cover everything and find something non-dickish to say about as many things as possible

that may or may not be a virtue in the critic... or a life-advantage for the punter

on a purely philosphical level, if hip hop can encompass absolutely anything, what does hip hop actually mean?  

can we have identity without essence?

and regardless of whether the Rosenberg dude is a right dick and Funkmaster unFlex is the rap equiv of  ye olde punke roquer or not ....  there's a larger question:   if the idea of "the streets" in rap is an ailing, obsolete fiction.... because music can go anywhere and be heard by anyone....  what does that mean for the streets themselves, the real-world referent for that musical concept now said to be detached and set free into the infosphere?    those streets still exist 

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