Lanier, Drake, & a Whole Mess of Mediocrity
An argument of this new culture of ours, where everything is easily accessible is that it creates a sort of “mediocre mush,” according to musician, and author Jaron Lanier. We can access virtually any song, sample it, remix it, and upload it, garnering attention and maybe even a cult-like following if we are lucky. I find being a millennial a very interesting time to be alive (see WATTBA, Future/Drake). We can measure strides, and setbacks, advancements and regressions of this era. We have been accused of being lazy, entitled, self absorbed and lacking a culture. I am a part of the last generation who remembers what life was like without a computer, so in the fibers of my being are ingrained memories of a world where I was entertained by the wonder of being outside and throwing mud pies against the walls and having a hard time making friends, just as much as I remember when my mother brought our first computer home when I was in the fifth grade. I remember using a cassette tape to record the Top 9 at 9 from WGCI and writing the lyrics down to every song to learn them. I stood in lines at Sam Goody to purchase CD’s by Puff Daddy, Eminem, and Jay-Z. I am now a lyricist working on my 4th album, and though I am still building my cult-like following, those that do follow, compliment me on my delivery, voice and lyricism. These were all essential elements that made Hip-Hop great during the 90’s and 2000's, dubbed the “Golden Era,” and took so many of those artists to stardom. I say all of this to say that maybe Lanier has a point when he determines a culture “real” by measuring the amount of time one has studied and contributed to the culture before imitating it.
In an interview with the guardian, and in his book You Are Not A Gadget, Lanier discusses the difference between real and fake culture being whether or not the “remixer” processed and internalized the culture before creating a mash up. This mash up gives rise to the mediocre mush, or a mass amount of mediocrity being created because people have the ability to do so, however lacking in real substance.
Strictly playing Devil’s Advocate, I ask, what about the aura, and the fabric of tradition that Walter Benjamin discusses? Do these new creations have it? Walter Benjamin argues, “The uniqueness of a work of art is inseparable from its being embedded in the fabric of tradition.” I took this to mean that no matter the amount of remixing made to the original, the foundation and tradition is needed for the remix to be created. I understand as an artist, we mostly work and are deemed relevant by the accolades and credit received, and it’s easier to speak from the point of a blogger than a rapper now when I say that, without the original, there would be no mash-up. Every time we make something as an artist, we lend ourselves to be the foundation that future artists can build upon. There is much “mediocre mush” that has gotten caught in the web; I found that to be true searching for the Drake Hotline Bling video via Youtube, only to realize that after Drake’s 19 million dollar with Apple, of course it only exists at Apple. Duh. However, there are “DrakeVevo” accounts with “Hotline Bling Official Video” tags and titles, getting hella hits. I mean, I unknowingly and unwillingly gave away 2 of my precious views. Tactics like this add to the mediocre mush, because hungry artists will even steal a view, which raises even more questions like, who actually won that battle? Drake or the starving ass artist relentless enough to use someone else’s name to garner views to their music. I mean why would one think that’s okay? It’s like me buying a ticket to the Jungle tour, and Meek Mill being the opener. The view/hit was because someone was searching for someone else. I typed “Drake Hotline Bling” into Google, and got 20.5 million results. Almost the same amount of his Apple deal. It’s a win win for him. Because every time we use our apps to create a meme, Gif, or parody video of the Hotline Bling video, we add value to the Drake brand. The artists that use Drake’s name on Youtube to generate hits, may bask in the 15 seconds of fame, but Drake won the view essentially, and the artist may have had their song heard, but if you’re anything like me, you turned it off in disappointment because it was not the result you anticipated. As you can see, I cannot stop talking about @champagnepapi, but the new marketing is brilliant. He’s reaching a new found fame just by being so memeable and whether it’s mediocre mush or not, he’s the King of Rap and the Internet now.