From Cardi B to Speed Darlington: The Wrong and Right about contemporary music & the warped flexibility of publicity, endorsement and uniqueness.
A few weeks ago, I was meant to drop a piece on parallels between Biafra and the XXL freshman cover. While I was almost through with it, the lightning of procrastination has struck it into a place of near finish. In the same light and to shame the devil, I’ve decided to make this a precursor.
Creativity is a core part of humanity. I believe every human being is imbued with a creative clout, however minute. However, most people go through life without the realization of their creative inclinations. The crazy part of this is how people force creative endeavors on themselves because of certain needs and life struggles. That feeling of he sings, I can too. Music has seen more cases of forced contributions for one reason or the other than any form of art, creativity and talent expression. The best part is how it’s also made success stories of people limited in talent, but who are consistent.
Humanity loves underdog success stories, and is fraught with sentiment to the affirmative. Music and sport poke these human predisposition most by affording increased opportunities by the evolution and advancement in craft.
Sonic sub genre trends in music — rap music especially come with a certain cool and swank. From Crunk, to Ratchet to trap, Grime, Drum and bass; First off, they blow the steam right off rap. Second, they make success stories; those ones we all love. The interesting bit is how their criteria for quality are streamlined to accommodate more fun and edgy contributions, to soothe the more averse to seeming mature meaningful music — usually the young and laid back. Nevertheless, music of this nature also appeals to the fun loving parts of humanity. After all, no one can play “4:44" in a Club and expect people to dance when there’s Migos, with more contemporary sounds and lingo.
Over the years, even though ephemeral, these sub genres have made success stories of people limited in talent — at least to the widely accepted definition of talent. They’ve managed to make lives more meaningful and inspire more people to attempt creativity, this in turn has kept futures straight and given chances to lives on the brink, searching for meaning. Most successes of this class come from nothing and were headed for nothing, so you’d indulge my sentiment on this maybe indulge yourselves too.
With the only valid criteria for judging music like these being potential for trend and how jiggy they make people feel, definition of quality has been diluted. While some, including myself might agree with those persuasive arguments on how quality is determined by what a genre of music is meant to achieve, I think generally, quality music arouses an almost telepathic endorsement within you. You don’t even have to listen for long or grasp the words to know it’s good music. Yes, music is meant to resonate with humanity and create a sense of enjoyment. It’s also meant to be a means of expression through all kinds of means, with no streamlining and limitation to what quality represents. I also do understand that definition of quality cannot be centric to a particular criteria in a constantly evolving world, which means party and swanky music can also be good music, if people like it, but then, meaning and substance are fundamental to every class of kind of expression of inner artistry, and it’s just about vulnerable subjects or conscious clamour. It’s about relatability and articulation, as opposed to trend driven output and drive.
In the long history of artistes and music of this type, Cardi B and her song Bodak Yellow as well as Speed Darlington’s Bang Dang Dang are the latest. While they contrast for quality with Bodak definitely of a higher Cadre, they both represent a paradigm shift in what quality is in rap music. The crazy thing, they’re both making waves of popularity. Only difference is Bodak is driving a cultural wave, Bang Dang is enjoying subconscious endorsement and publicity.
The biggest victory of this class of music however is warping the definition of uniqueness. Humanity has always been drawn to unique movements. There’s a reason Gangnam Style, Harlem Shake, Vanilla Ice, Vic-O, Sky B, Princess Vitarrah and Speed Darlington are cultural phenomena. While a lot of people mock them or consider them funny, they’re subconsciously drawn to them because of the difference in their sound and substance. Even though, they might be of “low quality”, going by laid down judgements of quality, they go to exemplify how creating a new norm could score you a pop culture touchdown. You’re allowed to Slag this point of view but you have to understand that while uniqueness has always been of seeming positive connotation, evolution has birthed dynamism of meaning, and has substantiated uniqueness to be of both positive and negative connotation, and both can be of equal relevance, especially in this Millennial world.
People will argue that endorsement represents rubber stamping of quality, it’s not these days. Promotion and popularization of a phenomenon is endorsement. If you heard it, posted it on your Twitter account, and you allow other people access to it, then you’ve endorsed it. If you didn’t want people to listen, you wouldn’t have posted it in the first place. Uniqueness drives itself and its vehicle is difference from the norm. The contribution of the above mentioned people to human development is exemplification of how difference and aversion to the norm means to humanity and growth, however how warped their cases might seem.
There’s however a worry and it is legitimate — Language and themes aren’t even the problem, it’s substance and essence. With the continued evolution, we keep birthing diluting the meaning of quality with worrying new standards. Even though, evolution is a good thing, I fear what my/our children might come to deem quality in music. I wouldn’t be saying “Hiphop is dead” anytime in my future, but if Trap births an even more ridiculous sub genre — which it will, then music might be plummeting to new lows, from which it might be hard to fully establish what true quality is even though all songs might have meaning.
With the advent of trend also, has come the burden of constant creativity for relevance and trend. The fickle nature of the former has introduced more overnight successes than America’s Got Talent as well as as one song wonders. Enjoyment creates fan entitlement. While that might be negative, an artiste owes his fans constant quality, that suits their expectations. With acceptance becoming this easy, anyone literally has been able to create hits. While no artiste is completely talentless, some are more dedicated than others even though they’re all talented and. These trend artistes are usually unable to keep up. While most might not see it, giving malformed artiste with diluted dedication the chance to succeed could be a disadvantage of this movement.
But in the end, I guess we individually define what quality is. The truth however is subconscious endorsement is real and might not be as bad as it sounds and it shouldn’t birth arguments.
By PennedMusingsNG for Urban Central. Follow his escapades on Twitter @Weird_Liberal
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