The discussion continues on these kids. Some folks are getting their Stan on, others are treading more carefully. There seem to be at least some questions being raised with respect to the level of authenticity in their work. But the focus is not the typical issue of street credibility, instead the focus is about punk credibility. Punk is a term with a lot of baggage, and I’m not about to go down that path, but for the argument’s sake, we’re talking about rebelliousness, anti-authoritarianism and a strong sense of individualism. Not giving a fuck for short (with a minor ironic twist of course). Do these kids really not give a fuck?
Some people who completely reject their work seem to be having a hard time reconciling their “666” (and associated) imagery with more traditionally urban motifs. Like “yo, what’s good with all the swastikas?” And the modern positivity movement can’t get passed certain words, like, “Rape? Nah yo, chill.” That’s all well and understood. OF has embraced shock imagery commonly found within the Punk subculture. Is it meant to be ironic? Is there a deeper meaning? That determination is on you homie. And, it’s part of the experience. It has been since even before Malcolm McLaren, being of Jewish descent, designed clothes with swastika’s. I guess one of the benefits of being far removed from Holocausts and Inquisitions is feeling free enough to reinterpret or even reimagine the meaning behind these events and their imagery.
Now, on the other side of the consumer spectrum, we have the writer-first, rap head-second crowd that are crowning the crew with being the reincarnation of that unadulterated rawness. What unadulterated rawness you ask? You know man, don’t make me names names. The thing is, there is a significant misunderstanding if you try to equate the OFWKTA experience with the best of late 80s or early 90s rap. This is something that Tyler might agree with but probably for different reasons. When I listen to or look at Oddfuture I know what I am taking in is Entertainment first and foremost. When I was listening to (and it was mostly listening) the Wu-Tang Clan I didn’t necessarily think I was consuming something like an HBO drama, what I was listening to was more akin to a documentary on NY youth culture. To me, this is the major difference between OF and trailblazing rap artists in their prime. Entertainment first or expression first? Self-consciously trying to be punk or being fucking punk?
Their is no doubt that these kids are talented and being authentic to their personal experience and outlook. This Yonkers song/video is creative and original and honest in many ways. But its tricky because being honest, especially to young people, can mean being able to portray a certain image. And you have to ask yourself how honest one can be when one is so conscious of people’s consumption of oneself. Say what? I just confused myself I think. What I’m saying is, how authentic can one be when one is creating with mass consumption as the primary goal and how are we supposed to deal with that? Or, paraphrasing Wallace, how can we acquiesce to the illusion that they don’t know they’re being looked at, to the fantasy that we’re transcending privacy and feeding on unself-conscious human activity?. And the answer for a lot of us is that we can’t. And yes, the internet makes it that much more difficult.
And just to be clear, I dig what these kids are doing, on some level. And I appreciate how the timing of their come-up is potentially affecting my consumption. If twitter was around when WTCANTFW dropped, would it have been received differently? Maybe. But it wasn’t around. And it is around now, and although it’s notable that we get to experience artistry in such a personal 2.0 way, what I’m really bugging on is how artists are also consuming us, consuming them. And the level of influence this meta-consumption will have on their work. And on a bigger level how this way of consuming could potentially force people to reexamine their relationship with all kinds of art.