Thugged Out Pissed Off: Thoughts on Violence Against Women in the Music of Lil B

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On December 30th of 2015 Lil B the BasedGod finally released his long-awaited Thugged Out Pissed Off mixtape, a 63-song triple album that confirms his place as one hip hop’s most vital and unpredictable artists. It is a work of brutal, confrontational honesty that once again reveals the enigmatic, self-contradicting nature of Lil B, the way he can express diametrically opposed viewpoints with total sincerity, in particular his torturously complicated views of women. On one hand he has songs like “All Women” from 2010’s Rain in England, a tribute to womankind: “Every woman, every queen on this earth/ One of the most beautiful creations I have ever seen/ The woman, the strong woman, the beautiful woman/ All shapes and sizes, different colors.” He’s rapped about how “there’s more to models” than meets the eye and marveled at a pregnant mother’s ability to “take all the pain, like a comet.” In 2013 he published an op-ed in Rolling Stone titled “I Stand with Wendy Davis” after the Texas senator filibustered for 11 straight hours to block an anti-abortion rights bill. In some of his songs he has decried violence against women more passionately than almost any other rapper; see for example 2010’s “Real Life”, which includes a shattering portrait of a teenaged prostitute, or Thugged Out Pissed Off’s harrowing closing track, “I Can’t Breathe”, which despairingly implores the listener to “go to East Oakland, ride down to East Oakland, see the young prostitutes.” On 2014’s “No Black Person Is Ugly” he directly urged listeners to “stand up against rape.”

And yet there is a much uglier side to Lil B, one where he threatens physical violence against women with a virulence that is sickening. The cover of Thugged Out Pissed Off foregrounds this side of his psyche, featuring the quotes “Baby mama drama, I can’t respect that” and “Child Support Me/ Knock the bitch out.” As these quotes, as well as lyrics from numerous previous mixtapes, attest, Lil B is obsessed with the notion of being brought to court to pay child support and reacts by threatening violence against the woman in question (“I might kill the bitch/ When you in court I’m gon’ slap you, bitch”). Has this actually happened to Lil B in real life? Perhaps his paranoia around the issue comes from the fear of being incorrectly named as the father of a child that is not his. He referenced this way back in 2009 on the song “Based” from the 6 Kiss mixtape:

But this girl’s really trippin’, sayin’ she my baby mama

I’m not the baby’s father, but I still got a conscience

So I gotta be honest, I might be the baby’s father

But… was he actually the father? “The Truth” from 2012’s Trapped in Basedworld seems to clear the matter up: “Baby mama drama so I had to get tested/ The bitch told me lies, I thought I was the daddy.” So: at least some of Lil B’s violent threats against women seem to stem from this autobiographical incident. That’s not an excuse for such offensive, inflammatory material, but it is a factor that helps us understand how a rapper who speaks endlessly of ‘based’ love and positivity can also write such problematic lyrics. There’s another factor I can’t stop thinking about when I ponder how Lil B can rap lines like these: on “The Growth” from 2011’s Angels Exodus he revealed that he “Had a crazy Mom, she took her hand to the belt/ And the father used to beat her so the violence passed down.” Lil B has always emphasized how much he’s evolved since his formative years, when he was involved in crime and was at one point incarcerated (“I thought it’d be cool to go to jail”), but the scars from an abusive childhood can last a lifetime. Even more unsettling: on “I Can’t Breathe” he utters the line “I got raped so many times I don’t know if I’m broken.” His stream of consciousness approach provides no additional context for the meaning of such a shocking line. Is he speaking literally, from his own experience, or is it meant as a metaphor for cultural oppression? Either way it points to a tortured psyche.

At times Lil B frames his lyrics not as hypothetical threats of violence against women (“I’m gon’ slap you, bitch”) but, even more unsettlingly, as incidents that have already happened i.e. “I knocked the bitch out.” Again, is he speaking literally? I don’t think so. He’s always incorporated fictional elements into his lyrics and spoken about how his raps can come directly from the unconscious and I take a line like “I beat my bitch up” as a disturbing revenge fantasy, not something that actually happened. He addressed this in an interview with The Fader, saying:

“I mean, sometimes you just say things because you aren’t going to do them. I would rather just say something, you know, than actually do it. You should talk about things and let them out.”

This doesn’t necessarily make these lyrics any easier to stomach. Take “Domestic Violence Case” from Thugged Out Pissed Off: “You’ll get your fucking face smashed in the wall, bitch.” Sad and wrong. In between these types of threats he rationalizes violence against women in cold-blooded terms (“We all equal… I’ll choke a bitch out just like I’ll choke one of you niggas”) and even speaks directly to men who would oppose him: “You niggas crying over a bitch, [mocking voice] ‘I’m gonna fight you cuz you wanna hit a bitch’… Captain Save-A-Hoe.” It’s frightening how zoned-out and dead-eyed he sounds here, totally lost in rage and hate. It’s like he’s become a completely different person. And it gets worse. One of the last tracks on the tape is called “Ray Rice”: “Call me Ray Rice, I’ll knock a hoe out/ Leave her jaw broke.” It’s one of the worst, most saddening expressions of women-hating in the history of a genre in which misogyny is endemic.

At his best Lil B has revolutionized hip hop with a unique, open-hearted, at times seemingly ‘artless’ positivity (I’m Gay, “No Black Person is Ugly”, “All Women”) as well as a confrontational, powerfully raw sense of truth-telling (“Real Life”). Sprawling and multifaceted, Thugged Out Pissed Off has glorious examples of both the former and the latter but with songs like “Domestic Violence Case” and “Ray Rice” Lil B has chosen to reinforce the worst, most damaging, most divisive aspects of the genre. He remains one of our very best, most important rappers; hopefully he will continue to grow, to evolve past these troubling impulses, because we need him.

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ROTATION CADAVER: THREE COLLAGES

I.

The Principle of Evil Made Flesh

unmade

II.

Der Todesking

tear

III.

Providence (Hickman’s Seal)sealed


© Ben Prescott and Fried Fetus, 2014-2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Ben Prescott and Fried Fetus with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

THE FIFTEEN BEST RAP SONGS OF 2015

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In ascending order.

15.

 “Smile Mama, Smile” by Rick Ross ft. CeeLo Green

14.

“Summertime” by Pusha T ft. Jill Scott

13.

“Señorita” by Vince Staples

12.

“All Day” by Kanye West ft. Theophilus London, Allan Kingdom, and Paul McCartney

11.

“56 Nights” by Future

10.

“Coco” by Lil Wayne

9.

“Escape the Womb (Offbeat Junkie)” by Cambatta

8.

“Graced and Blessed” by Cities Aviv

7.

“Lord Vader Kush II” by Denzel Curry

6.

“Drown” by DonMonique

5.

“Trappers Delight” by Tree

4.

“Stillborn” by Straightface Forever

3.

“Grief” by Earl Sweatshirt

2.

“Soul Food” by Lil B

1.

“Mortal Man” by Kendrick Lamar

tpap


The Uncompromising Nature of Her Art: Some Thoughts on FKA Twigs and “Video Girl”

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In just a few years FKA Twigs has established herself as, well, a genius. Singer, songwriter, producer, dancer, director: she is a true visionary. The uncompromising nature of her art draws, for me, inevitable comparisons with the goddess Bjork. Like Bjork she experiments with genre splicing and electronic textures and has a voice that seems to emerge from the wellspring of the soul. And like Bjork she deals with sexuality in her art in startling, even transgressive ways that are a million miles away from the often homogenized representation of female sexuality (twerking etc.) in the mainstream. In her “Pagan Poetry” video Bjork unforgettably donned a semi-nude wedding dress, designed by Alexander McQueen, consisting of strands of pearls sewn directly into the flesh of her back and nipples. FKA Twigs’s videos feature images with a comparable melding of sexuality, pain, and bondage. In her “Pendulum” video (which she co-directed) the camera slowly circles Twigs, her body bound in a number of provocative poses: in one her hands are tied behind her back and she is suspended from the ceiling by ropes, some of which are tied into her hair; in another, she balances on the toes of one foot, her other leg tied behind her head in an act of astonishing poise and flexibility. Her “Papi Pacify” video (which she again co-directed) is even more startling, revolving around a series of slow-motion images of Twigs wrapped in the arms of a male dancer who towers over her, his palm cradling her chin, his fingers repeatedly curling deep into her mouth. In the case of both Bjork and Twigs these images of bondage are clearly metaphors for an emotional connection that is expressed through, but goes deeper than, the act of sex. Twigs’s 16-minute”M3LL155X” video, released earlier this year, plunges even further into transgressive territory, matching the lyric “I’m your doll, wind me up/ I’m your doll, dress me up” with the mind-scarring image of her head atop the body of a blow-up sex doll.

Like Bjork, FKA Twigs views the music video as an art form in and of itself. “Video Girl”, directed by Kahlil Joseph, is perhaps her most cryptically fascinating video. Its very first image, before the music even begins, is a distorted shot of a face in darkness, only the glimmer of eyes and teeth visible. This is a key image that is returned to later on. Next the music, centered on a hymn-like chant, begins and we are introduced to a scene in which Twigs is the lone observer of an impending execution via lethal injection. The issue of race is immediately foregrounded: as the convict, who is white, is presented for Twigs to view through a glass observation window, he is held on either side by two guards: on the left, a white guard who stares forward impassively; on the right, a black guard who looks at the convict with unrestrained disgust. Next we see the convict standing in his cell; in the background are pinups of Twigs. Apparently she is the convict’s lover. There are more flashes of the face from the opening of the video, at first distorted, then slightly more clear but still fleeting, the only really discernible detail being diamond grills. As the lethal IV is placed into the convict’s vein the music stops; Twigs is seen leaning back in her chair, breathing heavy, and then moving her body forward. The poison is seen flowing through the IV into the convict’s vein and the music returns, now a menacing bass throb, and Twigs is suddenly seen inside the execution chamber, wearing a different outfit than the previous scenes. Here she begins a series of impressionistic dances that show her to be, in my opinion, the best dancer in the music business. It is simply impossible for me to accurately describe the mesmerizing way she moves her body but it involves her hips, arms, and head in movements alternately jerky and fluid. As she dances, at times nearly touching the convict, the camera repeatedly cuts to shots of her in the observation room, her eyes closed. Then, suddenly, the music stops again and is replaced with what sounds like a distorted heartbeat and the face from the beginning of the video returns, now seen clearly: it is a black man (played by none other than Travi$ Scott), his eyes closed, his teeth bared in a wide smile, his grill drenched in blood (it is a jarring image); after a moment he opens his eyes, blinks a few times, and the smile disappears, as if he had just noticed he is injured; he then looks briefly into the camera before his eyes close again and his head lolls forward. The camera then cuts back to Twigs dancing in the execution chamber and the music returns. As the convict dies in slow-motion Twigs’s dancing becomes increasingly animated; eventually she climbs onto the gurney to which he is strapped and straddles his body. As this happens the camera repeatedly flashes back to Travi$ Scott’s character, his eyes blinking and head lolling in shock, blood dripping from his lower lip; it is clear he is dying as well. At this point we realize that this must be the murder for which the convict has been sentenced to death; as we realize that the white convict has murdered a black man, the look of disgust on the black guard’s face at the beginning of the video comes back to mind. The camera again returns to Twigs in the observation room, her face marked with tears; the video ends with a shot, from the point of view of a security camera, of the convict dead in the execution chamber, alone. The scenes of Twigs dancing in the chamber are revealed as a fantasy.

In just four minutes and thirty-five seconds FKA Twigs and Kahlil Jospeh have united music, film, and dance in a work of troubling and enigmatic beauty. Experience it for yourself below.

HEAVEN’S GATE: THREE COLLAGES

I.

VvLVA

VvLVA

II.

Squaring the Circle

squared

III.

Untitled (is this real life)

Untitled (is this real life)


© Ben Prescott and Fried Fetus, 2014-2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Ben Prescott and Fried Fetus with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Krispy Kreme, Cocaine, Dead Bodies: The 10 Best Rap Songs of All Time (Or Something Like It)

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In descending order. I have included only one song by each artist. Check those lyrics!

[And if you’re looking for the song that gave this post its title, it’s #6 below.]

1. “C.R.E.A.M.” – Wu Tang Clan

But as the world turns I learned life is hell
Living in the world no different from a cell
Every day I escape from Jakes giving chase, selling base
Smoking bones in the staircase
Though I don’t know why I chose to smoke sess
I guess that’s the time when I’m not depressed
But I’m still depressed and I ask what’s it worth?
Ready to give up so I seek the Old Earth

2. “Brenda’s Got a Baby” – Tupac

He left her and she had the baby solo
She had it on the bathroom floor and didn’t know so
She didn’t know what to throw away and what to keep
She wrapped the baby up and threw him in a trash heap

3. “Gin and Juice” – Snoop Doggy Dogg

Rollin’ down the street, smokin’ indo, sippin’ on gin and juice
Laid back, with my mind on my money and my money on my mind

4. “One Love” – Nas

But I heard you blew a nigga with a ox for the phone piece
Wilding on the Island, but now in Elmira
Better chill cause them niggas will put that ass on fire
Last time you wrote you said they tried you in the showers
But maintain, when you come home the corner’s ours

5. “Sing About Me, I’m Dying of Thirst” – Kendrick Lamar

You need her to learn somethin’
Then you probably need to beat her, that’s how I was taught
Three niggas in one room, first time I was tossed
And I’m exhausted, but fuck that ‘sorry for your loss’ shit
My sister died in vain, but what point are you trying to gain
If you can’t fit the pumps I walk in?

6. “Shakey Dog” – Ghostface Killah

You look paranoid that’s why I can’t juks with you
Why? Why you behind me leery?
Shakey dog stutterin’, when you got the bigger cooker on you
You is a crazy motherfucker, small hoodie dude
Hilarious move, you on some Curly, Moe, Larry shit
Straight parry shit, Krispy Kreme, cocaine, dead bodies, jail time you gonna carry it
Matter of fact, all the cash, I’m a carry it
Stash it in jelly and break it down at the Marriott

7. “Doo Wop (That Thing)” – Lauryn Hill

Girlfriend, let me break it down for you again
You know I only say it cause I’m truly genuine
Don’t be a hard rock when you really are a gem
Baby girl, respect is just a minimum

8. “I Gotcha Back” – GZA

What is the meaning of C.R.I.M.E?
Is it Criminals Robbing Innocent Motherfuckers Everytime?
Little shorties take walks to the schoolyard
Trying to solve the puzzles to why is life so hard
Then as soon as they reached the playground, blaow!
Shots ring off and now one of them lay down

9. “Georgia… Bush” – Lil Wayne

Hurricane Katrina, we should’ve called it Hurricane Bush
Then they telling y’all lies on the news
The white people smiling like everything cool
But I know people that died in that pool
I know people that died in them schools

10. “SpottieOttieDopaliscious” – OutKast

As the plot thickens it gives me the dickens
Reminiscent of Charles, a lil’ discotheque
Nestled in the ghettos of Niggaville, USA
Via Atlanta, Georgia a lil’ spot where
Young men and young women go to experience
They first lil’ taste of the night life
Me? Well I’ve never been there; well perhaps once
But I was so engulfed in the Olde E
I never made it to the door you speak of


RAP GAME 2015: Best Songs of the Year So Far

Kendrick-Lamar-To-Pimp-A-Butterfly-pics-3

RAP GAME 2015: Best $ongs of the Year $o Far

In no particular order:

1. Soul Food- Lil B

“Crack house was a nigga’s day care…”

2. Trapper’s Delight- Tree

“No vest just a Jesus Head on my chest…”

3. Graced and Blessed- Cities Aviv

“Cast it into the darkness of your memory…”

4. Grief- Earl Sweatshirt

“All I see is snakes in the eyes of these niggas/ Momma taught me how to read ’em when I look…”

4. Escape the Womb (Offbeat Junkie)- Cambatta

“Forty bottle broken on a ball court/ Metaphor for why niggas always fall short…”

5. Shit- Lil Wayne

“This is Tunechi, bitch, on my Future shit/ I’m too legit, I sleep on a crucifix…”

6. Señorita- Vince Staples ft. Future

“My burner gets stuck if I shoot it too much so a nigga resorted to domin’…”

7. High Fashion- Travi$ Scott ft. Future

“Ain’t no recession, bitch/ I got collections, bitch…”

8. I’m Sicka- Juicy J

“Strapped in yo Instagram pics but that don’t mean shit/ What’s a gun if it ain’t being used…”

9. Ratchet Commandments- Tink

“Niggas ratchet too just in another way…”

10. Mortal Man- Kendrick Lamar

“I been wrote off before, I got abandonment issues
I hold grudges like bad judges, don’t let me resent you
That’s not Nelson-like, want you to love me like Nelson
I went to Robben’s Island analyzing, that’s where his cell is
So I could find clarity, like how much you cherish me
Is this relationship a fake or real as the heavens be?”