RAVEN MACK is a mystic poet-philosopher-artist of the Greater Appalachian unorthodox tradition who publishes zines & physical books & electronic books & music & photography & digital art & just generally whatever feels necessary to survive this deluded earth thru Rojonekku Word Fighting Arts survival systems (Version 69, establish 14 Feb 1973). Comments encouraged.

Wednesday, June 28

[HH3os] The Atrocity of Brazy Pablo Still Life Exhibition trio

(2nd round match-up 9 of 9)

Limping along to the finish line…

Kanye West – The Life of Pablo
(released February 14, 2016; #5 on 2016 Pitchfork Albums of the Year list)
FROM BITCHFORK!:
Kanye's second child Saint was born in early December, and there's something distinctly preoccupied about this whole project—it feels wry, hurried, mostly good-natured, and somewhat sloppy. Like a lot of new parents, Kanye feels laser-focused on big stuff—love, serenity, forgiveness, karma—and a little frazzled on the details. "Ultralight Beam" opens with the sound of a 4-year-old preaching gospel, some organ, and a church choir: "This is a God dream," goes the refrain. But everything about the album's presentation—the churning tracklist, the broken promises to premiere it here or there, the scribbled guest list—feels like Kanye ran across town to deliver a half-wrapped gift to a group birthday party to which he was 10 minutes late.
Yeah, that sounds entirely right, except then Pitchfork went on to clarify this and be like “AT LEAST IF WE GOT A RUSHED ALBUM IT WAS A KANYE ALBUM OMG KANYE IS AMAZING EVEN WHEN STUPID” because they were afraid to go all-in on the truth, and actually made this their #5 album of the year last year. (This was released *officially* on my birthday, which makes me feel sad for some reason.) I think the rushing off to kid’s birthday party present is one of the more apt descriptions I ever read at a Pitchfork review, because The Life of Pablo is exactly as they described.
In my previous music listening ways of ipod playlists, I separated out tracks, and by far the only song off this album that gained traction with me was the opener, “Ultralight Dream”. Hearing the album in prepared order was weird though because it meant Kanye came out the gate with his strongest song, and then almost immediately negated the Kirk Franklin preaching to the broken end moment by rapping about bleached anuses on super models in the very next song. But the saddest most immediately hodge-podged moment to me is the Max B call. Max B is a cult hero MC who’s likely spending the majority of his days in prison moving forward, due to some shit. As Kanye was building up to releasing this fucking album, he made a single tweet about waves (or something like that) which of course triggered immediate Twitter backlash calling him out (Twitter is great for calling people out over dumb shit) for stealing Max B’s style. So obviously Kanye sets up a call to Max B getting his endorsement for Kanye’s album. I imagine Kanye had to reach out to mutual peeps, who then gave Max advance notice in jail, who of course – being a guy in prison with his freshest days with his fattest gold ring well in the rear view – jumped at the chance to stroke his own ego by being featured in a prison phone call vignette on a major hip hop album in 2016. And all this done so that Kanye could sooth his own ego for getting called out by anonymous motherfuckers he doesn’t even know on Twitter. Every time that track came on, it just made me sad, for Max B, for Kanye, for Twitter, for all of us. We have become entirely fucked, in superficial ways woven so deeply in our day-to-day, that we can’t possibly realize it well enough to entirely undo it. We are fucked. And through the sadness of that collective doom, second round through, The Life of Pablo was a sad THREE STARS (***) for me, the idiot with a website.

YG- Still Brazy
(released June 17, 2016; #22 on 2016 Pitchfork Albums of the Year list)
From Pitchfork:
The album is mostly a status update, examining how the collision between YG the gangster and YG the semi-famous millionaire disrupts his life in Compton.
I don’t know, he acted like he had money but he was still pretty amped on petty crimes, which is refreshing. Too often young criminal elements become flush with cash through other endeavors and lose their taste for petty crime, but crime is as often about the adrenaline as it is the pay-off. In fact, a lot of petty crime (even many larcenies, including low level drug distribution) is not really worth it financially. And there’s nothing shittier than committing crime to do some simple shit like pay your electric bill cut-off notice tomorrow, realizing you are right where you started almost immediately afterwards. There’s this myth that crime somehow has big pay-offs and you’re free from the worry, but no, a lot of hustling is constant hustling which never stops and actually becomes mundane hustling if you can believe it. Thus, it’s nice to hear a young man stay dedicated to his work with an ethic that goes beyond the dollars. THREE STARS (***).

Danny Brown – Atrocity Exhibition
(released September 27, 2016; #11 on 2016 Pitchfork Albums of the Year list)
From ya boy Pitchfork:
But Brown sometimes lapses into his Old flows, that idiosyncratic style where he falls off beat, gets in front of it, or simply yells above it. He avoids the frat-baiting EDM songs like “Dip” and “Smokin & Drinkin” that pocked Old here, even though singles like “When It Rain” (more vintage Brown than anything from the past five years) and “Pneumonia” flirt with that sound. But fortunately they’re too rough around the edges, too jumpy, too dark to soundtrack a scene like this. 
Yeah, I’m not sure Danny Brown has completely strayed from his trademark (as supported by degenerates) style in a while. He seems to be conflicted with it a lot, but at the same time why change? Seriously, if people are going to give him drugs and sex and also he can make enough money to subsist on, why would he be motivated to do anything more? Does it get repetitive? Sure. But there’s also nothing like him, for better or worse, so fuck it. I think sometimes, we (and I am horrible about this, for what it’s worth) expect too much from artists, and think they have some grand artistic drive. A lot of times they’re just wandering through life like we are, getting stuck in roles they maybe like maybe don’t, and just keep doing the shit because nothing else has stumbled into their way yet. THREE STARS (***)!

THE WINNER: I made everything three stars totally arbitrarily. No way I pick YG over these other two albums, because YG’s shit could be replicated by plenty of gangsta ass datpiff mixtapes, whereas there’s nothing like Danny Brown or Kanye West. And to separate those two, I give the nod to Kanye, because there’s no real separation of Danny Brown’s last three albums really. Like you could lump them together and pick out your favorite 10 tracks for a playlist and have it covered. And Kanye, despite his pretentiousness, at least has a different (usually co-opted) style to each album. So fuck it, The Life of Pablo advances in this stupid meaningless process. Somebody tweet Kanye and let him know. I got him blocked on Twitter.

4B4ND0NM3NT'S SL0W D3C4Y...

abandonment's slow decay,
once the people have moved on
to so-called "better pastures"

1F L3G4L M4ND4T3'S M4D3 1N...

if legal mandate's made in
woods but nobody's there to
enforce it, is it for real?

Tuesday, June 27

3L4B0R4T3 D00H1CK3YS...

elaborate doohickeys
manifest buzzed destinies
just barely in paradise

freestyle sonnet #089: JUNE 27TH NONSENSE GIBBERISH FREESTYLE SONNET PROPER

(purple 69 Chevelle SS, for no reason only rhyme)

Candyflake glitter and sparks as heart slab scrapes low 
across asphalt and concrete gridlock with freestyle 
prose and poesy, no tread's knowing me, been slow 
since birth, country as fuck raven born by woodpile, 

organic 69 supersport, short-and-long 
through life's labyrinth, mad simple yet hustle like 
kudzu and honeysuckle, with chopped/screwed folk song 
soundtrack backbone, wack ass minivan open mic, 

all windows down for whatever (like the driver), 
flow as forever as powhatan river (james), 
thousand feathers/thousand names maintains survivor 
status, plus keep my spirit stratus-high with flames 

in belly retained - stayed hungry, keep it screwed 
with maple syrup/cayenne subdued attitude. 

L1NGV1ST1C 1MP0T3NCY...

linguistic impotency
as work crews got Latino...
"make America great" seeds

M0RPH1N3 DR1P P4R4D1S3 L4CKS...

morphine drip paradise lacks
eternal delivery,
but is wasted life wasted?

Monday, June 26

[HH3os] The Jeffery Exhibition got it from Here trio

(1st round match-up 27 of 27)

We them experts behind the computer screen manufacturing hot takes about other people’s shit. Internet opinions is the opiates of the masses…

Young Thug – Jeffery
(released August 26, 2016; #21 on 2016 Pitchfork Albums of the Year list)
Remember when this came out and everybody was meme’ing the cover art? Them memes more long-lasting than the album itself. That’s not anti-Thugger trifle on my aging part either, because I can handle the fact this is genre that may not speak to me. But even in that realm I am able to recognize some of the pharm-fog genre works better than others. This feels like shock trickery as album package with mailed in derivativery as actual songs. But I don’t know, I don’t go to iHeartRadio for my hip hop, so maybe this shit blew up within the fake realm of corporate algorithms. That’s not my world, and I will never recognize it as real, no matter how real it claims to have kept it. Of course this marks me as a hater, because hater can now be applied to any form of criticism whatsoever. We have pre-emptively paralyzed ourselves from any accountability, which is why the Young Thug dark warble genre makes so much sense, because we’re all screaming through the fog the unending fog which keeps growing and growing or so it feels since you can’t see fog growing just get lost deeper into the manufactured clouds ugghhhhhhhh. TWO STARS (**) because why not?

Danny Brown – Atrocity Exhibition
(released September 27, 2016; #11 on 2016 Pitchfork Albums of the Year list)
I’ve recently seen Danny Brown’s style described as nails on a chalkboard, and he’s definitely gone eyeball deep into that gacked-voice hyperman style. Though he seemed to be claiming a break from his perhaps old and slightly stale styles on his previous album, he seemed to have reverted right back to them here, which is understandable, because how do we not be who we are? The “artist” in terms of capitalism is forced to recreate and rebrand themselves constantly, but if Danny Brown is still deeply mired in the mundane psychic rut of pills and low self-esteem art school models, why would we expect him to bust out a six-star masterpiece on geopolitics? I too am getting tired of the party style Danny Brown, which is a weird style because it’s just observational – like he doesn’t even attempt to create party anthems as he’s immersed in party style, so he’s the nihilistic dude doing the hardest shit in the backest room.
And yet, boring ass sounds-the-same Danny Brown is still different than most all the other shit out there. I still mark out when he gets introspective as fuck, attempting to untangle the interior clusterfucks of collective post-traumatic stress new world disorders, but that’s not a style everybody gets down with. Most of us like to remain lost in the tall weeds of the fog of the numbness. Ideally, maybe a Danny Brown (or some shit like that) becomes the American Basboosa of rap and ushers in Arab Spring-like era of disobedient spiritualism, but haha yeah right man, they got the fog machines in overdrive, and there’s so many people on painkillers now that they got Super Bowl commercials for secondary pills that help you shit while addicted to painkillers (by doctor’s prescription, which makes it okay to be a junkie, because the medical industry is your friend and the ultimate source for good health). We fucked, so who can blame Ol’ D.B. for staying lost in his own familiar weeds where the buzz is high, the feature paypal payments are constant, and he can keep his dick sucked whenever he’s actually able to get it hard. THREE STARS (***)!

A Tribe Called Quest – We got it from Here… Thank You 4 Your Service
(released November 11, 2016; #7 on 2016 Pitchfork Albums of the Year list)
Nostalgia rap, nothing more. People got geeked over this when it dropped, but guess what? Michael Rapaport is old and embarrassing, and Phife Dawg is already resting in peace. Like, if I just talked about how Danny Brown was sounding redundant at this point, why would I get hyped for someone to decide to purposefully sound redundant back to a time they abandoned twenty years ago? Q-Tip specifically bolted from the group because he felt it was stifling, or trifling, or I don’t really fuckin’ know. That’s fine if you want to reunite and go at it again, but the album sounds like lost tracks from that era, not something new. Just throwing in references to post-Trump world is just like doing a remix of old shit with new references. I don’t know. The internet went nuts over it because the internet has a large aging demographic of self-hip people who lack the discretionary income due to declining American empire to purchase vintage convertibles as mid-life crisis, so listening to a brand new ATCQ while skateboarding way past a reasonable age to do so I guess has supplanted that act. Fallin’ on a budget.
To be clear, there was nothing offensive about this album, nothing horrible, but also nothing impressive. It just was exactly what it was – a throwback rap album, just by the actual people who were way older (and sounded it at times… damn Busta) rather than some young kids fetishizing the past, as is apt to happen during constant commercial bombardment of consumer capitalism. Some folks can only afford to pimp thrift store styles. Ballin’ on a budget. Anyways, I guess THREE STARS (***) in honor of Phife’s memory, because he was always my favorite from them, and honestly their main redeeming value at the time. (I still hate whisper rap.)

THE WINNER: According to my dork metrics, which is just me giving stars, ATCQ reboot and Danny Brown both at the triple stars level, so if one (me) was forced to differentiate between the two, I’m gonna go with being repetitively what you already are, not repetitively what you were a while back. There’s a certain pathetic level to attempting to go back to where you were 20 years ago. I’ve never understood that, and as we firmly do sit at the last dying gasps of the American Empire, it’s frustrating to still see so many references to Boomer ethos bullshit, when those fuckers did a lot of damage to this shared continental plate. So fuck retro-throwback artistic shit going on tour at the suburban concert venue where well-employed people sterilized of all soul drink $6 beers in clear plastic cups standing on gravel watching A Tribe Called Quest roll through one verse of every familiar song they have. That’s a world I can do without. Atrocity Exhibitions will always advance over that perverse display of lack of self-awareness at complicity in Earth destruction. Nihilism over denial, every day. 

D1S4PP34R1NG 1NT0 TH3...

disappearing into the
woods in fall complicated
by roving assholes with guns

freestyle sonnet #088: 21ST CENTURY AMERICAN OPIOID FOG MACHINES

(hard times along dusty roads)

Opioid existential crisis for nation 
with deep psychic pain desiring that numbing fog 
of self-medication. Economic station 
plus internal spaces have depressions to slog 

through - the meek muck of things not quite being how they 
appear. Something is wrong here; our notion of "care" 
means to ignore until unbearable, each day 
navigating 1 to 10 scale, below 6 rare, 

yet expected to heal self, inside and outside, 
pull them psychic bootstraps up, alone in the crowd... 
or so it seems. These dreams of perfection applied 
to those who reside in surroundings simply cloud 

what's real - that most is lost in fog of denial, 
vast masses suffer tribulation and trial. 

SM4LL C1TY DR1PSY D00DL3S...

small city dripsy doodles
claim graffiti legal walls
in short-lived blasts of spray lore

Friday, June 23

[HH3os] The Brazy Blank Telefone trio

(1st round match-up 26 of 27)

I listened to all these albums like a month ago, finished the listening process, so am having to revisit to write about, which is entirely unnecessary, but the digital spotlight we self-publish allows us to pretend our words are preserved like ancient Alexandrian library (which was burned, for the record). Complete curation of data including opinions, self-snitches, and every regrettable decision in its entirety, to be compressed and analyzed by programs since it’s too time-consuming (IRL) to review it closely. Thus I continue down this wasted road, for no other reason than I began to listen to Screw tapes to do a similar project, and if I don’t wrap this one up first, I will make myself feel bad, because creative self-guilt is my biggest motivator (or obstacle, depending on the brain chemistries) in life…

YG- Still Brazy
(released June 17, 2016; #22 on 2016 Pitchfork Albums of the Year list)
YG is somewhat sociopathic, but that enjoyable low stakes sociopath. He’s not Rick Rossing up his metaphors, still content to break and enter houses for jewelry or shoot dudes on the corner a few blocks over. I can respect that. Not everybody wants to become King; many of us are content to be foot soldiers. There’s great honor (even in criminality) in being a good solid foot soldier. Civilization was perhaps designed by architects, but it was a bunch of simple fucks (often enslaved, physically or psychologically like now) who moved all the stones into place. Because of all this I enjoy YG more than I should (despite an exuberant abundance of n-wording, which causes ya boy the dirtgod as an expert whiteboy to have to check the volume at the stoplight sometimes, if I give a fuck, which unfortunately sometimes I do probably because I wear too many shirts with buttons nowadays), because I ain’t expecting shit but pure sensual vice. And though I prefer YG’s other earlier CD to this one (“Bool, Balm & Bollective” not as bool after you already heard “Bicken Back Bein’ Bool”), his entire aura feels more like Eazy Duz It than any other Compton rapper has ever felt, back to that pre-gangsta rap exposed to the world innocence of being content to commit small felonies instead of trying to take over the world and then get shot in Las Vegas in a luxury vehicle after a high profile fight. YG still seems content to get shot at the Greyhound Station in Las Vegas, and no shit I really fucking respect that. THREE STARS (***)!

ScHoolboy Q – Blank Face
(released July 8, 2016; #38 on 2016 Pitchfork Albums of the Year list)
When Schoolboy Q hits his top stride, and cuts through the opioid fog with dark reflections on immediate life as well as larger universe, that shit is great. He does it so well that I’ve always held out hope for him to drop the straight classic, a full-on banger to sit alongside the critical shelves holding his TDE podna Kendrick Lamar’s discography. And Q is always good at teasing at this, but for whatever reason never delivers. The tease has been enough to trick gullible motherfucks into giving him critical positivity (aka Pitchfork), but he hasn’t delivered like you’d want. Those gentrifying ass bitches are hydrocodone newbies who think they’re blasted beyond belief momentarily because their tolerance is too low to be authentic. Q hasn’t delivered that full-on banger yet (closest he came was Habits & Contradictions), and he knows it. He’s got all the ingredients, all the potential, but has missed a couple times now, and eventually gonna run out of opportunities. He probably would’ve already if he wasn’t labelmates with Lamar, getting lines of credit extended by proxy. Then again, Q hasn’t gotten nearly as atrocious as Ab-Soul, and that motherfucker still making records too, so I don’t know, maybe it doesn’t even matter any more. THREE STARS (***)!

Noname – Telefone
(released July 31, 2016; #27 on 2016 Pitchfork Albums of the Year list)
The entirety of my familiarity with Noname was assuming she was the feature I dug on Chance the Rapper’s Acid Rap mixtape, which the cover of Telefone seemed to confirm. So I expected that I’d like this, but maybe not ever bump it again. I guess that ended up being true, but I got bored before I was done listening to it the two times required by internal protocols, although there was nothing obvious to make me dislike it. So I did this thing I do where I think “Oh my kids will like this, so I’ll refer them to it,” as if music gives a fuck if somebody in my house cares about it or not. I don’t know, maybe it does, maybe every object or creation has spirit and wants to spread its psychic seed as far and wide as possible. I’m kinda stuck in this material realm, and one that humanity has narrowly defined by science, so I don’t feel comfortable speculating beyond what I pretend to know. But the suggestion to the kids didn’t take, so the Noname digital files of music are being neglected. I guess the damage is not as bad as it would’ve been with an actual physical album, but again I don’t know for sure. But Noname found no home in our little rural compound of chaos. TWO STARS (**).

THE WINNER: My whole star self-limitation creates a fallacy here, as YG is definitely way better than Schoolboy Q on these albums, but the star system makes them appear to be equal. And I guess from the long view, they’re pretty close – L.A. gangsterism in 21st century fog world. But YG still appears to be having upward trajectory as artist, while Schoolboy Q seems to have levelled off, and maybe not going no higher as artist. None of this really matters though because likely the biggest issue for both is paying their bills, so hopefully they both are. Fuck capitalism.

R34D1NG MY M4N 4TT4R 0F...

reading my man Attar of
Nishapur underneath some
trees, wishing I knew Persian

freestyle sonnet #087: PRELUDE TO JUNE 27TH (RIP SCREW)


All I been doing is jamming Screw, windows down 
on slipping transmission minivan, taking long 
ways home, never no interstates, crawling through town 
at snail's pace, watching the world slink by while siren song 

of molasses chop envelopes interior. 
Screwed of heart - prefer life slowed, playing dominos 
at the park - that syrup-like life's superior. 
Slow-dripping through the minutes so life's freestyle flows 

composes prose that goes well with how Universe 
is. It ain't hard to stop the high-speed direction 
into personalized oblivion - disperse 
path off the planned, off the mundane disaffection, 

disappear into screwed and chopped frame of mind (plus heart), 
since life's beats per minute been limited from start. 

4LL F0CVS P01NT3D F0RW4RDS...

all focus pointed forwards,
hoping to avoid snake ass
state troops while creeping through town

Wednesday, June 21

[HH3os] The I Don’t Like Butterflies, I Don’t Pimp Compton trio

(2nd round match-up 8 of 9)

Too dumb to quit, the dirtgod story…

Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp a Butterfly
(released March 15, 2015; #1 on 2015 Pitchfork Albums of the Year list)
Feels pointless to include a Pitchfork quote still, but that has been the method thus far for second round match-ups in this, so I will stick to protocol:
Despite all this, he’s still toying with a narrative on the sly: Just beneath the surface lies a messianic yarn about avoiding the wiles of a sultry girl named Lucy who’s secretly a physical manifestation of the devil. Kendrick refuses to dole out blame without accepting any, however, and on the chaotic free jazz excursion "u" he turns a mirror on himself, screaming "Loving you is complicated!" and suggesting his fame hasn’t helped his loved ones back home.
Pitchfork reviews are funny to me because it’s similar to a respectable business attempting to recreate street art with a mural on the side of their building – it sort of appears to be truly liberating and free form (in Pitchfork reviews or even any official music review place) prose, but in actuality it’s mostly just trying to give that effect while working towards selling shit. I’m not really sure the point even of music reviews, because nobody is ever truly critical if they’ve achieved an official capacity as music reviewer, because they don’t want to burn their inlets to inside bullshit. So you never have real hard criticism, since everything is attached to the immediacy of consumption, not the timelessness of true criticism. But you get wonderful crap like explaining the very obvious metaphor of Lucy as Lucifer with a phrase like “messianic yarn”. That is simultaneously wonderful and ridiculous, which I guess is late capitalism itself in a nutshell (either “wonderful and ridiculous” or a “messianic yarn”).
If one is in the official capacity of music reviewer, I don’t think it’s possible to give Kendrick Lamar a negative review. He is critically accepted Illuminati, and early on into his attempted establishment as industry force. An interesting snippet of this is the Wesley Snipes references in the beginning track, but also Dre phone call talking about how it’s easy to get the big house, but can you do what you got to keep it? I imagine that’s where the sketchiness and soul-compromising comes into play, where you go from being an “artist” to being an industry heavyweight. There’s not so much art involved at that level as there is exploitation of others. And as Kendrick Lamar stands at that door, I perhaps project the sense that he struggles with accepting that change, because to do so is to become a pure capitalist, and accept there is something about you that makes you deserving of wealth than all those you grew up with and around who are left behind and fell through the abundance of cracks along the way.
As for the album itself, I enjoy it, but it’s also very much about that transition from artist to entity, as this is the most obvious example of mass consumer slam poet album you’ll probably find from the past decade. The artistic concept behind the album is essentially drilling down between the lines of a poem he’s ostensibly reading to resurrected spirit of Tupac (or time traveling, it’s hard to tell nowadays if we are utilizing cyborgian technologies to bring back to life the dead, or nuts and bolts time machine technologies to move through the fourth dimension). I read a lot of old poetry, which truly is timeless, well beyond the immediacy of a BEST NEW ALBUM OF THE WEEK music review on a digital website driven by advertising dollars (generally from the same sources you are critically reviewing, which seems… complicated), so perhaps I am too hard on artistic creations. I know I am with myself. This is not an amazing album in context of actually amazing, but compared to most things that are released now, it certainly has all the trademarks of something artistic. Kendrick is not (yet as) heavy-handed about his artistry as someone like, say, Kanye is, and he’s also not into that formulaic robot artist stage of Eminem, where everything sounds “amazing” but mailed in on the way to Whole Foods (or one of those local ultra-rich people Whole Foods type markets). Because of that, and because of the grading curve on artistic creations manufactured by music reviewing in general, as well as this project specific to my purposes here, I am forced to give this FOUR STARS (****).

Earl Sweatshirt – I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside
(released March 23, 2015; #25 on 2015 Pitchfork Albums of the Year list)
A Pitchforkian yarn:
From the first bars of the swaggering organ-driven opener "Huey", it feels like the realization of a voice that, in some sense, he's had an APB out on since his first record: one that is both fluid and all angles, vacillating between naked introspection and pushing us as far away as possible. He sounds deadly serious and self-effacing at the same time, and his rocky, withdrawn psychology is more visible, and easier to trace, than ever.
That’s a lot of words which kind of say something but I don’t know if I agree with any of it, even though to be honest I’m not sure I understand what they’re going for. I will say this though – two things cause me to expect a lot from Earl Sweatshirt: a) his early shit before his mom sent him off to Samoa or wherever the fuck, and b) his dad is a fucking West African poet. Poetic semen is powerful stuff, and not only impregnates the next generation with the beauty of language (all languages… it recognizes no linguistic walls with barbed wire in its truest form) but those around as well. So why the fuck doesn’t Earl Sweatshirt have a better crew by now than ragged ass Odd Future remnants? Earl got to step his game up. This is not to say he sucks, because far from it – he’s one of the few young dudes coming out that I would want to scope out any new project without a single doubt about doing so. But he had that out of left field but with unlimited potential hype back in the day, like Steph Curry coming out of Davidson. But Earl’s still on Chris Paul level. That’s great and all, but it’s not what it could be. Or something. THREE STARS (***)!

Dr. Dre – Compton: A Soundtrack
(released August 7, 2015; #32 on 2015 Pitchfork Albums of the Year list)
From Pitchfork:
If there's a surprise here, it's that Dre, a 50-year-old near-billionaire long suspected of drifting out of touch, sounds charged-up, nimble, and relevant. Dre has always relied on other rappers and producers for inspiration and his own legacy is tied up in showcasing talent, lifting and rearranging it for his own cause. On Compton he's taken the approach and doubled down, and while the album is frequently personal, it's also communal, pushing his own voice towards the margins in favor of other vocalists.
Aging billionaires in entertainment industry remain relevant by always discovering new talent, aka exploiting young naives. To some extent, it becomes a Ponzi scheme (as detailed in that intro phone call to Kendrick Lamar mentioned above) where once you exploit someone else, promising to establish them, if they become established, they then become more successful by repeating the process. This is how Aftermath becomes Shady/Aftermath. So Dre went through his first self-supporting cycle of exploitation (after two previous cycles of this where he didn’t get paid, first for Eazy-E, then Suge Knight, which is pretty amazing actually if one was to study capitalist pigs in great detail, to be able to successfully remain hungry enough to do that three times over because you got ripped off the first two times, that’s wild), and then had to take the background role as those dudes started exploiting a fresh crop of naives, with Dre still getting his points on the artistic package kickback.
But at some point you become bored I guess. Or you want to make people stop saying you’re not an artist when that’s a pretty big part of your manufactured image. So you have to step out the kickback shadows back into the spotlight and do it again. I don’t think it’s any coincidence this happened for Dre around the same time the Straight Outta Compton movie got made, as it likely reminded him of good exploitable naïve kid behaviors, as well as how he himself was exploited the first time. So he got fired up to do it again.
The album itself works like a soundtrack, as designed, but could just as easily work as a really expensively produced (where you pay for beats) datpiff mixtape if you removed the couple of famous people verses (like Snoop and Eminem). Or maybe the mixtape is so expensive they bought high dollar features. (Also, why is there no internet dork Fantasy Feature thing where you pick different rappers at different dollar levels to make your own mixtape? I imagine Rap Genius dorks would waste hours arguing over that type of shit.) TWO STARS (**).

THE WINNER: An interesting trio in the context of the artist to entity path, because we have the young artist full of potential unreached (Earl), the artist who appears to have reached potential but wonders what is next (Kendrick), and the entity who (according to capitalist metrics) can’t really achieve anything more other than adding on to what’s already accomplished (Dre). It seems obvious if you didn’t consider the actual albums that the Kendrick one would be tops because it is the bridge between the sides of the spectrum. Real life listening agrees with this (for me at least). But it’s also sad, because a reality of systemic corporate capitalism (which the music industry has always been), if you are a good worker who enjoys your work and does good work, there is no profit in that alone. The only way you increase your value is to become a manager of others, and find good workers or motivate less-than-good workers to work better. The problem is you move away from doing the work you enjoy by taking this promotion in order to increase value. It means that ultimately the industry does not actually encourage greater art necessarily, which likely we’ll see play out in Kendrick just as we’ve seen in so many before him (though he has fought this off better than most.) Let’s say there are 30 rappers hoping for a deal, and only one will be of good enough potential to be Earl Sweatshirt. Then out of those 30 with the good enough potential, only one will actually establish themselves as a “recording artist” like Kendrick Lamar. But even then, out of 30 established recording artists, only one of them will move into an industry titan role, an entity like Dre. This is the pyramid scam, the Ponzi scheme, the shitty side to the structure of capitalism as we know it. Take solace in the fact that for those 29 who have the potential like Earl, who fail, and to a lesser extent the 29 who establish themselves like Kendrick who go off the rails into their own worlds, there are people making music just because they fucking want to make music. I guarantee you the best rapper alive probably doesn’t even have a record out right now. But within the constraints of this stupid project of mine, Kendrick advances out of this trio of albums.

4NC3STR4L GH0STS 4ND F41LVR3...

ancestral ghosts and failure
demons circling like heron
and black vultures overhead

CR34T1V3 CLVTT3R 41N'T N0...

creative clutter ain't no
cover for lack of trying
to disentangle the shit

Monday, June 19

Re-Analyzing Smoky Mountain Wrestling in the Era of President Trump - April 1992/2017

[Trash Culture Anthropology series are me doing whatever the fuck it is I do. These are supported by the Patreon I have set up. Feel free to contribute, but don’t feel obligated in order to read further. Thank you to my four patrons.]


It took me a little while to get through the April 1992 episodes of Smoky Mountain Wrestling, and complete the first 100 days of the promotion’s run on TV, because I am dealing with in real time around-the-clock BREAKING NEWS of President Trump’s first 100 days (which we have all survived… it’s even been way more now already, despite our worst fears). Smoky Mountain maintains an old school wrestling promotion’s feel, with a slow-building narrative, and in fact most of the month of April is building up towards them crowning their first set of champions at Volunteer Slam in May. The tag team tournament is happening on TV throughout the month, and the singles tournament will be a one-night elimination process at Volunteer Slam, but there are “wild card” matches throughout April on their TV show as well, to narrow the field down to eight for the big night. But slow narratives are increasingly difficult to make time for in the midst of constant barrage of mushroom cloud teases that is 2017 news cycle. Everything is considered BREAKING NEWS and yet actually nothing seems broken yet except the way we consider news as news now. Narrative is no longer journalism’s strong suit, nor any aspect of our post-post-(post?)-modern culture. Shit’s wild bro, but not really wild, just really forced into shape nearly immediately and constantly, with very little natural flow to it. We seem to be lacking narrative, rather severely.
What we have is the fresh pop, constant fresh pop, triggered by tweets, triggered by entrances, triggered by BREAKING NEWS like Stone Cold’s breaking glass flashing across the cable news screens, but nothing is different… it’s just the same ol’ schtick and same ol’ stunner we have to sit there and watch.
It seems, however, most people today have been trained to pop freshly at their choice of face and to boo reactively at their chosen heels. This is a symptom of capitalism at this late stage, where quality has been taken out the equation for the most part, and we all just want what’s new, always, because everything is so cheap it’s easier to throw the old shit away and replace it. That’s become our collective psyche as well, get something new, always, constantly, keep flipping channels, click refresh on the little screen, or fuck it with timelines now that shit refreshes itself and you can just sit there and absorb new nothings to your fat hearts content, long stale flows of stagnant takes and no real breaking news, and we pretend it’s new, and play our part as the audience. We MAGA or RESIST or whatever the fuck it is we do.
I guess the closest thing we have to a narrative is the Russian hacking conspiracies, which has slowly built over the months, but again not with a lot of substance, at least not nearly as much as we are hyped to believe something is about to break wide the fuck open. But a lot about how Hillary campaign 2016 ran was overlooking people’s weak psychology. Her campaign assumed, much like Crockett Promotions and the National Wrestling Alliance back in the ‘80s, that people would prefer Hillary (Ric Flair) because she appeared Presidential (Championship material) and Trump (Hogan) did not.

(Dixie Dy-no-mite - a force for good in 1992 Smoky Mountains)
[Episode 10 – April 4, 1992 matches recap interlude: Dixie Dy-no-mite beat Barry Horowitz – of note is Dy-no-mite’s trunks have 17 stars on the stars and bars, I guess adding stars for West Virginia, Indiana, and not sure what the other two would be, perhaps Oklahoma and I guess Ohio; Tim Horner beat TJ Travis – and not sure anybody cared despite all the Tim Horner pushing; Killer Kyle beat Keith Hart; The Dirty White Boy beat Paul Miller.]
But to even think Hillary was championship Presidential material wasn’t use common psychology; it was assuming a certain level of discretion and intelligence (not necessarily meant as a compliment) that wasn’t automatically present in most common folk. This is not to support the rise of Trump on my part, but shit man, his whole routine was straight out the Vince McMahon 1995 through 2005 playbook, branding himself with an open-to-all public through repetition of catchphrases and dropping signature moves. (The open-to-all part is important, because some chump ass HVAC guy in Akron, Ohio, is not normally gonna be invited to a political rally, at least not for the past four decades, so just being able to show up and sit in the crowd at a Trump rally felt empowering, even without any real action involved other than standing in line.) Trump was filling the auditoriums with marks emboldened in their markdom, reading to boo any egghead motherfuckers who think they know better, and to regard as heels any know-it-all college ass students trying to show them up. The Make America Great Again catchphrase is no different than Stone Cold Steve Austin standing on the turnbuckles asking for beer. And all the mocking of Trump’s speech habits and hair was like pointing how stupid it looked when The Rock melodramatically pulled off his elbow pad to deliver The People’s Elbow. Common folk ain’t give half a fuck, they were enjoying the spectacle, even though they knew (in their heart) it was ridiculous and over-the-top. Narrative didn’t mean shit any more.

In the primary seasons of April 1992, George Bush started squashing the early rebel votes for David Duke (who is still around, looking closeted as fuck, and tweeting in support of Trump, trying to make himself relevant, which he is not, even among racialists). Bush hadn’t reeled in the unpledged resistance in primaries yet, but he never would. On the Democratic side, Bill Clinton started putting a tighter stranglehold on the field after his March Super Tuesday piledriver, winning every primary and caucus in the month of April excepting Alaska (took by Jerry Brown, also still around trying to maintain relevance). Clinton had the same goofy, don’t give a fuck swagger as Trump does, although I guess to much of the masses, Bill Clinton’s in 1992 made a lot more sense. And April was when Ross Perot was appearing on media outlets (which were far less numerous back then), teasing at running as a third party candidate, before seemingly settling into it, although one got the notion he had planned all along and was playing the “well, I’m thinkin’ about it” regular dude role up for the mark fathers of the same marks who mark for Trump now. (My own pops was a Perot mark, mostly because he was all for third parties, regardless, and sometimes I’m thankful my dad passed, because I’m afraid he might’ve been a Trump person. He was a pretty sharp dude for somebody with only a seventh grade education, so I’m not certain of that, but I have enough doubts about it that I’m glad I didn’t have to discuss politics with him being pro-Trump, because that motherfucker discussed politics in internet ways before the internet ever existed.)
The Smoky Mountain Wrestling of April 1992 was heavily dedicated to narrative though, which is what made it “old school” in comparison to the corporate merchandise-based models of larger wrestling. (Side note: it is always odd to me that anti-corporate wrestling movements like SMW and ECW tended to offer themselves as counters to WCW but never WWE, which was WWF, because panda bears hadn’t successfully sued Vince McMahon as of yet; because WWE is the corporate wrestling which still survives, so I guess by marketing themselves as not WCW, and also buying the support of the lesser promotions, through funding and talent agreements, they took the bullseye off their own back. Vince McMahon is a slick fucker, and not unlike Trump in how he appears buffoonish, but is buffoonish like a fox.)

(The Commish explaining his law & order campaign)

One ongoing narrative was Bob Armstrong acting as commissioner, and fining wrestlers for using foreign objects or outlawed moves. One such move was the piledriver, which was mostly known as legal in American wrestling, except for in Memphis, and was always an automatic DQ in Mexico. Paul Orndorff was one of early SMW’s biggest known stars, having been at least a top challenger in both WCW and WWF previously, so he was a face at first. But his finishing maneuver, historically, had always been the piledriver. As the television tournament between wild card entrants into the heavyweight title tournament went on, this started to become an issue, because Orndorff felt slighted that he was only considered a wild card and not an automatic entrant. “But you haven’t won enough in Smoky Mountain Wrestling yet,” insisted Bob Caudill. It didn’t add up to Mr. Wonderful though. And having Bob Armstrong tell him specifically the move was outlawed was too much. Orndorff, Hector Guerrero, and Dixie Dy-no-mite are being interviewed about their parts in trying to win one of the wild card matches to make it to the title tournament, and Orndorff starts to heel it up, being pissed about not being able to use his famous piledriver, poking Guerrero and talking down to him and Dy-no-mite (who was Bob Armstrong’s son under a mask, it should be noted, which in retrospect seems unfair and not above the board at all, and very Jared Kushner-y), and saying he’d beat either of them. So he and Hector Guerrero immediately have their wild card match-up, and Orndorff plays unfair but is not completely over the top, and gets the victory. Then he loses his fucking mind (according to narrative), probably from being challenged by Guerrero more than he felt he should’ve been, and piledrives him. Other dudes come in, and other dudes get piledrived. Orndorff retrieves a steel chair and proceeds to piledrive Hector Guerrero onto the steel chair, and this is Smoky Mountain so they carry the narrative fully. Guerrero is carried out on stretcher and taken to the hospital for x-rays; Orndorff is unrepentant.
I’d like to point out that, although Orndorff turned full heel here, in the interview preceeding the match, Dixie Dy-no-mite was a good guy, wearing confederate flag ring gear and a mask to hide his identity (as the commissioner’s son). Meanwhile, Hector Guerrero, booked as proud Mexican wrestler with long familial lineage in the sport, was wearing a sombrero and Navajo blanket poncho. There’s a whole shipping container of cultural shit to unpack there… AND THESE WERE THE GOOD GUYS. Not only that, those were the two good guys who remained good after the narrative played out. The white guy who wanted to piledrive people was punished and became bad.
Returning to that type of promotion is somewhat impossible today, because we’re all connected to the same sources. Shit, it was nearly impossible back then, to be honest. I guess now you can have somewhat secluded places have smaller promotions that run off-the-shared-grid, but they mostly have to do so while on that grid but regarded as an abomination by regular wrestling people, so everybody who loves it takes pride (proud boy) in being fucked up. This is your IWA-Mid South or Combat Zone type anti-corporate wrestling. Or you can have rural promotions that do this same style, without the blood and guts, but there’s a tacit agreement between promotion and audience to all play along together, to where the crowd is literally helping maintain kayfabe, which is ultimately ridiculous as fuck, and yet also not all that unlike a lot of Trump supporter spectacles we’ve seen in recent months.
[Episode 11 – April 11, 1992 matches recap interlude: Bob Holly beat Ben Jordan; Joey Maggs & Danny Davis beat Ivan & Vladimir Koloff – this was supposed to prove you didn’t know what to expect on SMW when the lesser regarded team including a guy who had jobbed on TV regularly already beat an established name, which was only established properly with one of the two men carrying it; Paul Orndorff beat Hector Guerrero – as detailed above; The Heavenly Bodies beat Brad & Bart Batten.]
Interesting that the Koloffs took the unexpected loss in the tag tournament quarterfinals, because the Russian gimmick wasn’t as strong post-collapse of the Soviet Union. And Vladimir was no Nikita either. And Ivan was old as fuck at this point. He also died earlier this year, and I made the joke a number of times at my amazingly hilarious twitter about how it was related to Putin and the hacking of the US election, because in secluded places like twitter, that narrative has been pushed to the fucking moon (where we faked a landing once… look it up).
One thing lost in the enforcement of the Russian hack narrative is the motivation behind it. It has been assumed by liberal marks that the entire thing was collusion between Russian intelligence and the Trump camp. When as a mark you subscribe to the American exceptionalism angle, it’s easy to fall victim to this particular marky ass thinking, about organized collusion. But essentially Putin’s desire to see Trump get nominated, then elected, gave him nothing more than political chaos in America. That job is done. So when Trump and Putin don’t agree on situations like Syria, the collusion narrative loses its OMG ULTIMATE TRUTH because that doesn’t follow the angle their pushing. Russia didn’t need a puppet in the White House… it just needed to sow chaos into American electoral system. Anything above that is gravy. (What’s the Russian form of gravy? Probably vodka.)
Early last year, Bloomberg published an extensive article with Andres Sepulveda, a cyber hacker who worked on the political end of things and claimed to have been involved in digitally engineering the results of multiple Latin American elections, including the Mexican Presidential election of 2012. To some, this means a simple A to B path of tinkering with results, but the Bloomberg article laid out a much different, more complex process, of fake bot accounts, social media engineering, and manufacturing consensus through algorithms rather than a direct (as well as easily traceable) changing of actual votes. In that article, when asked if he thought such forces were at play in the U.S. Presidential election, he said very matter of fact that he was certain they were. I would suggest multiple candidates utilized these technologies, from whatever firms they could get tapped into. I would imagine the possibility of a firm with Russian hackers being involved could have been likely, and may not have had any official Russian state involvement at first. I would imagine, in retrospect, the Clinton campaign utilized these same tricks. There were plenty of questionable ass twitbots in action throughout the Democratic primaries. Hell, the entire Bernie Bro narrative has never matched my real life experiences at all. (Yes, I have certainly encountered IRL Bernie Bros of the stereotypical variety, but not nearly to the over-powering extent the Clinton campaign attempted to push as narrative. In fact, when I travelled last summer, I was somewhat shocked by the support for Bernie from people I met who were minorities, and military (and one notable time on the Amtrak train out west, a minority military man… good fucking dude too, I bought him a beer and we talked shit about how great but fucked the south was).
The Clinton camp was (and to a good extent still is) the Democratic establishment, and they’ve been the ones good at pushing a narrative, about Bernie, about Trump and Russia, and though there’s truth in there (like any good narrative angle), it’s not necessarily the truth. This of course only empowers the stubborn marks on the other side to become more stubborn and markish.
[Episode 12 – April 18, 1992 matches recap interlude: Robert Gibson beat Rip Rogers – more of a straight job for Rogers at this point than putting somebody over with a good long match with narrative build-up; Paul Orndorff beat Davey Rich; Buddy Landell beat Reno Riggins – with the figure four, the Flea Market Nature Boy in fuckin’ full effect; Dixie Dy-no-mite beat Carl Styles – and they are pushing some sort of angle where Dutch Mantell is abusive to his mentee Carl Styles, but nobody really cares about Styles at all, even Bob Caudill has trouble pretending to take an active interest in Carl Style’s treatment.]
I’m not sure what all this Russian hacking narrative is building up to, though. That’s what I mean by saying it’s exhausting. Every fucking week we got people acting like we’re about to have impeachment the next day, but we’re nowhere close to any actual impeachment. This is where the political narrative of 2017 is way off the old school wrestling promotion narrative, because I knew what the fuck all this April 2017 narrative was building up to – the Volunteer Slam at the Knoxville Civic Center on May 22. That was going to be their first big major card. They would have just crowned their tag team champs by then, and would be crowning their heavyweight champion in a one-night tournament that night. Smoky Mountain had held its first TV taping the previous winter, and had been airing on local television since February, but was going to officially establish itself with that Volunteer Slam in Knoxville, in an auditorium with a long pro wrestling tradition. Smoky Mountain would simultaneously be staking itself as something new and different, while also pledging allegiance to something that had always been there already for as long as most folks knew. And most all the television narrative of pro wrestling in April of 1992 was headed to that culmination. How this works as a business model (if one can consider pro wrestling to still be a business model, as bizarre a business as it is) is everyone within the viewing area is being conditioned to look forward to that day. This was not a PPV date, or something they watched on their personal device. This was a physical in real life event in Knoxville on a Saturday night that people within driving distance would (hopefully) head into town to pay and see live. Sure, they could watch the results on TV later, but the hope was they’d come drop that $10 to see it happen live and in the flesh. (I do not know if tickets were $10 or not; I’m making a guess, and really there’s nothing educating that guess other than me assuming a big wrestling show in 1992 eastern Tennessee couldn’t cost much more than $10, at least not for general admission.)

(Prez Trump ain't no Heavenly Body)
[Episode 13 – April 25, 1992 matches recap interlude: Bob Holly beat Bart Batten; Jimmy Golden beat Davey Rich; Brian Lee beat Joe Cazana; Killer Kyle beat Reno Riggins – still no real idea after three months what they’re building Killer Kyle up for other than “he’s a mysterious maybe black guy who carries an instrument case for some reason”; The Heavenly Bodies beat Joey Maggs & Danny Davis to advance to the tag team tournament final.]
During his campaign, Trump figured out how to get the marks fired up and fill local auditoriums. And almost pathetically, he’s attempted to keep that trend going from time to time since being inaugurated, instituting house shows here or there in pro-Trump places, to keep the marks fired up by giving them a chance to see their hero up close and personal (by Presidential standards), and probably to keep his own ego fed. He did this not far from me, speaking at the graduation ceremonies for Liberty University. The whole thing was too weird on too many levels for me to even consider being involved, in support or protest. That’s kind of where I am in all this – everything is so fucking fake and so fucking worked that I can’t even be involved for fear of getting caught up in the spreading markdom. The Trump marks don’t care about anything other than hearing the catchphrases, proud boys taking to the streets wearing MAGA gear tragically bound for future Goodwill racks. The alleged antifa is no better, soccer hooligan cosplayers hoping to have a minor revolution so they can have a cool-looking talking into a megaphone social media avatar. And The Resistance™ is just more Democratic establishment social media hacking.
But here’s the thing about Trump, despite the weak attempts to undo him… beyond the constant self-branding, he’s had no establishing event. All that time he was building up to get elected, building up to doing bigly shit, but he has no Knoxville Civic Center to culminate in (or Wrestlemania to put in terms his boy Vince McMahon would understand well enough to explain). And I don’t think he ever will have an establishing event, because that’s not really in him. He’s a salesman, a marketer, who has mastered forcing his various vulgar brands down your fucking throat, whether you wanted it or not. He’s a gaudy, disgusting salesman. Really the only difference between him and most Presidents is that gaudy disgusting side, because they’re all salesmen, but generally politically savvy. He is (through his support) a very proud and stubborn mark ass middle finger to political savvy. The marks don’t give a fuck.
Here’s the sucky part, which the Democrats have already just barely started to realize… the masses are marks now, desperately short-memoried marks who no longer give a fuck about narrative but are so fogged-out in their psyche that they crave like political opioids the catchphrases to pop at, the memes to re-affirm the pops for 48 hours before fading off into the fog. All our psychology is fractured, and can’t just be put back together again, because I don’t think anybody really understands how we got so fractured of thinking. The digital change to our lives is a prominent theory, but shit, we were headed this way under Bill Clinton’s reign in the ‘90s before Al Gore created the internet while masturbating to Prince records in the Vice Presidential bedroom. You’re not going to beat the Trump-friendly Republican party by appealing to the marks higher sense of moral intelligence. You don’t get WWE fans to stop believing wrestling is great by showing them a Herzog flick. Portions of the Democrats know to appeal to the marks, you have to, you know, appeal to the marks. This means a whole lot more American flags in our collective futures, so that greedy motherfuckers willing to pretend to be a bureaucratic political hero in order to gain power will keep on waving those little fucking flags (mass produced in China), and keep portraying themselves as “not the other side”, on a greedy ass binary scale, straight to fucking Hell. No political spectrum, no common ground, just straight catchphrase “the other side is bad” binary bullshit until the American experiment is killed off for good. But even then, there’ll be plenty of suit-and-tie motherfuckers pretending it’s not dead, late era political Vince McMahons, telling you it’s as good as ever. And there’s gonna be a bunch of fucking marks still sitting there, waving their little stupid goddamned flags, playing their part in the charade, pretending it’s not dead either, some to the point they actually believe it (like a good worker always does). When that false world view becomes your reality, you don’t know any different. Expecting somebody to smarten up out of that state when exposed to a different type of truth is pure folly.