Run the jewels: overdetermination and puppets

I wrote a little piece on El-P and Killer Mike’s Run the jewels album and rape culture.   I guess I was thinking about the socially conscious history of both of the artists.  You might describe El-P as a nihilist leftist and Killer Mike as an organic intellectual.

Of course Run the jewels is competitive over-the-top rap music.  In the effort to make the best art — artists attempt to outdo each other.  In the genre of hip hop this means bigger, harder, louder, and more outlandish.

The financial claims of most rappers have grown to ridiculous levels, with a number of artists simply shouting out expensive brand names to convey their own particular shopping allegiances.

It makes sense that the claims about violence, drugs and sex would also become more and more outlandish.

MF DOOM always seemed like a hip-hop critic.  His villainous characters (and in particular the masked versions of DOOM) always seemed pitiful — articulated as a mockery of other rappers whose representations of criminality seemed shallow in comparison to the lyrical work of the clever DOOM.

In the same way modern hip hop can be critiqued from the traditional morality perspective.  It might also be performed and overdetermined (made excessive and taken to the extreme) in order to achieve a very similar moral critique.

Which works as a basic introduction for “36” Chain,” a video which contains violence against old women, violence against young women, gun violence, violence against Andrew W.K, and a dual sense of mockery/sincerity that will probably excite some people and deeply offend others.

Noting the character Killums — the kidnapped puppet plays such an important role it might be worth including the El-P video for “Full retard” in this discussion.

Of course this video contains some drinking and driving, a lot of drug stuff, violence against moms, nudity, and of course, the lightly disturbing choice to have the puppet Killums lead in most of the debauchery. We can note that the expressive fiction of a puppet gives liberty . . . a kind of implicit defense.  At the same time thumbing the nose at the idea of childhood as an innocent time.

Killums seems to be El-P’s id. An expression of what he would like to do . . . the unfettered brain presented as a sex and drug obsessed squirrel.   Some artists make up Tyler Durdin . . . El-P chooses a one-eyed junkie squirrel.

Dave Chappelle’s sesame street mockery Kneehigh park runs through some of the same transgressions.   Pushing buttons with ever-increasingly crass discussions voiced by puppets that seems to be giving humorous versions of public service announcements.

You can say anything if you have a puppet voice the idea.  And as I’ve written about before — any moralistic critique sounds silly when lodged against a cute fuzzy animal with a human voice.  It is insulated against these kinds of arguments because you can always say “it’s just a puppet.”

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Filed under art, communication, drugs, hip hop, music, representation

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