The idea that we teach in the Gospel of Hip Hop is self-creation - that hip hop gives us the ability to self-create... A new kind of creative visualization. A new kind of way to notice God, in that sense."
- KRS-One (...)
music allows even the most grave of performers to become wildly eccentric extrapolations of their own self-perception...
Hip-hop is completely obviously founded upon The Front, The Show, The Braggadocio Exaggeration Extravaganza, but it is far from the first. Its 'realness' never measured authenticity, so much as how much the schmuck lived up to racist myths about blackness. (If realness were about reality, the likes of DMX would have to put out Proustian albums examining e.g. what it feels to wake up alone at 2pm with the runs after a heavy night out ballin')
Anyway: this leaving room for world as will and representation is what unites the warring families of pop. Take metal and thug-hop - two playgrounds usually held apart: they are both about the transformation of the self, in usually Gothic permutations. Now, simple self-reference (MY NAME IS) is the cheapest way of inflating yourself, but this blog is after more than just self-reference. Sometimes addressing the fourth wall doesn't dispel the fantasy, but gives it a car-battery-to-genitals boost, all the while holding your gaze. Let swing the songs of self-expansion:
Listen easily here
1. Man In Black - Johnny Cash
("We're doing mighty fine I do suppose
In our streak-of-lightning cars and fancy clothes
But just so we're reminded of the ones who are held back
Up front there ought to be a man in black.")
(This was pure magical thinking: wearing yourself into a folk symbol. Note that emphasising outlaw mystique always has a human cost - cf. all thug-hop. The real shame is that Cash's hard wildness was only ever one of his sides: Cash the devotional, Cash the romantic, Cash the just, Cash the square, and Cash the daft have fallen by the wayside, mostly cos of Mercury and Def American's promotional schtick and our callow rockism.)
2. My Name is Prince - Prince
("Til I get your daughter, I won't leave this town
...I put my foot in the ass of Jim Crow...")
(skip to 1:30)
("I'm the Alpha, with no Omega...
You know, with a mic, I'm a black Michaelangelo...
You need more light cos yours got dim,
Then you get sparked by the Lord Rakim...
I ain't a soloist, I'm an arsonist.")
("We are the first and we just still might be the last
We are Motorhead: born to kick your ass...
We are the future, baby, used to be the past
We are Motorhead and we don't have no class...
We fight authority, we glorify free will...")
(So mad. He did this exact thing on a dozen songs!)
Every-other album title bears his surname - culminating in Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus - but he isn't anywhere as self-obsessed as he seems. Mingus Ah Um is really a tribute album to the people who formed him - and there's also 'Jump Monk', Duke Ellington's Sound of Love', 'Open Letter to Duke', 'Jelly Roll', 'Theme for Lester Young', 'Roland Kirk's Message', 'Eulogy for Rudy Williams'...
But also two after himself: 'Mingus Fingus No. 2' and 'Mingus Blues'. God knows what they represent. He is iconic enough in his silence.
7. Protect Ya Neck - Wu-Tang Clan (RZA)
("Feelin' mad hostile, ran the apostle
Stroll with the holy-roll then attack the globe
with the buckus style the ruckus,
ten times ten men committing mad sin
Turn the other cheek and I'll break your fucking chin...
My clan increase like black unemployment.")
8. R.A.M.O.N.E.S. - Ramones
("CJ now, hit the gas
Hear Marky kick your ass
Go, Johnny, go, go, go
Go Tommy, o-way-o")
Twee as anything - and yet written by big hairy Northerners.
("You're looking at black and white / Seeing our name in lights
Make you feel alright / Baby we're here all night
We rule the world, this is our world.
We rule the world, this is our world")
The most charming recent rock braggadocio. "If The Beatles could make a ‘White Album’ and Metallica could make a ‘Black Album’, there was only one band who could make a record twice as good as those two combined..."
10. Freezepop Forever - Freezepop
"Updated F-Pop.net today. Got all dressed up to come and play ...
Synthesizer playing is my trade. I have the IQ of someone in second grade...
The Duke of Candied Apples is my name, making blippy beats that will put yours to shame..."
11. Who the Fuck Are Arctic Monkeys - Arctic Monkeys
("But we'll stick to the guns
Don't care if it's marketing suicidal
Won't crack or compromise
Your do-rights or individes
Will never unhinge us.")
12. Kings of Metal - Manowar
("Manowar, Manowar, living on the road
When we're in town, speakers explode!
We don't attract wimps cause we're too loud
Just True Metal people that's Manowar's crowd.")
13. Monk Time - The Monks
("Why do you kill all those kids over there in Vietnam?
Mad Viet Cong. My brother died in Vietnam!
...You're a monk, I'm a monk, we're all monks!")
14. Izzo (H.O.V.A) - Jay-Z
("...he who does not feel me
Is not real to me, therefore he doesn't exist
So poof! -- vamoose, son of a bitch!
...So you know I seen it all before
I've seen Hoop Dreams deflate like a true fiend's weight
To try and to fail: the two things I hate.")
(That's 'Jayhova' o course, as in היהוה)
15. Future Generation - Auteurs
(The future generation will take me by the hand
To the common in my home ground; this is the story of the band...")
16. Jocko Homo - Devo
("Are We Not Men? We Are Devo!
I must repeat: D.E.V.O...")
(also 'Devo Have Feelings Too' and 'Devo Corporate Anthem')
17. Konichiwa Bitches - Robyn
(this is also great)
18. Crap Rap 2 - Fall
("We are Northern white crap that talks back
We are The Fall we were spinning we were stepping
Cop out, cop out as in from heaven
The difference between you and us is that we have brains...")
19. Mommy, What's A Funkadelic?
("I am Funkadelic
Dedicated to the feeling of good
And baby, I'm good at being good")
(Also: "Shonen Knife", "Julian H Cope", "We Are The Pipettes", "Wilco (The Song)", "Antmusic", "Hey Hey We're the Monkees", "Clash City Rockers", "They might Be Giants", "Bob Dylan's 115th Dream", "Baby Bird", "Dicks Hate the Police" "Give it to the Soft Boys", "Van Dyke Parks", the entire first Tenacious D album. But this page has enough of your bandwidth already.)
21. History Lesson - Part 2 - Minutemen
Drove up from Pedro.
We were fucking corn dogs
We'd go drink and pogo.")
(So full of divinity! Who can say it's not beautiful?)
("Who or what are Them?
I think they're all a little bit touched...
Wild, crude, sweaty, ugly and mad
And sometimes just a little bit sad.")
("In Seventy-two we was born to lose
We slipped down snakes into yesterday's news
I was ready to quit
But then we went to Croydon...")
("John and Mitchy were gettin' kind of itchy
Just to leave the folk music behind.")
("Lord I have loved some ladies
and I have loved Jim Beam
and they both tried to kill me in 1973.
When that doctor asked me
'Son how did you get in this condition?'
I said, Hey sawbones, I'm just carrying on an ole family tradition.")
(Also, "Manowar", "Range Life", "Josh Freese Is Ready", "The Creation", 'Ballad of Mott the Hoople' - and the Kinks' awful "The Road" which has this great line: 'The motorways all over this land - far away places like Wigan and Birmingham...')
27. My Name is Skrillex - Skrillex
("My name is Skrillex. My name is Skrillex.")
28. GWAR Theme - GWAR
"Cause we are GWAR and we'll go far
We've got guitars, we'll eat your car...
GWAR GWAR GWAR GWAR"
29. Braggadocio - MC Frontalot
("I stand 77 feet tall, I got eight balls
and all o' y'all are subject to my thrall.
I act appalled when in receipt of less than the highest honor
Some day I'll be both revered and passé like Madonna.
I'm all in effect, people tend to genuflect
when I enter rooms, 'cause all dopeness is subsumed.")
("Well here's another clue for you all -
The Walrus was Paul.")
31. Ox Out The Cage - Cannibal Ox
("I grab the mic like, "Are You Experienced?"
But I don't play the guitar, I play my cadence
And If I exhaled arguments only to hold my breath
I would die and I ain't talking hair color
I'm talkin about the reality with my mother's eye-water
The author with a papermate spittin paperweights")
32. Formed A Band - Art Brut
that makes Israel and Palestine get along.")
33. No Direction- Bad Religion
("NO BAD RELIGION SONG WILL MAKE YOUR LIFE COMPLETE")
34. My Name Is - Eminem
(...God sent me to piss the world off!
...My English teacher wanted to flunk me in Junior High
- Thanks a lot; next semester I'll be thirty-five
...I haven't had a woman in years, my palms are too hairy to hide")
Lord Hereford's Knob - Half Man Half Biscuit
("All of our songs sound the same
Tonight he’ll be sitting on top of Lord Hereford’s Knob
I’m keeping Two Chevrons Apart
Tonight he’ll be sitting on top of Lord Hereford’s Knob
You’re the reason why paradise lost
Tonight he’ll be sitting on top of Lord Hereford’s Knob")
I'm not the same as when I began...
The public image belongs to me:
It's my entrance, my own creation
My grand finale, my goodbye."
- Public Image Ltd