30 August 2010

The Best New Album of the Year, Ever: Stuff White People Ought to Like

I'm in a slow lane, I'm on my Cobain, I'm in a new spot tryna run a old game.
The Best New Album of the Year Ever: Stuff White People Ought to Like, or How I Got Over Nihilism
I admit that I know next to nothing about hip hop, and I don't feel like pretending I do. I grew up in a town which may as well have been called Whiteville, so you might not expect a white guy from Whiteville to understand The Roots. But I do, and it's not because I'm great. It's because The Roots are.

In previous posts, I've stretched the content and importance of various albums in order to fit the premise I first proposed, namely, that music reviewers just make shit up. So, I would like to say, without deception or insincerity, that How I Got Over is the best album I have yet reviewed.

How I Got Over is, I would estimate, the hip hop analog of my favorite album, Radiohead's Kid A. Both albums share a certain thoughtful eeriness in the soundscape and an irresistible draw to be listened to with headphones and good speakers and listened to in their entirety, then listened to again. But, where Kid A's lyrics are odd, obscure, or absurd for the reason of expressing the idea that musical quality of a voice is at least as important as whatever the voice is saying or singing, How I Got Over contains lyrics that are unabashedly existential in content.

I should briefly mention that where I grew up, they didn't teach you about hip hop. They taught you about compound bows and eating pickled deer heart. The desire to listen to music, let alone hip hop, had to arise from a mutation in the genetic code of any given family.

That said, I might list How I Got Over as one of the most honest albums I've listened to. There are references to the present situation of The Roots as the house band for Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, and references to what I grew up understanding, albeit in a narrow and limited fashion, are the common themes within hip hop: drug use, broken families, street life and disillusionment with modern society.

All of this led me to once believe that hip hop was essentially nihilistic: with no need for morals or gods or authority, the options left in life were violence against society, violence against against self, escapism, and decadence. But How I Got Over, though dealing with the very real experiences of drug use, broken families, street life and disillusionment with modern society, goes further.

It's inappropriate for me to pretend I "know what it's like," but I think I can resonate with what The Roots are saying in How I Got Over, or at least with what I think they're saying: It's not a whole lot of use to just get angry and frustrated about what is, and it's a whole lot better to stand up and struggle to make a life out of what existence you do have, with all its troubles and baggage and potential.

How I Got Over insists on living, despite the circumstances of life. It recognizes the worst parts of existence but adheres to the daring madness of existing anyway. The first thing the absurdity of existence might teach us is not to give a fuck, but that kind of thinking gets you nowhere. Someone has to care, and I get the sense that with How I Got Over, The Roots are volunteering and hinting that we maybe ought to as well.

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