Some people like Yung Lean. They should stop. They should like Duns Broccoli instead, cause he does something similar but with so much more substance and ingenuity. It is the entropic apathetic stream of consciousness rap that so befits our age. “I wish Obama never ruined hope […] the lights are getting darker, the darks are getting lighter, whites are getting blacker, blacks are getting whiter, grey first lady, grey president beside her.” You’ll find this instance of culture entropy in “Smoke Pit,” a jam for which the hyper-minimalist beat is in and of itself deserving of merit and careful analysis. If you can dig “Smoke Pit” you will love the beat Duns deploys for “James Bonjas” where he starts “I’m sick of licking sledgehammer heads.” The stream of consciousness continues: “My thoughts glistening, bitumen, picture him, he’s so different, spit dope, distill it […] barf, gargling scraps of burnt cartilage, in my car parked, carving nautical stars into my cardigan, _____, I stop then I start again.” This style of lyricism is the bane of weaker rappers with less interesting thoughts, but Duns Broccoli is more than equal to the task.
Duns has a swagger that doesn’t come from chest puffing but from a deep seated alienation marked by postmodern apathy and fragmentation, a Jamesonian fragmentation reflected in the seeming disconnection between one line and the next. It is a point Lukács and Benjamin have both made: in an industrialized (post-industrialized) mode of being, every moment is disconnected from its last by the utter repetition. Adorno and Horkheimer argue that this has entered into culture through the constant repetition of commodified formulas for entertainment production. But, as many theorists have argued in their various ways (Witkin, Adorno, Bourdieu, Lukács), art has this ability to reveal the contradictions, whether or not the artist is conscious of it or simply embodying the spirit of their time. In the case of Creatio Ex Nihilo, we are shown the repetition and dispossessed candour of modern rap and modern life, playing off raps formulas but inventing a whole new form ex nihilo for Duns to occupy on his own. He thus breaks with expectation and narrows our focus to encapsulate the whole of the genre and all its sad contradictions. This is when art stops being palliative and starts ripping bandaids off.
A moment of revelation: this is what life sounds like for the young of the 21st century. As Jameson describes it, the decentered subject no longer feels the anxiety of high-modernism—but that means they don’t feel anything in and of themself, just the ‘intensities’ of emotion that come from everywhere and nowhere, a host of itinerant zeitgeists that visit themselves on us like a curse. Youth in the 21st century is a decentered space of bitterness, overwhelmed by entertainment, constantly told to buy shit we can’t afford, told to get a job when no one is hiring, told to go to school just to keep us off the labour market. We occupy an age-class that has been attributed (and expected to manifest) a surface physical beauty (“sexiness”) in the death rattles of a 2400 year old epoch where the seen is the true. We are the age-class that is to vicariously fulfill all the repressed wishes of our parents: go wild, drink too much, take our shirts off, fuck around, stay out impossibly late, get into the right kinds of trouble, supply stories for the news, HBO, hollywood, the tired imagination of our parents. We are the age-class that is converted into the symbolic target of mass marketing, the ones who wear what you should be wearing, the ones who drink what you should be drinking, and yelp and board greyhounds and make up words and have tumblrs. But in reality this age-class is occupied by real people with real needs who confront a multitude of doors we are told to enter, each one resolutely closed by the generations that have preceded us with their fucked economics, their fucked politique, and their fucked ideals. Lucky are the few who don’t feel this. Cursed are the ones who feel it most strongly. If anyone wonders why so many young rap artists are starting to sound like Duns Broccoli, (though often not as interesting), just look around. Tolkien passed down this dictum from his throne of privilege: “Not all those who wander are lost”—it’s hard to be lost if no one is trying to find you. “Pretty nice guy; just wear black so you don’t talk to me.”