Welcome to the first edition of our monthly column Raw Thoughts, where the No Bells hivemind reacts to songs, takes, thoughts and more submitted by our esteemed Big Stepper patrons. If you’d like to submit something for our next column, consider becoming a Big Stepper.
Among last month’s submissions: a mapping of Zodiac signs onto music industry types, a sizzling take about the rapper 1dada4ever, and a 17,000 word manifesto on techno-feudalism.
Will Schube – “Wiki is the best rapper on the planet right now.”
Millan Verma: I’ve only listened to “The Business,” which I sent to a couple of BK gentrifiers. He raps good on it, but I’ll let Mano handle this one.
Mano Sundaresan: I’ll give you this: Wiki is maybe the greatest rap performer I’ve seen, if we’re talking no-frills skill and showmanship. After seeing footage of Ratking shows and his Boiler Room set, I made sure he was the first artist I booked at my college out in western MA. He played a converted church space and drew maybe 40 people, 10 of whom were his Mass homies from Dark World. I didn’t even care that it was a bad turnout because he turned that shit up. Wiki is possessed on stage. He unleashes his corkscrew voice like a bomb. Cut from the cloth of deeply entrenched, deeply New York ideals of hip-hop, he performs with no backing track and rarely misses a bar. But he’ll also start a moshpit at a whim. He’s the best neo-traditionalist we’ve got.
Wiki is often netted into the category of “extremely New York rap,” which is nominally accurate, sure, but almost feels like a disservice to his range and talent. What made Ratking so compelling was that they created a distinctly New York sound that broke from convention and didn’t rely on tropes of the town. And as Wiki has matured, he’s pushed his sound even further. There’s an unreleased song from Subjxct 5’s recent NTS set, and presumably their upcoming collab tape Cold Cuts, where he straight up does a Bone Thugs flow. Anyways, yes Wiki is great. Some days when I listen to him, he’s the greatest. Cold Cuts otw. This is my favorite New York rap video of the last 5.
Billie Bugara – “Arm Wrestling by Nintendo”
Millan: I should be paying you for this. Why are all of the characters so hot? I’m gonna make sure to make these sounds and sporadic movements the next time I arm wrestle, it’d be a sure victory. Makes me think of my little sister who has a double jointed wrist and can’t lose in an arm wrestling match. Her wrist bends down to a 90 degree angle, making it impossible to move her arm. They should make her a character in the reboot.
Mano: Closing my eyes and listening…why is this kinda hard? Someone send these sounds to a baile funk producer. Or DJ Crazy.
Alex Siber – “allan kingdom’s talk to strangers project deserves enshrinement and our elected officials should reserve time in their schedules to watch mano on-camera content to learn useful information and heal the cavernous rips in their soul tissue godbless no bells forever”
Millan: No Bells political consultant agency, where we communicate the throes of American society through songs discovered in our SoundCloud algorithms.
Mano: Confession: I have never listened to this dude in my life besides his part on “All Day.” I’m listening to Talk To Strangers now. It’s giving “you had to be there” / “I made a rap album for my undergraduate thesis.” Kendrick inspired a lot of bad rapping. He just said “retarded” in the derogatory way. This is blog era gunk to my ears.
Scott Stowe – “Dada the future.”
Millan: Could be way off base here but didn’t Dadaism peak like a hundred years ago?
Mano: Nah Dadaism is coming back trust me. I just came across this crazy mindfuck on Twitter the other day:
Although I presume this is not about the intellectual artistic movement but rather the underground rapper 1dada4ever. When he appeared in our Hyperpop Daily documentary, he was the only person who cited both Chief Keef and Chris Stapleton as influences. Real! I had a phase last year where I listened to “Still” so much. Makes me feel like I’m flying home at 3AM in a spacecraft.
Thing about Dada is he’s kinda all over the place. He embodies the Newgen SoundCloud Rapper to me, in that he basically throws everything at the wall, and he’s pretty good at all of it. It’s impressive how much control he has over his voice, bending his melodies and flipping octaves like a light switch. This is a weird, transitory time for underground scenes, though; so many artists right now are cycling through the same rage, R&B, plugg, alt-rock, and digicore styles. And while a lot of it Sounds Good, it doesn’t sound fresh. Nothing is zapping my ears. It’s telling that one of the best and biggest internet rap songs of the year sounds more like Tay-K than any one scene bubbling up in the underground right now.
So is Dada the future? I don’t know, I kinda hate talking about music like that. What are Dada’s thoughts on Dadaism?
HD Angel – “Mark Steedman – Combinatory Categorical Grammar”
Millan: I read the abstract then suddenly forgot how to read, damn…sorry about that. No idea what happened. Brain just went AWOL. Nah but imma be real: At first I thought you sent this to make us do your homework, but now I realize it’s to fuck with us because I’ve read paragraph after paragraph and not a single neuron in my head has fired. Is this how some people think when they write? In grammatical formulas and with syntax rules in mind??
“Harry promises Sally to leave
NP3sm ((S\NP3s )/VPto)/NP NP3sf VPto/VP VP
: harry : λxλpλy.promises (p y) x y : sally : λp.p : λy.leave y > > S\NP3s VPto : λpλy.promises (p”
It can’t be real. It’s a ruse. Tell your four-year accredited university to suck it. I’m a linguistics truther now. The globalists manufactured this field of study to take our guns. Why make words so complicated? Back in my day, we would just speak and write. Parent talks to baby, baby learns, baby becomes parent, parent talks to baby, baby learns. See how simple that is? No need to complicate it with all these hieroglyphics.
Mano: I don’t understand any of this, but I’m fascinated by how much thought and formalization goes into theories of language. You’re really under the hood of every interaction any of us has ever had. Surely this information is being used in nefarious ways by techno-optimists programming robots to mimic human speech patterns but still, that’s crazy!
Atoosa Moinzadeh – “Could go for a bowl of pho right now.”
Millan: Are you hungover? Must be. After studying my girlfriend for many years I’m convinced that Vietnamese restaurants have some pavlovian pull over hungover people. Or maybe it’s just a good and cozy meal. One time my friend chugged a bowl of pho with his shirt off and I watched his stomach expand to like 4 times its previous size. I haven’t had a bowl since.
Mano: Next time you’re in Boston, you gotta tap in with the pho spots. Best pho in the country.
Narsh – “Is Thug professing his love for his homies > Thug professing his love for Rika ??”
Millan: I’m out of the loop. Who’s Rika? Free Thugger though.
Mano: Millan I would dunk on you for not knowing who Rika is, but you showed me all the locations in the “Stoner” video when I visited Atlanta so you get a pass. As a reflection of society, hip-hop carries a lot of fucked-up beliefs, but one good thing it normalized is loving the homies. Young Thug is right, give your pal a hug! Free the goat. Here’s my favorite Young Thug song.
Allison B. – “Entertainment industry role compatibility pairings like Zodiac signs — earth, water, air, fire. A&R = fire x photographer = water. Producer = air x artist = water. Engineer = earth x manager = earth. Songwriter = water x booking agent = air, and so on”
Millan: My only association to these signs is Avatar the Last Airbender so I’m going to go off that. Could definitely see A&Rs as fire benders; when things go their way and they score a hit on TikTok or some shit, they’re great. But when they’re in a dry spell, they’re fighting for their lives and are known to do some despicable things to get sum goin…Photographers I could see as water or earth benders. Depends on the style. I feel like a realist who specializes in portraits / candids is definitely more earth than water. But those artiste photographers like my cousin Pushan or friend Trent, who look for beauty and for a photo in everything, are certainly water. Engineers…I don’t know. Again, earth or water but if you have an engineer who bends fire you’d better find a new one. I’m not sure this is fair though. It really depends. In fact, I revoke all previous answers and would like to say that any industry profession has the potential to bend any element. I’d need specific people to inform this. Good writers, though, are certainly all Avatars.
Mano: Building off Millan’s compelling arguments, I think designers/creative directors are earth benders. Just kinda vibing but lowkey powerful, word to Srikar. Entertainment lawyers are fire benders because I think you have to be a little insane to do that shit. I almost went into that profession; I’ll never forget taking the LSAT in 2019 then collapsing onto my bed, brain broken, and deciding I would be happier as a journalist. Good god we have totally derailed your question. Paging M. Night Shyamalan.
Connor Barkey – “Lil Poppa has album of the year.”
Millan: If you say so! I’m no critic. The Florida scene is cool though and here’s an interview the homie Jack did with Poppa last year.
Mano: Lil Poppa is undeniably great, but I struggle with articulating why. (Brandon Callender did a good job with it last year.) There isn’t a gimmick he overuses, or a narrative he oversells. He offers a clear-as-water take on post-Durk/Polo G melodic rap that washes over and hypnotizes you when it’s delivered in the album format. His music rarely reaches me through a traditional channel, it’s always a friend putting me on (or a Raw Thoughts submission), and when I listen, I’m never disappointed. It’s cool that his latest record is your album of the year; artists with loads of talent but no sticky selling point like Lil Poppa are forever underrated by the critical vanguard.
Brandon Callender – “i cant stop thinking about asake’s jeans”
Millan: Ahaha he’s rodeo ready. How can you say those are “bootcut” lmao. The boots would have to go up to his hips. They look fun asf to dance in though. I bet you can move them like a hula skirt.
Mano: Where do I cop some?
Jameson Orvis – “This Evgeny Morozov piece analyzing the thesis that society has evolved from capitalism to ‘techno-feudalism.’”
Millan: Alright well first off, this ain’t a “piece.” It’s a got-dang 17,000 word manifesto. Raw thought #1 is that I envy your attention span, Jameson. Raw thought #2 is that I’m a little mad at my former self for having this Raw Thoughts idea but it looks like I’m gonna learn something in the process.
OK, after reading, I don’t have too much to say about this. It’s a lot of information to take in, and to provide in-depth arguments I would require evil eyes from all of my former professors at once. It does raise interesting points though–especially the comparison between Amazon’s warehouse workers and serfs, in that they make barely enough to live, have virtually no chance for meaningful upward mobility, and are controlled by a ruling power that does not even create the goods they so grossly profit off of. Harrowing line towards the middle:
“One could argue that users are actually workers, with technology platforms living off our ‘free digital labour’; without our interaction with these digital objects, there wouldn’t be much digital advertising to sell and the making of artificial intelligence products would be more expensive.”
I’m telling myself to buy a flip phone for the 100th time this year.
The Google as a firm section resonates heavily, though I wish that Morozov would have emphasized how its search engine profits off user data AND payments from companies and websites for better SEO. (Which is comparable to Spotify being paid by labels to license music on their platform, which would, like Google, make them obscenely profitable.) And I wish he would’ve touched on how this has made Google’s search engine a sham for most half-witted users, who now must type “Reddit” into the end of their searches to receive any decent information. (Though Google is picking up on this trend now, too.)
Whenever I read something smart like this and feel like my eyes have been opened to societal ills around me and even some mechanics behind my day-to-day life that I was formerly unaware of, I’m at first enlightened and then quickly depressed. I think there are great benefits to being stupid, ignorant, subdued; to laugh at TikToks and order cute Halloween lights off Amazon with no thoughts of guilt about the ensuing techno-feudalist society you are helping usher in. I unfortunately hold the belief that knowledge can only change societies if the ones wielding it have a dense cultural capital connected to them. Brilliant manifestos like this will probably not expand far past this author’s bubble of readers, or at most the relatively small crop of humans who would take time out of their day to read it. And if they ever did, and people began to collectively push back against big tech, then big tech would silence them without issue. Modern modes of communication are in their hands: If Google wanted this article gone, it would be gone, only transferable by word-of-mouth from the dedicated readers. But this isn’t the 1960s, a real revolution isn’t gonna catch fire by handing out pamphlets in the town square. They’d banish the article’s SEO, get Twitter to mute the tweet and Zuck to shadowban the publication. Wait two weeks at most, and users’ attention will have shifted to something else juicy. And the cycle continues.