Raw Thoughts #4: Thoreau’s mom did his laundry

A bit of a dry month for the Patreon submissions. No worries! We move. Subscribe to our Patreon to join the ranks next month. And just to keep you satiated, we’ve got some more personal #rawthoughts after today’s submissions. – Mano

Art by Tyler Farmer.

Billie Bugara submitted the late 2000s documentary, “The Greatest Tragedy in Sports”. She wrote, “Just an absolute classic windows movie maker documentary from the late 2000s. I loved this type of YouTube video as a kid… so dramatic.”

Mano: Subject matter aside, I love how this feels like some kind of intimate home video even though it’s all grainy, archival footage. The fades are long and slow, the music is Mission Impossible-core. You can almost throw it on as an audiovisual bath. I almost forgot it’s about one of the scummiest moments in NBA history.

Millan: Wow…it really is a business. At least the WWE is transparent about it. Professional sports represent one of the last pillars of pride I have for this nation. This whole documentary hurts my head though. The scoring at the beginning is awesome (I mean the backing music, though Hedo Turkoglu is also awesome) but the changing of volumes, formats, the way-too-long transition blends are making me dizzy. Also the narrative is throwing me off…it’s about the cheating referee, or how all refs were calling unfairly towards the Lakers? I don’t know. I put it on mute and now it’s much better–just grainy 90s NBA highlights. Maybe I’ll throw some music on in the background too. Ah, there we go! 

Vandana asked, “in honor of Mother’s Day next month…how do u feel about Thoreau’s mom doing his laundry and making his food during the two years he spent writing Walden.”

Millan: News to me…public schools need to emphasize this. Someone once told me that Hemingway and Fitzgerald wrote so much at such a young age because their wives/housemaids were serving them sandwiches and highballs while they typed away. That was about one hundred years ago, Walden was about 175 years ago…obviously there’s not a modern comparison to these three guys because the whole “writer as celebrity” thing has died down, but I’m wondering whether this still applies to some people. My mind goes towards Bennington College grads in their middle ages. If someone has lots of money, or can boss their mother around, I bet they’d be able to focus only on writing while their laundry and meals are taken care of. Alternatively, if you don’t have lots of money and want someone to do these things while you write, consider moving to India.

Mano: First of all, I actually chuckled when I found out Thoreau was only in his cabin for two years and not, I don’t know, 10. Like, come on. That’s so easy! That’s nothing! He also would frequently go back to society while he was in hermit mode. Good for his mind, I guess, but the mythology about him is so wrong.

The more I learn about this guy, the more I think the real impact of Walden is how it functions as a piece of criticism. It’s not a plausible way to live (not everyone’s got a mom who can feed them and do their laundry all the time). But it’s a good case study in how you convince anybody that something fairly ordinary is beautiful. Aka all y’all critics trying to shove some mid down people’s throats. The pond is fine but it really didn’t deserve Best New Pond.

Evan Verma asked, “What are your favorite songs by the Dope Boyz? And why. 300 word minimum.”

Mano: Evan! Welcome to the Big Steppers tier. Ah, the Dope Boyz. Wait…is this that music I sat through at your house that one time? Aka the craziest blindside I have ever experienced? I didn’t know there was a whole album. 

For context, readers, at some point when I visited Millan and his friends last year, it somehow got out that I reviewed albums for Pitchfork. This was when someone brought up The Dope Boyz. “You gotta listen to The Dope Boyz!” “Let us know what you think!” 

Someone loaded up a session in a DAW, cranked up the volume and pressed play. I immediately sighed. This is their rap group. This is about to be unbearable. And indeed it is. The rapping is talent show-core. Vaguely old-school, white, every bar exactly where it would’ve been placed by, I don’t know, Grandmaster Flash. 

But then I listened more. I heard a song called “Meat Block,” where initially some guy sings, badly, “Meat block, meat block, meat block, I made you out of meat. Meat block, meat block, meat block, now meat block I do eat.” 

Then someone starts squealing in Auto-Tune about how tasty the meat block is, amongst other things I can’t make out. Later, his voice splits into parts and enters the beat: a new melody. It’s actually astonishingly good before someone starts rapping about their own ass.

Every town and city in America seems to have a version of The Dope Boyz. A group of half-serious, totally committed dudes who are pretty talented but choose to use that talent for inane jokes about dicks and boobs. It’s what makes this country great.

My favorites are “Zoom Zoom,” “Meat Block” and “Headshop.”

Millan: “Zoom Zoom” has the best chorus, “The Bee’s Back” has the best verses. I agree with Mano on “Meat Block,” especially the second half. I commend this play, and for artists / artist-facing industry people reading this, here’s the hack for getting your music onto our blog–become a Big Stepper. I’ve caught Michelle and her roommates humming the melody of “Zoom Zoom” numerous times, and Crawdad’s verse on “Bee’s Back” is A+. And Mano you weren’t the only ones blind-sided like that. That summer, 2021 I think, anyone who stepped foot in their Atlanta duplex was sat down and presented the tape from front to back off sizable monitors. The Dope Boyz have gone through many phases and this last album is definitely the best effort. Devon really put in time on the production, but many verses on it remain vile. Senile, even. It’s important to clarify that one of the three members goes by the Crawdaddy, and raps as if he’s a crawfish. Hence the many sexual lines about his claws, or cooking and buttering himself up for a family’s enjoyment. You guys do a poor job of explaining this and that adds to the confusion of first-time listeners, which could be a good thing depending on what you’re going for. Honorable mentions are “Pancreatic Cancer” and “Aimtolose.”  

Emptying the clip…I’d love to share this concert dispatch from Dani Socher, who attended a “Mac Miller Celebration” and left with a lot of feelings.

Dani Socher: Ten or so years back, underground rap was happening in LA, the best of it found at raucous, illegal cash-only warehouse shows kicking off at 1am. These were delirious spaces. You’d catch indie-stars like Lil B, briefly-stars like Slim Jesus, or never-stars like Nacho Picasso rapping their asses off from a makeshift stage about three feet high. But times change– rappers outgrow the scene, the scene gets tired, and people (like me) get jobs, they get married, they get washed.

This existentially washed state-of-being is how I find myself paying $18.99 on Eventbrite.com for a “Mac Miller Celebration,” which promises to be an interactive DJ night, held at the Teragram Ballroom. Like a lot of internet rap heads over the years, I went from skeptical to intrigued to head-over-heels for Mac over the course of his career. Rap careers have an arc to them, and his was dramatic: at first a teenaged East Coast backpack wannabe, then a poppy frat-rap hero, finally Mac bloomed into his artistic adulthood as an intensely collaborative LA rapper-producer making trippy, melodic rap about the realities of substance addiction and mental health. When Mac died in 2018 he was at his artistic peak, and his music – especially the later stuff, everything from Watching Movies on– has only grown on me since. 

But as I walk into Teragram an hour after doors, the venue already packed out, I’m turned off by the LA-fratty crowd. Dudes in Zebra Yeezys and Supreme hats, girls in black pleather pants and halter tops, Puff Bars and Cudi tats everywhere – the gothic-gay melange that marks a great downtown show is nowhere to be seen. I pay an exorbitant fee for a splash of cranberry juice in peasant vodka, finish it and grab another. Time to wade into the sea of people. 

This DJ is interactive, all right, stalking the stage with manic verve as he runs through an eclectic playlist of Mac songs. He’s a skinny white dude, styled in the omniscient post-Peep aesthetic: stringy, bleach-streaked hair and faux-trash ink. Behind him a projector screen loops Mac’s music videos with the sound off, the visuals un-synced from the songs. The effect is uncanny, but the speaker system is truly kicking as “100 Grandkids” plays, and it’s followed by “Red Dot Music,” one of the best rap songs ever made, and 75% of the crowd knows 100% of the lyrics. Despite my cynical jerkoff instincts, I find myself vibing for the next hour. 

At some point the music cuts out, and the DJ starts talking about how Mac Miller loved “Bohemian Rhapsody,” telling the crowd that it was his favorite song. We are in no position to call bullshit on this claim, so we start to sing along, karaoke-style, all three or four hundred of us. Meanwhile the projector screen transitions to Mac’s “Self Care” music video, which features the now-dead rapper struggling to break out of a coffin after being buried alive. 

As the crowd swells to the chorus, roaring “Mamma Mia, here we go again,” the silent Mac onscreen anxiously breaks out of his coffin and rises from the grave, his tattooed skin blanketed in dirt. The visuals are haunting, and they feel painfully reflective of Mac’s actual death, but in this moment they are accompanied by a dancing DJ, and soundtracked by a shaky crowd karaoke rendition of a Queen song, and there is a bile rising in the back of my throat. There is a cognitive dissonance in the air that I can’t overcome. I’ve stepped into some kind of postmodern twilight zone, an Internet-addled mockery of memorial, and it’s hard to believe that I paid to be here. What the fuck is wrong with me? I push my way to the back of the room for some fresh air.

I stick around long enough to hear the DJ ask if anyone knows the lyrics to “Spins,” a catchy standout from the K.I.D.S mixtape. First I hear a loud scream, and then the source of the scream reveals itself as a diminutive brunette chick in a tube top forces her way onstage. The DJ hands her the microphone, and she turns to face the crowd. Everyone is silent, waiting to see what she’s got. It’s a real do-or-die moment for the event, and I’m just about ready to dip.

But when the song comes on, the shift is immediate. This girl raps it better than any us could possibly imagine, struts the stage like she was fucking born on it, daps up the front row while rapping, throws the chorus to the crowd with perfect timing. The room is rocking, the energy is real, and I sprint back into the crowd to become one with the crush of humanity, all of us blending together as we rap with her, and the term “Mac Miller Celebration” finally feels right – this half-pint mystery girl is channeling our love for a dead artist, bringing cheerleader energy to a DatPiff Mourner’s Kaddish, and for a blessed few minutes, we are truly Celebrating Mac Miller.

And finally, some notes from a noise show.

Mano: What is “noise music”? As someone who’s hated on Death Grips longer than anybody, I am the last person you wanna ask that question. Well, as is custom these days, in my bustling burnout group chat, someone last week posted a cryptic flier that had no names I recognized, no indication of genre or scene and no address. I got the address from the person who designed the flier and pulled up with my brother and friend of the blog / resident map guy Jameson. And instead of boring you with more words that make sense, I’m gonna give you the noisy Notes app dump I scrawled at 3 in the morning, about an artist I saw named Phagocyte:

We pulled up and instantly transported to a world of its own kind. Goths with metal in their face lined the walls. People moved at a different rhythm. Not a drink in site. We were at the noise show.

My first experience at a noise show had been unpleasant. The venue was hot and stuffy and messy. Holes big as rats lined the walls. And the artist we saw leapt straight into the deep end, revving up a French horn like a lawnmower.

Tonight’s set was cooler. For one, we were sufficiently zooted. For another, we were packed into a tiny, low-ceiling basement we (anybody over 6ft) could bash our heads on if we stood up straight. 

So the noise set. This artist with a vibrant blue fit and matching tall headdress calmly pokes around on a synthesizer and their laptop. And out comes the elements. Sound as pure strips. Essence. Other words that denote something so bare you can see its soul right there. The artist mixes together these softer breakbeats with these raw bursts of sound. Chaos pours out. The brain immediately starts searching for a hook. Rhythms emerge in the most unexpected ways. A pattern of rippling bass tones is suddenly a chirp is suddenly a snare. Twin laser blips spiral into a helix. A pounding four on the floor briefly suggests hardstyle before it’s pulled out from underneath and a buffering wave crashes in. 

This is physical therapy for your eardrums and brain folds. A deep rewiring of everything you’ve come to imagine sound is and can be. It makes you a patient, perceptive listener. Every tone feels vital. Every sound feels like music. It’s called noise. But it’s all signal.

Thoughts? Let us know