Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Song of the Day #251 - Lil Ugly Mane - Collapse and Appear

I fell apart and took my mind with me

Happy New Year! I hope you had a pleasant time. Contrarians out there might point out how arbitrary all these holidays and celebrations are, but they can have a fun time doing it in the cold bitter darkness. Seriously, this season sucks, and if you don't make some time to celebrate in the middle of it, I don't know how you can hope to bear it. Part of me thinks we should skip right from autumn to spring, but sometimes it's good to despair.

With that I bring you one of the most depressing songs ever featured on this blog. If you've never heard of Lil Ugly Mane, the cult-rap phenomenon, the first half of this song gets you pretty quickly up to speed. "He used to laugh the loudest, now it never shows" is a complete short story up there with the classic "FSBSNW", "He watched his brother die and he never told" is suddenly too real. "Watch a human get abused by a machine" and "He inhales and he exhales but he never breathes" are so uniquely nightmarish that it could have only come from his life.  It's raw and confessional, the perspective of a man that's so far beyond giving up that it wraps around into some sort of absurdist superpower, a towering colossus of emptiness, capable of anything. It rampages across this fantastic beat, both skittish and full, carrying the whole vertical spectrum between ASMR-triggering noises and rumbling sleepy synths.

Okay, but then, but THEN, when he's basically hit his human limit of expression, when he's created a sonic environment so beautiful and yet wholly inhospitable, he hits us with what might be my single favorite musical moment in 2015: he delivers the final verse through a text to speech program. I really cannot state how much this amazes me. First off is like... conceptually, this sort of "transcendent" idea, like, LUM has finally reached lyrics so painful that he can't even bear to deliver them himself. It reminds me of in TGM 3 Shirase, when you start going so fast that they switch to the classic [ ]s... like some level of human appeal being stripped away to facilitate breaking some barrier in some other metric. There's something like... this could now be a message that was transmitted beyond him, beyond his death, beyond his capabilities... there's no longer proof of his surviving it... it's very haunting, when you believe this sort of line of thinking.

Then there's the aesthetic of the voice itself... My personal legacy of it goes back to Radiohead's classic "Fitter Happier", their chilling manifesto of a possible future they fought to escape. It made such an impact on me that even absurd videos like this, through their contrast of the voice and the piano, somehow adds up to genuine haunting despair. By the way, finding that video again took longer than making all of the rest of this post, so I hope you appreciate it. Now, 17 years after OK Computer, the voice signifies the opposite side: it is no longer the inhuman system of oppression, but the neglected too-human cry for help.

What that cry contains is here some of LUM's most exquisite and chilling lyrical work yet. You really don't get the full effect if you don't hear the "delivery", but I'll still copy it out for your convenience. It is worth examining on any level at any depth. It's posted up on rapgenius etc but the formatting they use (which, to be fair, they copied from the official lyrics pdf, which I think retains the exact text he converted) isn't super readable, so I'll clean it up:

I fell apart and took my mind with me
I have been barely sustaining
My pain just marinating
I fell apart and took my mind with me
Just a ghost cloaked in lies with a broken spine
Fell apart and took my mind with me
Just an unrecognizable creature
Caught under an avalanche
Fell apart and took my mind with me
My presence unnerving
I'm a shadow always lurking
Surrounded by death
Even the towel rack reminds me of the handles pallbearers grip tightly on the way out of church
What they use to lift you up into the back of that hearse
I see a woman tighten grip on her purse
Can't be offended
She doesn't know my intentions
She imagines the worst
Around here
The conditions severe
Around here
You tightrope between detachment and fear
Between the shattered fragments of existence that collapse and appear
Never changes
Just exacerbates depression deeper year after year
Pain weaving in
Pain weaving out
Heart worms, sharp turns
Sparse words, scars, burns
I spent a long time dying
Don't wake me up yet
Public executions
You'll never see me upset
Force fed myself with blow but now I settle for sedatives
No longer in the streets, I belong in the crevices
Positively negative
Popular I've never been
Hard to be a person when you lack the mental requisites
Emotionally deficit
Consumed with all the wretchedness
Not optimist or pessimist
My politics are in exodus
Spouting countless fountains out while drowning in the brine
My life's the foulest algorithm science can't define
They trap you in these systems that are phallic in design
Because they fuck you in the mind
Boy, they fuck you all the time
I fell apart and took my mind with me
Being strung up at the ligaments with cultural derivatives
Fell apart and took my mind with me
Pronounced dead by a nemesis
A doubt without a benefit
I fell apart and took my mind with me
Just a cluster of atoms thrust deep in a chasm
I feel apart and now your mind is with me
Smoke in your eyes
The world's a joke in disguise

Ahhh, holy shit. And then the transition into Leonard's Lake? It feels like work this good should be so affirming to create that feeling this bad is impossible. But evidently it's not. Welp. Happy new year!

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