Broken Record

I guess at this point can we all say a big ‘RIP’ to one of the biggest casualties of consumer capitalism in the music world – hip-hop. Lost in the superficial haze of money, ego and women hating, the most badass political movement of the last 30 years got eaten up by the consumerist machine and spat out as corporate sponsored cultural advertisements for brands who don’t give a toss about the music or its culture…

And then rappers make tunes about how this is the case…

And we buy them.

Is it just me that thinks this is weird? It seems Eminem, Jay-Z, Dre and Fiddy agree with me:

While there a bunch of new and oddball takes on hip-hop/trap music are emerging from the fertile hip-hop underground, most of the lyrical content is the same old same old  –  $$$ as the be all end all, selling drugs, bitches and rims. I like ASAP Rocky, Waka Flocka, and Gucci Mane  – their flows are SICK beyond belief – but their lyrics are lazy and repetitive. They are fast becoming the equivalent of ’80s hair metal bands – a parody of over the top indulgences that marked a slow decline into artistic stagnation and self parody.

If you have the ability to compulsively dip your platinum card into the consumerist orgy with any amount of regularity, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that none of it is filling that gnawing hole in your soul. In the same way that if you’ve dedicated your life to getting to the point where you can travel the world getting paid well for playing your music to rabid music lovers, sooner or later this too becomes meaningless if it’s done for the fame, adulation and approval of others. And that shit hurts! The higher you go the more painful it is to realize that money, fame and approval mean nothing at the end of the day. Of course it would be a lot cheaper and easier if we had these realizations before we even left school, but the dark side is strong Luke, and most of us grow up with the consumerist myth tattooed across the part of our heart that’s labeled “The Meaning of Life”.

Hip Hop Is Dead - FreQ NastyYou don’t believe me? Here’s an example of the kinds of messages we live and breath in our mental environment in 2012. I found these awesome sneakers in a market in Mumbai India of all places. Che Guevera sneakers in Rastafarian colors!! Absolutely solid gold comedy and beyond any kind of irony that could ever be planned. I should have bought them, really I should.

So even anti-capitalist militant Revolutionaries get co-opted by the aspirational marketeers of the consumerist attack on sanity! So what chance did a bunch of rappers have, even if we did have Public Enemy and Dead Prez on our side back in the day? Maybe I shouldn’t be so hard on rap.

10 years ago in ‘Take the Power Back’, Rage Against the Machine sung “In the right light, study becomes insight / But the system that dissed us, teaches us to read and write / We gotta take the power back”. They called for revolution in the streets. But this time it’s not about a violent revolution. It’s about changing our mindset.

To paraphrase a piece of graffiti I found in San Francisco: “Capitalism could be over if you want it to be”.

Hip Hop Is Dead - FreQ NastySo what is the “study” that becomes “insight”? Learning not to buy into the system! Does that mean you can’t have any nice shit? Hell no. I have an iPhone and a coupla nice pairs of sneakers. But I’m not dying for my next pair before these ones wear out. It’s a mental attitude, not some kind of abstinence from stuff you like.

In fact, here’s how you get everything you want, right away. Just be content with what you have! There, I said it. Instantly you become way happier without having to do anything.

Sounds almost too simple to be true, but its RADICAL. It’s called ‘Santosha’ in the Yogic tradition. You can dismiss it as the mad ravings of the lunatic fringe, but here’s a whole book by a Professor of Social Theory and Social Action on why being content with what you have and not engaging in the consumerist mind fuck is a good idea:

I read a bunch of books like this and after tens of thousands of words of rebuttal of the consumerist paradigm it can all be summed up in one word…. “Santosha”. Be Content. Master Patanjali, the author of the Yoga Sutras, wrote this down as the 2nd of the “Niyamas” (Observances) two-and-a-half thousand years ago, and very little has changed since then it seems. Like a bullet from a gun it flies through the centuries and strikes at the very heart of our 21st century post-millennial angst. It still works, it’s still 100% bullshit proof, and the more our scientists delve into the inner workings of the mind the more evidence is mounting up in its favor. But best of all, any of us can pull the trigger any time we want to.

So go and start your own Revolution.

Fuck the system, be content.

  • DJ Funk Monster

    Great Shpeil Monsieur Nasty! I just wanted to add the new scientific research they’ve done which reverses the idea that happiness is something we feel first which then makes us act like a happy person. Scientists discovered if you choose to be happy and then act like a happy person, you become much happier. For that matter, if you act like a confident person, you soon find yourself feeling more confident. Psychology follows physiology basically. Being happy with what you have is obviously a good idea, yet this simple realization is undermined by every advertising message we’ve ever absorbed. That’s what we have to fight against, the marketeers message that you can’t be happy without product X. Prove them wrong!

    • Darin nasty

      INteresting stuff DJFM!
      I’d add to your comment that the easiest way to ‘act’ like a happy person is to treat others well… it’s one of the fundamental hallmarks of a happy person, and the easiest way to convince yourself you are one.
      Also check out “Stumbling on Happiness” by Prof Daniel Gilbert. Very interesting read too.

  • dr fegg

    One comment – the “need” that we experience to have more and more “stuff” lurks deep in our history – we evolved because the ones who did manage to accumulate food, clothing etc survived and bred, the rest starved or froze – this, along with anxiety (which kept us safe from predators and rivals stealing our stuff) were fundamental aspects of human behaviour that increased survival potential. Although we now live in this modern world, primal urges still want to be indulged… Sex, tribalism etc, and even if we have enough food the urge transfers to sneakers or whatever we are sold by advertisers as being indispensible…

    Freq you are so right – with our (evolutionary) new forebrains we have the ability to override primal urges and a choice about whether or not we indulge them. Santosha!

    PS Anyone into human behaviour from an evolutionary perspective may love as I did these two books:
    Human Instinct: Robert Winston – about general human behaviour
    This is Your Brain on Music: Daniel Levitin – how/why our brains evolved to hear music, not just sounds!

    • Darin

      Word! If we don’t make an attempt to move beyond biological evolution we are heading the same way as any of our distant ancestors who couldn’t adapt fast enough.
      ps YOur BRian On Music is one I quote alo in the Yoga Of Bass Presentation that Claire and I do. Check it out. http://www.YogaOfBass.com . Thanks for the info Dr Fegg!

  • sek1

    Nice piece, though I would argue that hip-hop is far from dead. Mainstream American hip-hop may be incredibly commercial, but there are plenty of rappers all over the world spittin’ intelligent, political, spiritual rhymes.

    Here are a couple tracks made in the last couple years that illustrate what I’m saying. 1st is Reality Check by Son of Nun, which takes on the commercialization of rap. 2nd is political hip hop from Tibet.

    I hope you enjoy. Keep up the good work.

    • Darin nasty

      Thanks S1 – I haven’t heard of Son of Nun, I’ll have a listen. Thanks for hooking me up.
      Do you know of any of the Tibetan rappers?

  • sensa

    Check Akala Fire in the booth..He is keeping the spirit firmly alive..

    • Darin nasty

      Will do! Cheers Sensa

      • Darin nasty

        Just checked him…. NEXT level mate . Amazing

    • dr fegg

      Thanks Sensa for that – wicked – maximum respect Akala

  • Iriegary

    Hip hops not dead, there are more rappers in the world than there are tigers. And hip hop is more than rap, that’s just the only area that’s economically viable (I guess post banksy you could say graffiti is as well). Unless you’re attempting to profit from hip hop the mainstream isn’t a threat. Because it’s not about what they’re doing, it’s what you are.

    • Darin nasty

      Tho you could also say that Banksy and the current crop of graf artists are living in a golden age reminiscent of Hiphop’s early years. Banksy makes clever, politically edged, technically futuristic (and semi illegal) pieces of art which are welcomed by the mainstream. He is paid well for his efforts and is and critically applauded for it. Wouldn’t it be wicked if Hiphop/Rap could do that (again) too?

  • William

    Tech N9ne & the whole Strange Music family! Krizz Kaliko, Kutt Kalhoun, Prozak, !Mayday!, Stevie Stone, and watch out for Ces Cru about to drop their 1st album, these guys are on fire! Strange Music doin big things, all day all night baby! http://www.therealtechn9ne.com

    • Darin nasty

      Sweet – I’ve learned of so many great artists over the last few days. Thanks for lending me your expertise bro, I’ll have a listen.

  • Micoland

    It depends how you define Hip Hop. Kate Tempest is amazing British spoken word artist, ten times more Hip Hop than fiddy! Good post tho man 😉

    • Darin nasty

      Wicked thanks Micoland, I’ll Check her out. I love spoken word – it’s kinda the lost lineage of hiphop don;t you think?

  • Steaze_McGee

    Freq. Maybe I am off topic, and if I am please tell me. But I do not think being content is enough. If a whole world is content with what they have it does not rid the world of people attempting to sell us what they have. Especially when our shoes become used up and we need new shoes to walk in. I do not think the idea of being content will stop producers because when a product is needed many will go to ends to simply the product.

    Now from the sound it is about being content with material possessions, so maybe this next part does not apply. But when does content with material possessions become being content with other portions of life? This is not a capitalist argument as it is one of never ceasing and continuing to strive and create. Is this not the story of Faust? To take on life unceasingly. Is this not the story of the human heart and why the heroes of Greece speak to their hearts? We want a world fit for warriors and to do this we delve into what we love and by doing this we wish to see what we love to be expressed in the world. This is why rappers rapped or you make music. I do not think being content is the path we truly follow. We say fuck the system because we want a different realm of thought in its place. Being content may do that. Maybe. Though I do not think it will not stop one side of the the transaction and that is the side that will continue to strive when we are content, the same side waiting for us when we need, actually need new shoes.

    I didn’t mean to argue. I just am wondering about content. This was the best way I could question the topic.

    • Darin nasty

      I hear you Steaze. But until we learn to be content, can we ever be sure we are fighting for justice, love and a better world? Conflict is created by people thinking they lack something and that it is alright for them to take that thing from someone else. Be it relationships or international conflicts, from one perspective you could argue that a lack of contentment is one of the primary causes. Only when we are content can we see past our own perceived lack and truly help others with a pure motivation.

      • Steaze_McGee

        I do not know if contentment is the train of thought I would use. What we do is create and recreate what we do. If say we step aside and meditate or relax to the point of becoming aware with the cosmos or culture or what be it. We do not let go often of the thing which is truly us. This is not an ego as it is something that is uniquely heavenly, as someone like Zhuang Tzu may say. I just see that there are many things we can become content with, but our deepest desire should never be content. In my interpretation this is why the Dalai Lama says that we still have desire, the desire for knowledge. This is also why some seekers of enlightenment say that it does not occur once or even stays once you have it. It morphs and moves and so must we to keep on it. In that way, content does not work in my mind. Because one can become content for a second and lose that enlightenment. For that reason I don’t see contentment and motivation, better desire for movement and growth, being able to work together.

        • Darin nasty

          Good points Mr McGee. The contentment I am pointing to is the type that allows us to get off the rat race long enough to consider the ideas you are presenting here. At different stages of a spiritual path different qualities are emphasized or de-emphasized according to our spiritual needs. So at the beginning, without contentment we will never stop chasing $, fame and stuff to even consider how we could live our lives in a way that would help each other and our world most. At this point contentment is a prerequisite to disengage from the the consumerist mantra of “never be content – there is always more and different stuff you need to buy before you can be happy”.

          But then as you say, we need the desire to learn more about the alternative to the consumerist ego-centric lifestyle in order to progress further on our spiritual path. We become discontent again – but this time it is being discontent with suffering and ignorance. We study and learn how to develop our wisdom and compassion. So we strive to develop the qualities that will bring us to enlightenment. In some traditions they say that when we become enlightened we’ll realize we’ve always been enlightened. So why did we have to do all the studying and meditation and service to others etc to get there?

          The spiritual life is full of Yoda like paradoxes – ‘work hard to be relaxed’, ‘strive in order to go beyond striving – and realize there was never anything to strive for in the first place’ etc. Buddhist texts like the Heart Sutra are all over this idea. Some of the very advanced Hindu texts talks about the very compulsion to ‘do’ anything, this lack of acceptance of what is, to be the very root of suffering. But the million dollar (lol) question is – does this contentment and acceptance mean you don’t grow or learn, or help others as much as you can at the same time? Does it mean you become an enlightened vegetable who just watches others suffer with out any motivation to do anything about it?

          When we observe the great spiritual practitioners of any tradition they work tirelessly for others…. Mahatma Ghandi, Mother Theresa, Swami Sivenanda, The Dalai Lama. Do you think it’s because they are discontent in the unhappy, needy sense of the word? The Buddhist and Yogic teachers say that when a person becomes enlightened they experience the true nature of reality directly, all the time. Unmediated by conceptual thought and beyond linear time, a peace, a freedom, a bliss arises where the enlightened being realizes the perfection of all things, that nothing needs to change. And yet that Buddha still lives in the world and experiences different things and people, learns new things and works happily for the betterment of the world and all in it …. but in perfect contentment with no need for anything to be different. Happy and content are the key words here. A lack of contentment is what drives unhappiness and the misguided need for us to make others unhappy so that we can ‘acquire’ contentment for ourselves. Only content people make others happy consistently.

          But until we reach that point, we strive, as you say Steaze. We strive to perfect our wisdom and our compassion, whilst attempting to be content at the same time. And that’s one of the paradoxes of the spiritual life. Our challenge is to fight the power of consumer capitalism by being content, whilst developing and increasing our ability to love all beings equally and with out limit.

          As a great spiritual master from a galaxy far, far away once said – “Try not. Do or do not, there is no try.” Don’t try, just be content, and happily do what needs to be done for the betterment of others.

          But until then mate, yeah you’re right, we try 🙂

          • Steaze_McGee

            Well said Nasty.

            I have been thinking some about content.
            I fundamentally disagree with being content. I think that maybe that higher order of contentment is merely a focus on what one believes to be important. Even if that means the erasure of the ego, the dissolution of self. For even then movement is occurring. One can only be content when movement ceases. The problem is life flows on incessantly. There seems to be a paradox there, as you would point out. But I continue to wonder if there really is. If being content has a focus, an awareness, a point, what is one’s level of content may only be the proximity away from a source. Maybe the content are closer to that source than those who are not. Maybe the word content deals with the amount of movement and desire one has in connection with this source.

            Content sounds not like the place at all then, but a layered feeling that surrounds a that place we enjoy or are happy to be in. Content is then also not the outside world, or how we fully feel about it, because our interior world is different than that of the outside. Until all worlds are united- the Interior, the exterior, and the bridge (the way we feel about the relationship of the two) – something does not ring true of contentment, for me. Why would a Bodhisattvas continually chose to return to this world? They are not content until the goal is over. They are not content until this world meets their place of enlightenment…

            I only wonder: If we ever reached the source together what it would look like? I do not think the idea of an answer is beyond or realm of understanding. I think there would be much joy in that place, and I think we feel it quite often. I think festivals are that place. While we are at them we are often content with ourselves and the world that surrounds us, but we are not content when we are away. Thus we create another festival again. We create places which we can fully become ourselves. I do not think I will dispute the idea of being content at the moment. I do not know if it is there when I dance, because in a layer I dance because I am happy. A portion of myself is not in movement (Am I Content?). For the most part though I dance because I am not content. I dance because I am joyous and I want the world to see that joy and I want to feel that joy myself. I cannot fully vocalize my idea here though. I know that when we create or perform all that is is fully realized and released. Here knowledge accompanies us in action which may be the closest definition of wisdom I can think of. I do not think content is the full process of this whole body of action, but merely it is a piece. In being a piece I do not think it is a necessary piece. Again I said think. I may be wrong and may be thinking to much, but what happens when we stop thinking? Does the brain stop traversing the path of consciousness? Does intellect cease moving?

          • Darin nasty

            Good points Steaze.
            What about being content with the fact that life flows on incessantly as does everything in it? I don’t think you have to stop change in order to be content. In fact when you invest in anything NOT changing ( relationships, possessions, having money etc) discontentment arises. Contentment is about being happy with the fact of impermanence…. And at the same time doing what we can do to effect change in the positive, with no attachment to the outcome.

            It’s also good to think about contentment in the negative – being content without the things that you don’t have. So I am content having the things I do have ( positive) , and I’m content not having anything else other than what I do have (negative).

            To your last point – Not being consciously aware of something, and your mind stopping are probably two different things. From the Tibetan Buddhist perspective, the mind will never stops, regardless if we are aware of it’s object consciously or not. From my own experience I have no idea what is the case tho. Interesting question tho.

          • Terry Flowers

            Interesting dialog Mr. Nasty – thank you for posting things and interacting in a way to get and keep us thinking. So important not to just zone out, and say “whatever….” Let’s keep workin’ it out, workin’ it out, and enjoying the process to the highest level we can. These are ideas to struggle with, contemplate deeply and earnestly, meditate on, and do the often hard work of resting in uncertainty. But then again, that’s all there is in a constantly changing world, the certainty of uncertainty. Let’s rest there and instead of constantly fearing what’s coming next, say, “weeeeee, I can’t wait to see what’s coming next!” Enjoy the mystery, know there will be pain as well as pleasure, and find the magic. Yes, yes, yes.

          • Freqnasty

            True indeed Terry! Issues to contemplate for sure.

  • Jordan Quintero

    Important issue, but the prescription “be content with what you have” effaces the root tragedy of capitalism. It’s not about spoiled rich people being sad that their cool sneakers aren’t making them happy any more, it’s that rapacious modes of production and ruthless business practices on a global scale leave billions with less than enough to survive (try being content while your kids starve) and environmental effects that spell “we’re fucked” for basically everyone. It’s not about your ennui, it’s about the survival of the species. As far as hip hop goes, it’s always been about commin’ up. The irony is that when you get there, you miss the good ol days of crack and 70% unemployment in the ghetto, and being an underground form of self expression. It is bullshit when big business cashes in on the cultural triumphs of those who it oppresses, but it takes two to tango.

    • Darin nasty

      It takes two to tango indeed Jordan. But is ‘capitalism’ the problem? Or is it the goal of capitalism? If the goal of capitalism were ‘happiness for all’ then it could work just fine. But when the goal is hoarding $ and stuff for oneself then we’re going to run into problems. It’s a transparent system that could be used for anything – kinda like money. It represents movement of energy rather than ‘good’ or ‘bad’. Maybe it’s the ‘consumer’ aspect of ‘consumer capitalism’ thru which many of the problems arise?

      You may well have been to India where people who exist in what would be called abject poverty in the West live what seem to be happy lives with enough food to eat, shelter, and clothes on their back but little more. Granted being content is something that’s a lot easier to do above the poverty line (a term that itself relies heavily on context) – as in when you have choices about your survival as Schwartz says in his book ‘The Paradox of Choice’. A very good point. Interestingly tho, “santosha” as described in many of the spiritual texts of Yoga and Buddhism is often practiced by ascetics who would be considered destitute and impoverished in the west – ie someone who owns a loin cloth, a bowl and begs for food every day. For the majority of us in the west, we have a lot more than that and still ( or perhaps even because of that) find it very hard to be content.

      But really the point I was making that most of us don;t try and change the tide of global warming everyday, but we do live in and around a consumerist society and so the issues I was raising are not more important, but perhaps more relevant for most of us unless you’re a committed activist or career politician. Great points tho Jordan and thanks for your comments.