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14 December 2009

You’ve got indie rock in my hip-hop: stray thoughts about a Kid Cudi video & misreadings of the Great Gatsby

(Image via University of South Carolina F. Scott Fitzgerald Centenary website.)

All over the land you can hear hipsters saying, “You’ve got hip-hop in my indie rock,” and all over the hip-hop nation, they are saying in return “You’ve got indie rock in my hip-hop.” I’ve been meaning to write a bold, brilliant essayistic statement about this phenomenon. I’ve even collected a ton of articles about it to reference. But, hey, I’ve had bills to pay, checks to cash, et. cetera.

A nice summary statement of the phenomenon, though, can be extrapolated from viewing this new video by Kid Cudi, featuring the musical skills of indie rock(ish) darlings MGMT and Ratatat.

Our friends at The Daily Swarm described it like so:

    Hands down the best video released this week. Ever chug champpers in a room full of people and still feel all alone? No? Then you don’t work in the music industry. That’s the dream, kids–a world where most everyone around you is an embarrassing asshole and rejects you. Cheers.

Indeed, Cudi’s video seems a direct strike against the blinged-out lifestyle that has long been the Gatsby-without-insight-into-what-the-book-is-about goals of the hip-hop nation. (I beg to disagree with the Daily Swarmers, but the music industry itself is rarely so glam.)
This image above is from one of Sean “P. Diddy” Combs‘ annual “white parties.” (Via no joke!).

To P. Diddy’s defense, tragedy is hard for people to apprehend. Only the Greeks & Russians have ever understood it, really. And in hip-hop’s defense there have been musicians in the scene who’ve made it clear they have an ironic sense of these aspirations. Kanye West, for example, seems like an actual Gatsy-esque figure, i.e. aware that he’s tragic though powerless to prevent himself from succumbing.

I’m not sure, however, that there’s ever been a hip-hop performer before Cudi whose self-consciousness about his aspirations toward glamor actually seem to outweigh the amount of time spent pursuing said glamor.

This, perhaps, is the reason indie rock and hip-hop are finally having a “come together” moment. As indie rockers dreams of money are fulfilled (trending up toward bling!), the hip-hop scene is beginning to share indie rock’s long time suspicion of such aspirations (trending down away from bling!). Somewhere in the middle of this comes Beyonce’s sister covering a song by Dirty Projectors.

Anyway, I for one like Kid Cudi’s doubts about glamor better than I like the real thing, as long as the real thing still looks like this:

Posted by Alec Hanley Bemis

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