Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Ridin' Dirty

There's a song on the radio right now that seems to be following me. I can't stand it, it seems to be wedged into my skull so that I find myself chanting the chorus as I drift off to sleep. It's the kind of song you wish you could just wipe from the memory of mankind, one of those rare pieces of music that makes you feel dumber just for having heard it.

I'm referring, of course, to Chamillionaire's "Ridin'".

I remember back in the hazy days of the late nineties, when stupid rap was still a novelty. Remember Master P? Ah yes, dear sweet Master P, the man who made the world say "Ugggh". His No Limit records was quite popular for a short period of time, but soon faded from the spotlight. You got the idea that his brutally undercooked mix of horrid gangsta clichés, warmed-over Tupac verses and just plain uneducated street" philosophy" was only really popular because it was so damn stupid, and that once people got the joke once, they had no wish to hear it again. Don't think I'm just hatin': I am speaking as someone who actually owns a Talking Master P doll (that screams "Ugggh" when you squeeze it). I love me some Master P - albeit perhaps not in the way Master P intended. There is simply no way anyone could have predicted that this kind of stupid rap would not only thrive, but eventually come to dominate pop music.

But that's essentially what has happened. And make no mistake, a great deal of this stuff is just plain stupid -- and if that makes me a racist or a hopelessly out-of-touch old fogey, pointing out that folks like Chamillionaire, the Yin-Yang Twins and 50 Cent sound like fourth-grade dropouts, so be it. I mean, so many of these rappers don't even seem to rap so much as recite random jumbles of regional street slang. The act of rapping becomes less about writing poetic verses with dramatic or humorous impact, and more merely using nonsense words and empty phrases to sound tough and cool. Where's Kool Moe Dee when you need him?

Examine this chorus:
They see me rollin', they hatin',
Patrollin', they tryin' to catch me ridin' dirty.

Now, what does that even mean? It's repeated ad infinitum throughout the track, so it must mean something. But really, it doesn't: all he's saying is that he's cool, he's so cool as to be untouchable, because all the people who are trying to say he's uncool are merely haters. They -- represented by the police in the context of the song but really, anyone -- are trying to catch him in the act of being uncool, to catch him with his proverbial pants down, but the only reason they're doing this is because they are haters. His coolness is so flagrant and unimpeachable as to be almost tautological in nature -- trying to explain it is useless. He is cool because he is cool.

Is anyone else reminded of the Bush administration? If I didn't know better I'd say they were taking their cues from Chamillionaire. If Bush listened to rap (which of course he does not, because those icky ethnics are involved), he could summarize the sum total of his reaction to outside criticism of his policies with one simple verse:
They see me rollin', they hatin',
Patrollin', they tryin' to catch me ridin' dirty.

It's so simple, it's brilliant. Don't mess with me, it says, because I am not to be messed with. If you have to ask why I am not to be messed with, well, you are merely hating. You will never understand. My coolness is beyond reproach, and the only criticism I can expect is from parties as yet uninformed of my coolness. Because when you see my new bitchin' rims, you will all bow down before my absolute greatness.

Of course, in the world of comics, you could say that Batman is the ultimate in false, unearned bravado. I especially like how despite the fact that Batman was never at any point in his history a super-scientist on the scale of Reed Richards or Will Magnus, he was suddenly able to design, build and implement a super-intelligent self-aware computer satellite that could remotely turn millions of people into cyborg superbeings capable of going tow-to-toe with Superman. And when his invention was sabotaged by bad guys, resulting in the deaths of hundreds, if not thousands of people, what was Batman's reaction?
They see me rollin', they hatin',
Patrollin', tryin' to catch me ridin' dirty.

You have been ridin' very dirty, Batman. Very, very dirty. I'd be surprised if, after the current Infinite epilogues peter out, that is an aspect of Batman's history which is never again mentioned or discussed by anyone, sort of like that kid he had a couple decades who everyone forgot about until, apparently, Grant Morrison decided to bring him out of limbo (which, if it is true, is a testament to just how powerful Morrison is, because I'll bet there were a lot of people at DC who were happy to let the idea of Batman as a father die a slow and quiet death). So maybe in another twenty years someone will bring back the whole OMAC idea (not the good Kirby version but the exceedingly lame modern incarnation) and make something cool out of it. But until then, it sucks. It sucks so hard that it makes the comics that have to share its shelfspace less cool by comparison. I hear someone accidentally placed an issue of Love & Rockets next to the OMAC Project, and by the time they picked up the Love & Rockets it had turned into an issue of Strangers in Paradise. Swear to God.

I think it's fair to say that the next time he does one of his interminable Cup Of Joe panels at a convention, Joe Quesada could just use a boombox with the Chamillionaire track on it to answer all questions.

Does anyone remember the issue where Wolverine sired a child? That's another story they don't talk about anymore.

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