Tag Archives: Young Thug

Birdman, consumption and representation

I launch the new video by Young Thug and Rich Homie Quan and the first image is . . . Birdman?

A month a go, Birdman splashed out in an effort to sign Young Thug.  While you are being courted by Birdman and Young Money why not shoot a video with a few of the symbols of conspicuous consumption?

Birdman, Birdman Birdman.  It is astounding how much space he takes up in this video.  Father figure, founder of the feast, center of the party, exceptionally wealthy and entitled.  The symbols are all there.  Lighting up a cigar in the middle of a boutique sneaker store, bored yacht face, neck yoke of control over attractive women, mansion hallway vignette with Young Money/Cash Money plaques, comforting stacks of cash to sooth weary fingers . . .

(What would it cost to create this video out of rented artifice?  Not actually that much real money . . . rent a mansion, boat, cars, shoot the plane scene with a landed dummy plane . . . )

Birdman doesn’t rhyme in the video — he just stars in it.  (He does give the exiting dialogue — a shout out to his deceased mother Miss Gladys).  I guess Birdman is the price you pay for entry into Young Thug and Rich Homie Quan’s video.

I appreciate that this opening verse gives Thug a chance to rhyme what to him is a kind of normal accelerated pace.  His lyrics are distorted by his own voice and he plays with the sounds in a pretty creative way.  I don’t know why I like the natural caterwauling squawks that emit from Young Thug more than the digital ones, but I do.

Quan always has a quality flow, and I like his subtly shifting styles through this verse.  His deep voice growling does good riding the bass line. It seems like his references and similes could step up a notch . . . but he certainly sounds good.

What to make of the brief scene where Young Thug gives a stack of money to an old woman?   Young thug is arguing in the song that he does all this to bring money home to his family — a little consciousness break in a snowstorm of sexism and consumption.  Hold on, Quan suggests that his motivation is his mom and dad.  And Birdman concludes the video with a sponsored vodka shout out and tribute to his deceased mom.

One of the early critical arguments about hip hop was that the representations of hip hop quickly became images constituted by the artists in order to sell an image to an audience.  That hip hop involved performers going to work and creating something intended to meet an audiences expectations (usually male and privileged).  One way to read hip hop was to imagine what kind of audience might enjoy and buy this kind of performance.  (I’ll note the writings of Eric Watts, Tricia Rose and Robin D. G. Kelley have mostly influenced my perspective on this subject).

To a degree this crass consumerism vs. I’m-just-doing-this-to-feed-my-family debate is played out in the video.  I would say that the dominant visual narrative of consumption clashes with any other message.    In some ways the class consciousness (dropping off a couple of stacks for mom) is part of the representation of excessive wealth.  (Gza: “Who promised his mom a mansion with mad rooms /She died, he still put a hundred grand in her tomb” Gold).

Leave a comment

Filed under capitalism, class, communication, gender, hip hop, media, representation, rhetoric

Cannibal Capitalism the Birdman edition

Photo of Birdman’s RG (perhapsRich Gang) and YMCMYSL (perhaps Young Money Cash Money Young Stoner Life) tattoos. Thanks to The Smoking Section for the photo, I assume taken from Birdman’s social media.

Birdman is trying to sign Young Thug to his record label.  To prove his sincerity he tattooed several Young Thug associated tattoos on his hands and face.

Cannibal capitalism is the mediated experiences of human suffering projected for human entertainment and profit.   It is obvious that the bodily impact of Birdman’s tattoos is a particular kind of communication.  Tattoos have often been the indication of long-term committment for gangs, military units and fans of musical artists.  Birdman’s tattoo is amplified on social media and through dozens of rap blogs.  It is a public communication of his commitment intentionally articulated to bring his company more profit (by signing a strong young artist).

In some ways the suffusion of cannibal capitalism into many so-called reality television shows (cooking shows, real estate flippers) is an indication of the desperation of many people.   But Birdman isn’t desperate (not in the poverty sense) — he can give expensive cars and jewelry to friends and label-mates.  I heard on NPR he just gave a Bugatti to Justin Beiber.

Fleeting fame and the potential for profit have encouraged more than one reality TV contestant to become a public exercise in morality and exclusion. (Did you hear about Stephanie on Top Chef when she cut herself and she went to the hospital?!?! How about that Survivor episode where that guy broke his leg? What a wimp!)

Cannibal capitalism can be mapped whenever a human is harmed and it is filmed and amplified for other people’s pleasure.  When this happens a particular morality of self-sacrifice is usually articulated.  Announcers and other contestants express just how someone should take the suffering.  In some ways the harm done to the body gives access to comment on the body.

In the case of Birdman’s new tattoo’s the morality expressed isn’t how tough Birdman was for getting the ink, but rather how idiotic it is to tattoo to something as fleeting as a new potential corporate rap alliance.   Here is the Smoking Section‘s Gotty mocking the social costs of multiple face tattoos.

We recognize that the fact that Birdman will never have to go to a job interview ever in his life. The Cash Money CEO’s so loaded his kids kids most likely will never have to worry about working either. With that said, his continuing effort to ink his whole body with scribblings dedicated to Cash Money subsidiaries is a little odd.

Actually, the “RG,” presumably for his Rich Gang management company, added to his right cheek isn’t that bad because what the hell would two more letters do to a face littered in tats? It’s the “YMCMYSL” scripted on his fingers that doesn’t make sense. Assuming the letters rep Young Money Cash Money Stoner Life as in Young Thug’s movement, that’s more confusing.

via Birdman Permanently Pays Homage To Young Thug | The Smoking Section.

Leave a comment

Filed under capitalism, communication, hip hop, music, representation