ASAP Rocky, Jukebox Joints, and the Emptiness of the Extravagant
The fascination with celebrity
Sacrifice the few
A sentiment I have often heard expressed, is the idea that the fascination with celebrity- and celebrity culture- is just another stupid bi-product of the aggressively mediocre masses. Anyone of substance knows to mature from this infantile stage of celebrity worship- and why people do not perform this inherently simple task is beyond understanding. I have an alternate theory, and as with all my theories, there is always the chance that I am wrong. Celebrity culture is a social mechanism humanity has elegantly crafted to sacrifice the mental well being of a few, to relieve the mental stresses of the masses.
It is almost sadistic- in an odd way only the human animal could come up with. We pay the select few group of extroverts increasingly absurd sums of money- and heighten their perspective of the human perspective on everything from drugs, to sex, to even religious practice (see the collective fascination with scientology for this)- to watch their foreseen downfall. Watching this tragedy play out, we seem to collectively experience this sad, but possibly necessary, social orgasm. Only to then move on to the next victim who just wanted to be on a reality tv show- Aldous Huxley would be proud.
They tend to be the best of the best
The perfect rap song
There are some however- and they tend to be the best of the best- that utilise their heightened perspective to create transformative and poignant pieces of art- and not just drown in a sea of publicly funded hedonism. Amongst these select few are examples like Andy Warhol, Jay Z and my topic of the day- Asap Rocky.
Jukebox Joints is a beautiful song. Even just aesthetically, the gorgeous nature of the lush instrumentation interacting with the layered sampling, the interesting word choices and flow of Asap Rocky combined with Kanye Wests’ boyish and charismatic delivery. Even before we get to the message, I would argue this song is one of the few examples of the perfect rap song- see also “Curls” by Madvillainy “Hpnotize” by Biggie, “Electric Relaxation” by a tribe called quest and “C.R.E.A.M” by the Wu Tang Klan. However, the part of this song that makes it truly transcendent is the way each piece of music is used.
A common misconception only music could dispell
A common misconception- on a quick aside- is the idea that emptiness is a problem that needs to somehow be solved. I strongly disagree with this sentiment; an odd consequence of being born with the beautiful tool that is the human mind seems to be that the search for the feeling of fulfilment may never end. Trying to fill that hole materialized in our psyche with achievements or the material is a dangerous slope to try and climb. Emptiness is a distinct part of the human experience, but it is also one that is extremely difficult to write about because frankly the only way I have ever seen it captured is in music.
“After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music.”- Aldous Huxley.
The parts of Jukebox joints are all seamlessly woven to paint the picture of the heightened perspective of celebrity as previously mentioned. The environment Rocky and Kanye build from the ground up is one of money, sex, drugs, respect and clout. The status quo they have worked hard to achieve and sustain all their lives. However, the extravagant world inhabited by the song both sonically and lyrically is framed as ultimately meaningless.
Only silence and music
The ultimate tragedy
I was not being hyperbolic when comparing the graphic downward spirals of celebrities into madness as a tragedy. An important part of the tragedy is the idea of the inevitable happening to the undeserving. In other forms of story, the downfall of the hero is seen to be the fault of the hero himself. In tragedies, the hero makes no greater error than any of us would make in the same position. Jukebox joints is such a painful tragedy because the inevitable cause of the downfall of our hero is the human condition itself.
It is still a little puzzling to me why the art that seems to resonate with me the most always carries a fatalistic tint, but firm is my belief that perspectives like these are important. Jukebox joints portrays men with so much to their name, that still feel like they have nothing. My argument is that this perspective is necessary because if people at the height of their careers and cultural domains can feel empty, so can we- and that is fine. It is okay to feel empty, you are only human.
© 2018 Samuel