"No Homo" Epilogue: Action Bronson is a Cockwad of Ungainly Proportions

This is a pretty straightforward story:  Queens rapper and much touted next-big-thing Action Bronson was caught being a complete shithead to a drunk transgendered woman a couple of days ago, and when he posted a gloating picture of the occurrence on Instagram the Go Fuck Yourself was so overwhelming that he was forced to delete his account. Like all big stupid babies who decide to NOT TAKE IT ANYMORE in as ineffectual a manner as possible, he took his pissy tirade to Twitter, alternating between insulting his followers for being so sensitive and inquiring as to the status and location of his post-naptime juice box.

This is pretty much always the way it goes: it's always the loudest, most "outrageous" speakers who are the first to shit when you tell them to quit being such an asshole. It's a pussified, PC society until suddenly you're the one getting picked on, and then before you know it the Whaaaaaaaaambulance is barreling down the boulevard, racing to the aid of a man whose feelings you hurt by pointing out what an absolute dick he was acting like. Can't anyone see that the people who stand up against bullies are the real bullies here?!?

If anyone thought the things I brought up in that essay weren't still a problem in this day and age? They're still a big fucking problem in this day and age. He'll doubtless have learned nothing from the whole thing and it's unlikely to do any damage to his career, but a few more people have seen the true colors of a fresh critical darling who could previously do no wrong, and maybe a few more people will really start to think about how fucked the rap community's stance towards LGBTQ people is.



No Homo

"Faggot soundmen, they be sabotagin' shit!"-Method Man, "What the Blood Clot"

The other day I was reading a review of a documentary called Bully; the film as a whole seems to present the issue of bullying and psychological victimization with a striking level of clarity, but one scene in particular stood out in that regard. One of the kids that the film follows is bullied so frequently, and by so many people, that he starts mistaking physical abuse for regular joshing and playing around. His mother tells him not to hang out with people who beat him up, and his reply is heartbreaking: “What friends does that leave me with?”

I think there’s a similar sentiment present in wider media, in that there are certain messages that are so ubiquitous that we think it’s impossible to cut them out of our cultural diet, lest we miss out on pretty much everything we want to watch or listen to or read. We don’t let Sergio Leone’s fixation with female degradation interfere with our awe at those incredible shots he manages to get, we don’t let H.P. Lovecraft’s horrific racial views distract us from his once-in-a-lifetime expressiveness of imagination, and if you listen to hip-hop, you tend to brush aside the ever-prevalent, near-deafening homophobia that infests the genre in order to better focus on the lyricism and production.

"These faggots hit like teddy bears."-EL-P, "Delorean"

This is something I have been doing, and am doing, and will probably continue to do, much to my own distaste. The reason I do it is because I don’t want to stop listening to things I like, and I like hip-hop, even though so much of it will at least reference in passing beating up gay people or emasculating an opponent by questioning his sexuality. And I do mean so much of it, because it’s everywhere. It’s inescapable. From thugs like Ghostface Killah to freakshows like Danny Brown to nerdy “nice guy” rappers like XV, it seems like pretty much everyone has to get their shots in. And sometimes I have to question my principles when I listen to this stuff, which sucks, because aside from the rare not-just-unoffensive-but-actively-socially-positive group like BBU, there are pretty much no alternatives.

People tend to have kind of an all-or-nothing attitude when it comes to issues like this in hip-hop. As in, you either accept the whole package as presented or reject it entirely. Whenever you try to discuss the ethical problems with the genre it's thrown in your face that you either don’t know what you’re talking about (“it’s all pimps and hos and crack and murder, what happened to the Rolling Stones, why don’t comics cost a nickel, etc. etc.”) or, if you do have legitimate concerns to raise, you’re told it’s not your place to bring them up since you’re not part of the culture. I think that’s kind of a bullshit response, though, since I’m not a part of skinhead culture either, but that doesn’t mean I’m not allowed to be appalled by the existence of things like Stormfront.

"Ayo, I'm quick to lick the mag twice/And cold take a fag's life."-Big L, "8 iz Enuff"

Obviously, very few hip-hop acts are quite so militant in their hatred or dismissal of LGBTQ culture. That doesn’t mean it’s not a completely shitty aspect of the genre, or that it’s in any way excusable. If rap’s opponents can’t use the “poor and ignorant” card to dismiss the music, that means that, in turn, its advocates can’t use it as a defense. When I’m listening to Action Bronson, and I stumble on a lyric like “I’m a man motherfucker, you’re half a fag,” it not only takes me out of the song, it fills me with disgust. It makes me instinctively push the skip button on my iPod. There's no rationalization I can come up with that will deaden the feeling that that absolutely revolting lyric gives me in my core, and frankly I don't think you should be able to contextualize away the chilling significance of lines like that.  Does it say something about me that I didn’t have that same gut reaction to the songs on the very same tape that mention beating up hookers? Probably, yeah, it does.

The thing is, at the end of the day, you can’t really control what you are and are not comfortable with in the media you consume.  I can’t outline the exact reasons why some kinds of violent lyrics bother me and others don’t, except to say that as someone who identifies as bisexual, those sentiments can't help but instill in me the impression that I am not welcome as part of the listening audience. More importantly, though, it gives me the impression that these men do not believe that we share the same common ground as human beings. 

That’s a weird thing to say, coming from a white suburban twentysomething (how many umpteenth million times have you read that qualifier when reading a blog post about hip-hop?) so I’ll give an example.

"You're on the side of faggots and cock blockers/I'm on the side of bad-ass kids and the top-notchers." Tyler, The Creator, "Nightmare"

One of my favorite albums of the past few years has been XV’s Zero Heroes. It wasn’t a concept album per se, but a lot of it dealt with how XV grew up in a small town, without a father and with few friends, and became dependent on comics and music to help make it through the most difficult times in his life. That describes my adolescence to a tee, and it was revelatory to hear someone rap about things I could relate to on such a personal basis-escaping into the variety of personas that music could afford you, feeling your jaw drop when you meet a pretty girl who’s into the same weird stuff as you...99.9% of that album is an honest, utterly relatable story that’s near impossible to find in any other kind of music. It’s the sort of personal, confessional storytelling that hip-hop does as well or better than any other kind of art there is.

And then there is one, almost unnoticeable line near the end of the last song on the album where XV says he’s “iller than a nigga on the DL.” For those not familiar with the term, “on the DL” usually means “in secret,” but it also refers to gay black men who haven’t come out of the closet. In context, there really aren’t a whole lot of things that line can mean: XV, mere feet from the finish line, made a “gay people have AIDS” reference. And so now I've got this notion hovering around in my head that this dude, who I’ve been listening to, who I’ve been relating to, who I’ve been bonding with in that way that can only be facilitated by great music, probably thinks my sexual orientation means I've got AIDS (because hey, bi basically means gay and I'm just too scared to commit to the label, right?). And that illusion of personable friendliness that had been built up over the course of fifty some-odd minutes reveals itself to me as just that: an illusion.

And I’m sick of it. I’m sick of having to treat the music I listen to like it’s a fucking minefield, sick of everyone making excuses for this hideous specter that no one can seem to exorcise, sick of having to steel myself when I listen to a song with a phenomenal beat and great lyrics, bracing for that horrific slur casually slid in like a razorblade in a scoop of ice cream. How do I reconcile what I like with who I am? What are the options here? Where’s my out? Do I tell them to stop? Do I just quit listening to things I love?

"Call me homophobic but you know it and I know it/You're filthy and funny to the utmost exponent."-A Tribe Called Quest feat. Brand Nubian, "Georgie Porgie"

“What friends does that leave me with?”



The Shins' "Nothing At All" and Nihilism

We've long jokingly refereed to this as the nihilist song. I've got this ideal inside of me, but it's nothing at all. It's almost too funny, too straightforward, an upbeat song saying Hey Guys! There's Nothing At All! I've argued with friends about it, them saying that its about personal dissatisfaction and disenfranchisement. But somehow in the context of the shin's work (first three albums, at least) it looked to me as James slapping a nice melody to conceal that he really truly believed what he was saying. And in the five years of me thinking they'd never release a thing again, that they'd break up (they kinda did), it was the perfect post script to their career. The dropped last song on their last album, now only included as a bonus, as if to say "in case you didn't get it in the coded verse of the rest of our career, here it is for you, spelt out". "You want to put your trust in some solid thing? Yeah, it's a drug to us all". The record store clerk handed me a 7" record, for free, with it on the A and split needles alt take on the B, and as far as I can tell this particular combination isn't supposed to exist, I don't know why I have it.

Of course, this is not the first time the Shins have endorsed nihilism, or perhaps it's a brand of existentialism. The belief that there is no governing force to the universe, no spiritual ties that bind, and no meaning to life. That there is no fate, no god, no deeper reason to live, and perhaps even no love or happiness. In fact, the first seeds of this emptiness manifested on the opposite end of their discography, the first song on their first album. Caring is Creepy deals heavily in existential angst, images of walking naked in snow and feeling nothing, and hiding the fact you're dead again. Even the title shows this depressed detachment, as if to say "I don't care. Caring is creepy."

This trend is active throughout Oh Inverted World, the Shins' most cryptic album, notably on Know Your Onion's tale of teenage misanthropy. "When every other part of life seemed locked behind shutters, we knew the worthless dregs we've always been". However, it took until the straightforward, poppy Chutes Too Narrow came out for it to really take off. It's been said that the album is made up one third of love songs, one third of break up songs, and one third of despaired philosophy. Saint Simon and Fighting in the Sack even seem to specifically deal with the meaninglessness of life and the falseness of religion. Fighting's second verse states "Most ideals turn to dust, there are few in which we all can trust. Haven't you noticed I've been shedding all of mine?" He suggests that the whole idea of meaning is just because we humans know that our fate is to die and vanish, and we intentionally believe something else so we won't have to deal with that. "The cruel uneventful state of apathy releases me. I value them but I won't cry every time one's wiped out".

However, there are love songs, which would perhaps suggest that he shifts more towards existentialism that nihilism (in a nutshell, that he believes the universe gives us no meaning, but we can give ourselves some). Though there is Gone For Good, about breaking off an engagement after finding "a fatal flaw in the logic of love", there is the incredible Those To Come to counter it. In it our man wakes up to a beautiful girl making tea in her underwear and through her sees the entire cycle of life in the universe, and seems ok with it. There are few things I've ever been able to identify with as much as this song. I am in love with this girl I've never met through James Mercer's eyes. He is amazed to see her "still prone to care", a dramatic contrast to the original title of Gone For Good: A Call To Apathy.

Snapped back from the relatively clear lyrics on Chutes, the third album drowns itself in symbolism and references, a dense thick shell to crack, and certainly the hardest to tell exactly what James is trying to say. So I can only tell you what I've got. Certainly Australia deals with a whole score of themes of meaninglessness, from it's opening lines questioning the depth of human's purpose on earth to the "selfless fool who'd hoped he'd save us all" holding you down. He talks about the dodo's and the android's conundrum, perhaps meaning the emptiness of wings without flight or living without true life. He wants to cry, but nothing happens anytime he tries. Phantom Limb begs us to "follow the lines and wonder why there's no connection".

Turn On Me deals out one of the most potent anti-love lines, and certainly the one that has had the most violent repercussions throughout my life, from the fifteen year-old who first heard it down to now. "Do affections fade away? Or do adults just learn to play the most ridiculous repulsing games?" There's a handful of other lyrics sprinkled throughout the album that could be on the same strand, but they could also mean dozens of other things so I try not to speculate more than I have already.

Of course this all leads up to A Comet Appears, where, far from the concluding song on their previous album, he looks into his heart and sees a numbness growing. "Every post you can hitch your faith on is a pie in the sky, chock full of lies, a tool we devise to make sinking stones fly."

And if you have the bonus track you're then suddenly hit with "I've got this ideal inside of me that we're nothing at all." "I'm just a shell as empty as can be. Yeah, I've got nothing at all." and the ending chant, upbeat, of

"There's noting at all

there's nothing at all

there's nothing at all

there's nothing at all"



Dirty Knobs- Ghost Geometry

May 1, 2012; Zac Bentz, Xero Music

Just a quick review to get us back on track.

We are big Zac Bentz/Dirty Knobs fans here at SB, and after the eight-hour sonic odyssey/mindfuck that was last year's Field Recordings from The Edge of Hell, I was definitely looking forward to some more epic dark ambient in that vein.

Along comes Ghost Geometry and despite being trimmed down to half the runtime of its amazing predecessor, it was well worth the wait and arguably even more cohesive and better.

It's hard to review something like this. Guess it basically boils down to... how do you feel about music truly bereft of plebeian reference points like melody, tempo, rhythm; of supermassive, slowly escalating drones and soundscapes that conjure imagery of huge spinning constructs in the outest reaches of space, endless reaches collapsing on themselves and reforming and collapsing again; each time different and strangely affecting yet empty and terrifying as the sustained notes and frequencies build inside your chest and stretch on to infinity; and after thirty, forty minutes, slightly ebb out only to expand ever further?

Either way stop standing on the fence. Click that link, put that dollar down, kill all the lights, crank the volume to window-rattling level, close your eyes and prepare for an extended voyage into the void.

You all want this experience; you just don't know it yet.




So I think we're about ready to start this site back up again, with some rearranging. Please bare with us as we try to lift this from a poorly taped together blog into a legitimate website for music aficionados. We founded Styrofoam Boots three years ago to try to find a view on music criticism that was lacking on the internet. Most online publications either veered towards a professional style, feigning objectivity and impersonal descriptions, something that does not exist when talking honestly about music. Or worse, some of them began to focus almost entirely on the social commentary they believed the music to be pushing, loosing all sight of emotion or personal philosophy. On the other side are most blogs and other online outlets, where people tend to disregard their responsibility to their audience, and instead get self-absorbed, spewing half formed and thrown away opinions. So we hope to land in between, people who feel the music very very much on an extremely personal level, but still hope to get across exactly why that's so, always taking risks with our taste without ignoring the simple things that just get to you. We hope to be like the friend that comes up to you and shouts "you have to hear this", and plays you something brilliant.

My name is Stuart, I am on the verge of being twenty one years old, I live in New York City, and my live has been defined by music. If you have any questions or anything you want to say to us, please leave a comment bellow, we'd love to hear from you.

So without more delay, let me introduce our singles column, Tracking, bringing your attention to any random solitary tracks that have been pulling on our ears and heartstring recently.

Trim - Confidence Boost (Harmonimix Remix)

It's odd that this song is quite as powerful as it is, dealing a swagger that's unlike anything you've heard before. It's not really the forward-pushing dynamic brute force of metal, not the aggression and confidence found in most hip hop, the kind of shouted violence of punk music, nor the wild push of most club music. What it has is something far more static, self-confidant force to it, singular and calm, but no less swagger than you could find anywhere else. I've started to use it as distinct evidence that experimental techniques can create a drop more destructive than the normal and that experimental hip-hop is not just a deconstructionists dream, but a suddenly-exploding field with nearly infinite possibilities.

Dirty Projectors - Gun Has No Trigger

I suppose it's mostly surprising for the Dirty Projectors to be doing something you want them to do. The band has built their legacy by willfully denying convention, taking the melody at a sudden turn just when you want it to break, holding things just painfully too long. And while that pattern busting ability is incredible, here they prove their worth when they stick to building a song. There's something here I've never found anywhere else, like an old noir tune cut out from time, with rising voices providing an affecting alternative to synths or guitar. I love almost everything this band has done, both for pure aesthetic reasons and also for the slight academic joys they send down my music nerd spine, but I'm never actually connected with one emotionally, and here I'm putting the song on repeat, all in.

Radiohead - Lotus Flower (Jacques Greene Remix)

Like the Dirty Projectors' standard work, here Jacques Greene plays a little bit with your mind as well as the undefined part of your brain that connects with music. Which is to say, you fall into a state of anticipation listening to this, the synths holding you in a kind of stasis, looking forward, waiting. And yet, unlike most ambient leaning dance music, somehow this anticipation is wholly pleasurable, I can even taste faint euphoria seeping in the back of my mind. I could wait forever.

Jacques Greene - Another Girl

Another Girl, however, is something else entirely. When you take a hard look at the independent-leaning dance scenes in London and LA right now something terrible becomes apparent. Though the music is brilliant and beautiful and forward thinking, you probably can't dance to it. Or at least your girlfriend's buddies won't want to, and it's not gonna start any parties. Another Girl might, though, finding itself at the only true post-dubstep banger aside from Hyph Mngo. Somehow it's able to fulfill almost everything dance music is intended for in an ideal universe. It can get you hyped for going out and it can also serve as the lovely comedown at the end of the night. It can start people shouting on the dance floor and waving their arms in the air, but it also feels delicate and kind on headphones.

DJ Elmore - Whea Yo Ghost At, Whea Yo Dead

Footwork hits like more fun noise music to me, churning away of the aggressive knots that build up in my misanthropic head. It's generally acknowledged to be the coolest and most boundary pushing thing going on today, yet even the critics seems to have trouble listening to it and people tell me to turn it off pretty damn quickly when it starts. I don't care. The most aggressive battle raps never got to the temples of my head like this, and even the ambient tracks (this one is the first cut off of Planet Mu's amazing compilation Bangs & Works Vol. 1) sound like nothing you've ever heard before. Just good luck learning the dance.

Drake featuring Lil Wayne - HYFR

Shlohmo dropped this during a dj set last week and I can't even tell you how much my brian swirled when the flow went to double time. Drake may be doing something incredible here, virtuosic, crafting lyrics about dissatisfactions with ex's and accidentally slipping I love you into drunken phone conversations with an absolutely weatherproof style. Mainstream hip-hop never gave signs of being able to produce something this awesome and heartfelt, and I am continuously aghast as the all of the lyrics slowly embed themselves into my memory. Hell Yeah Fucking Right.