Marketing in the digital media age is like fist fights in high school. If enough people surround something it’ll draw an even larger crowd, and what’s more attractive than a huge circle of chaos? Seeing a name enough on Twitter, an abundance of plays on SoundCloud or posts on respected blogs has the same results of a lunchroom brawl – the birth of natural curiosity. Once encouraged by that overwhelming feeling of wonder, it won’t be long until you press play. Some will be incredible, others will be sonically disrespectful, and then there’s special cases. Confusion is the immediate reaction, your eyes glance at the plays and you begin to question the taste of thousands. But if you don't immediatley abort the mission, you'll start searching for some sense of understanding. Deep down you know the song is bad, repulsive even, but you make it to the end. Now you're laughing, eager to play it again, or search for more. Not always, not sometimes, and with increasing frequency, you’ll come across a Lil B, a musical inside joke, what I'm calling Troll-Hop.
When I first heard Lil B, I sat thinking, “This is how Van Gogh felt before chopping it off.” The song was the evolution of terrible, my ears were ringing with the word “swag” and “pretty bitch” while my eyes read comments that praised the Based God. Those commenters applauded, using words that were fitted to describe Tupac and Biggie. I couldn’t comprehend the admiration. I called my brother, I needed a sane perspective; it was obvious that crazy juice was being sold in bulk. He shared my expression, puzzled, pondering if this should even be considered music. From that day on, I always came across messages swearing that Lil B could really rap, but every song I heard failed to prove that fabricated fact. When I heard he was featured on Lil Wayne’s "Groove Street. Party," I figured the “talent” he’s been hiding would arrive. It didn’t. He incoherently mumbled his way through the verse – it was the audio version of a train wreck, but I couldn’t pull myself away.
Lil B couldn’t be serious, but he was. It was obviously a joke, but maybe it wasn't. I couldn’t believe Wayne allowed this, but he did. I was obviously missing something.
Lil B was my introduction to a form of rap that could only exist during this era, where recording artists that lack musical seriousness can still be taken seriously when they're all about not being taken seriously. Don’t enter conversations wanting to use logic and reason, logic doesn’t exist, logic died once Soulja Boy sold millions of ringtones with a Superman dance. Lil B is able to make music like "Ellen Degeneres" and give splendid lectures at NYU and MIT. He has a charm that surrounds him, making his persona into its own entity that people adore. We are living in a time of absolute acceptance, the moment you begin to overanalyze you’re missing the point. Music is only a small part of his experience, The Base God is a mask that is never removed, he’s dedicated to the character, and delivering the gospel to his cult of followers. He isn’t like Weird Al Yankovic, who openly presents himself as a parody. Lil B isn’t an imitated exaggeration but the best at being the worst. He wouldn’t succeed if there was an inkling of doubt he was making an honest attempt at making songs like "T-Shirts & Buddens" and "F*ck KD." Lil B has songs that are good, the 9th Wonder produced,"Based In Your Face" with Phonte and Jean Grae instantly comes to mind, but it's a matter of digging through the endless amount of music to discover diamonds in the troll.
Without a doubt, Lil B is the blueprint for modern Troll-Hop, but as I thought about the genres origins, R. Kelly is the forefather who incorporated eccentrics in his music. R. Kelly is talent, from his singing abilities to self-production, he’s introduced ears to timeless music since the beginning of his career. His talent and traditional R&B methods have become overshadowed some of the madness (purely musically speaking) because as he became comfortable, he began to push his luck. “Feeling On Your Booty” is a great example, a classic slow-jam, but pay attention to the ending. The way he sings, “booty,” obviously clowning, and even breaking out in a laugh. He has a way of removing seriousness from the perspective, take “A Woman’s Threat” for example, a song that represents a warning from a woman who proposes that men are replaceable. He spends the song labeling, seriously reflecting on what can be lost, but before the song ends, he breaks out into an anecdote about the three little bears. Then you have songs like “Same Girl,” his well-received duet with Usher that’s technically a melodic phone call. Two of our most renowned vocalists get together and there’s minimum singing.
Don’t get me started on "Trapped In The Closet," his self-proclaimed “hip-hopera.” It was genius storytelling with the simplest execution. It’s captivating and silly, who else could’ve sold us this outlandish tale for 33 chapters?
A serious critic wouldn’t give Trapped In The Closet a second listen, no way this is the same man that made TP2 and Chocolate Factory, but it was devoured like a VH1 reality show. Absolute acceptance, R. Kelly can fearlessly toy with the standards and be loved for every careless risk. The same man that made "Superman High" created "When a Woman Loves," he gave us "I Believe I Can Fly" and "Ignition (Remix)." R. Kelly has perfected this Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde balance that allows him to do whatever he pleases without question. The genius and the troll.
Can you imagine if Riff Raff or Makonnen had R. Kelly’s prowess for making music? Nope, they wouldn’t be the artist we know and love/loath. Kelly is proof that in the past, talent was needed to be extraordinarily peculiar. Today, you just need a SoundCloud and an audience that loves your aesthetic. Riff Raff can live off his YouTube views, Makonnen can sing like Cartman from Southpark, and both are able to create careers through rap music. I’ll admit, Riff Raff has days where he raps well, and Makonnen music can be painfully catchy, but both have created an aesthetic that is far larger than merely the music they release. Hating them for their technical flaws will soon be an absurd excuse. More artists fitting the Troll-Hop label are being born everyday: Yung Lean, Slug Christ, the list continues to grow longer, the followers continue to rise, and it’s becoming harder to distinguish the bad from the “bad.”
Listeners are finding enjoyment in what isn’t logical. Troll-Hop, a sub-genre that makes you question what’s right and what’s wrong. It's all very #Based.
[By Yoh, aka The Pied Piper Of Internet Writing, aka @Yoh31.]