Harley Geffner is looking forward to flying out to Portland for the playoffs.
YNW Melly – “Suicidal [Visualizer]”
03 Greedo – “Disco Shit (ft. Freddie Gibbs)”
Our hold on reality is becoming more and more tenuous with each new VR tour, face scan, or GOP member denying something they said 30 seconds ago. It sucks that the dystopian state is already upon us and that simulation theory is so commonplace. It’s a Twitter joke, but this blurring of the lines is great for fans of artists who may no longer be in the picture for whatever reason.
When I was recently in Korea, I was amazed at the level of fandom and fan culture that surrounds digital avatars. Kakao, a large conglomerate that controls markets in messaging and transportation apps, has cute emoticons that people become real life fans of and buy merch from the subsidiary Kakao Friends stores. Stores are abundant, with lots of spots to take pictures (of course I obliged), and it felt like everybody had a phone case or headband or socks with one of the characters, all of whom were named. There’s a Japanese company that operates similarly, called Line.
So it’s no coincidence that when I worked at Viacom one summer in college, almost everything was framed from the perspective of fandom and trying to keep people attached to and invested in their favorite characters. It doesn’t always have to be so nefarious though, with corporations trying to control markets and win shares of your heart.
While YNW Melly awaits trial on double murder charges and 03 Greedo sits in the Fort Stockton Correctional Facility serving a 20-year sentence, their teams released two late contenders for albums of the year. Both Melly and Greedo’s teams use digital avatars as stand-in representations of their physical selves. Melly was first represented by a puppet in a few videos in the lead up to the release of his new album, Melly vs. Melvin, but the animated version of Melly used in the visualizer for the second track, “Suicidal,” gives him new life, with not-so-subtle nods to his father Young Thug and his Naruto-fan listenership.
The animation is almost as engaging as the silky melodic meandering and sing-along heartbreak lyrics. And if you check out Melly’s website, they’re selling merch using this new character. Greedo’s avatar, on the other hand, gets the Wallace and Gromit Claymation treatment on the lead video for his Kenny Beats-produced Netflix & Deal album.
Melly, specifically, had already participated in his own melting of reality with interviews about his split personalities, Melly and Melvin. And this is pure speculation, but I wouldn’t be surprised if his legal team has him plead insanity by way of split personality. While his album doesn’t touch all that much on his different personas as a running theme, presumably because most of the music is from the vault and was not meant to be in a full-length conceptual album format, it’ll be interesting to see if his team uses the Melly vs. Melvin themes to create even more fan intrigue, with more short digital storytelling and merch.
In the past when artists have been away for long periods of time, it’d been difficult to construct narratives around them to keep people interested for the duration, but with the digital storytelling aspect, I wonder if Melly would be able to even gain more fans while away. Can they make a TV show out of the characters? What if he has to serve a lifetime sentence? Can his team still have a star in their digital Melly?
Lil Peep – “Princess”
Last week, Lil Peep’s team dropped his second full-length posthumous album, Everybody’s Everything, in conjunction with a documentary on the young star’s life. Every one of Peep’s posthumous drops have been surrounded with questions about what Peep would have wanted, and POW contributor Andrew Matson recently spoke with Peep’s friend and producer Fish Narc about these very topics, in a piece that is well-worth the read.
But as the two-year anniversary of Peep’s death passes, it seems that Everybody’s Everything is as close to a true representation of what music Peep intended to make as is possible. Alex Tumay, who mixed much of the album, tweeted about maintaining the integrity of the original recordings, the three songs off the previously released (and true to Peep’s wishes per Fish Narc and Peep’s mom) EP, Goth Angel Sinner, made it on to the album, and the final four tracks are official releases of his earlier breakout hits “White Tee,” “Cobain,” “witchblades,” and “Walk away as the door slams.’
Most songs had at least snippets or non-CDQ versions out, so my favorite truly new song off the album is “Princess.” The synths sound so full, it’s almost as though Peep has to wade through them to muster the power to ask his girl for one more text. The song and album are refreshing to hear, given that the first posthumous album felt like label tentacles were everywhere. Peep’s mother participating in the process this time certainly seems to have helped.
While Greedo’s vault is probably pretty close to bottomless with pre-recorded music, as he claimed to have recorded 800 songs before turning himself in, who knows how much is left in Melly or Peep’s vaults. Back to artists’ virtual existences, it’s only a matter of time before labels start using machine learning algorithms to write new songs from an artist’s old catalogue. I give it 5 years before Peep’s team drops an album full of ghostwritten songs, spat out by a computer, that sounds exactly like a Peep recording. Will original fans still be fans of that Peep or that Melly? Will that even matter if they can create new fans of the digitized versions?
La Goony Chonga – “Dimen5ion”
From the drug-fueled world of the Miami strip club scene emerges La Goony Chonga, a Cuban-American former stripper who bridges the sexy energy of the chonga culture with the fearless experimentalism of her peers in the SoundCloud hall of fame. She describes the chonga culture as “a subculture in Miami of Latin girls. It’s a certain swag. You know how the West Coast has cholas? It’s an aesthetic, being a chonga: Hoop earrings, nameplate, lip liner. In middle school, everyone was a chonga.”
Though she no longer dances, you can feel the booty-popping trap-reggaeton influences in her music with the rhythmic claps and bombastic horns holding down the weighty 808s. Coming up, she rapped in English under the name Twiggy Rasta Masta, releasing two tapes with Miami rapper Boootychaaain, who is half of Soundcloud’s most revered couple with Black Kray. La Goony Chonga has this simultaneously threatening and nonchalant deadpan, which is owed to her connection with these two. It gives her music that little extra bite.
It’s Pitbull or Daddy Yankee’s high energy Carribean crossover pop sent through an aquamarine portal in to the world of lean-sipping, entrancing basslines, and cyber-universes created in snowed-in basements. It’s Miami sun with Chicago shivers. The standout and title song, Dimension, is a particularly hypnotizing and narcotized step in to her universe.
Duwap Kaine – “Nobody”
Duwap Kaine slithers his way out of a muddied swamp of synths pads, where his delivery was forged by millenia of autotune mutants on the bottom, slowly evolving to most efficient form. The 17-year-old from Savannah, GA leaves echoes in the wake of his slick bars that are said so in-tune with his Andromeda-level beats, it takes listens to even register that he’s really speaking and not just intoning. The control over his voice, to know where and how to echo or layer, is elite, and not just for his age. On “Nobody,” which comes off his new Mr. 4 EP, a bar like “High as hell, feel like a mountain lion, chain cold as hell, I could change the climate,” didn’t register with me until about the tenth listen. This is one of the coldest tapes of the year. What a treat these last two weeks of drops have been.