Friday, July 31, 2009

I'm...(Insert Prepositional Phrase)

I could subtitle this post "Summer Stupidity." In the last couple weeks several friends introduced to me or reminded me of a couple of the world's more ridiculous musical numbers. They're catchy. Yet, in the same breath I can't exaggerate their utter meaninglessness.

First— "I'm at the Pizza Hut; I'm at the Taco Bell; I'm at the combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell." "Das Racist," a Brooklyn based group is responsible for this doozy. What are the lyrics for a majority of the song? You guessed it! I suspect illegal drugs were partly responsible for this song. Remarkably, some people feel this one is a stroke of genius.

I'm at the Pizza Hut etc.

A friend who attends law school in San Francisco alerted me to this song. Apparently Victor Vazquez, one of two in "Das Racist," comes from the Bay area and they have made recurring appearances at a particular club in the vicinity. Wannabe hipster site has hailed this as the ultimate summer tune. I think they missed the mark. I dub it the ultimate validation of drugs-gone-wrong.

Second— "I'm on a Boat." SNL brings us this fine skit in the form of music video. A special guest appears with "The Lonely Island." This one, contrasting our former number, brims with sundry creative lyrics and a special guest who exemplifies use and abuse- here concerning Auto Tune! The song itself parodies many rap cliches and climbed to the top of You Tube in February 2009. Don't expect to find it there, however- NBC seems pretty diligent about getting its material pulled. Strangely enough, it really takes an effective jab a commercialized hip-hop's all-too-frequent absurd materialism. It sits a few notches up from the previous number on my quality ladder.

When I listen to these songs two things happen in this order:

1. I think of people who argue for "context" as the final determinant in Liturgical Music and those who draw lines quickly. I can't fathom a situation where music that sounds like this could ever be near a Church. However, there's not much to counter this if all that matters is how music "speaks to people" directly. On the other hand, I can't see where people who cast out whole genres quickly make their boundaries. Music exists on a massive continuum. If a congregation sings Tantum Ergo at benediction and Tom Booth immediately follows up with a crashing trap-set for the recessional, this seems perverse. But if the whole Mass was Tom Booth, young people who came expecting this, and most importantly, were edified by it— where's the beef? However, I think these songs show that we can imagine boundaries if not pinpoint them precisely!

2. My brain shuts down.


dominique said...

Well I guess we are all entitled to our own opinions, but I have to say, my opinion is that you have no sense of humor and it seems to be quite easy for you to jump on the "illegal drugs" band wagon. Sorry pal, Victor Vazquez has always been a person with a crazy, out-there, genius sense of humor. If only you had half of that.
Dominique Vazquez
(Victor Vazquez's Sister)

KOOL A.D. said...

hi this is victor vazquez. i think my sister was upset because people have been quick to pigeonhole our music as drug this or hipster that or novelty this etc. and i know that the song is out there now and it has taken on a life of its own and it's not even really mine anymore so i can't say much about it in a lot of ways but all i'd like you to consider is that humor and commentary about consumerism and rap music in general do not have to be precluded from a working definition of liturgical music. your inability to imagine either of these songs being played in church has less to do with these songs themselves than with your cultural conception of what a church is. not trying to offend, just really in that camp of people who always argue for context. i personally believe that ritual can and should be found in any and all human action. every single thing in the world has the potential for sacred significance, that is ideally what spirituality is about. imagining boundaries is useful up to a point in terms of sculpting an analytical model, but end of the day, you must be ready to accept that those boundaries are contextual and have the humility to accept that human knowledge is a part of the universe itself and not an objective lens looking at the universe from afar.


Wendelin said...


I had several intentions here:
1. To relay my friends' and personal initial reactions to these pieces on a "knee-jerk" level
2. To outline my thoughts on a long-time discussion I've been following (limits of Liturgy) as they intersected with this encounter. (Strangely enough, I think there is indeed humor buried within the unlikeliness of the comparison).

As for context...these songs have found a place that works for them (as I mentioned.) My application goes beyond a universalized concept of spirituality; It deals specifically with Christian and Catholic Liturgy which, itself, has boundaries. Ritual should saturate life but this is one particular Ritual with its own preexisting vocabulary of signs and symbols. New possibilities exist but must incorporate "organically". The chasm here underscores this often neglected concept.

I believe this concept comes ultimately from Divine Revelation rather than "human knowledge". That is, I make a fundamentally metaphysical claim relevant especially to invested parties. My beliefs regarding context have objective boundaries concerning Faith and Liturgy.

One outside my tradition will understandably disagree and I understand it is difficult if not impossible to offer conventionally rigorous or empirical "proofs" to the contrary.