Friday, April 06, 2007

The reactionary conception of hotness embodied in traditional bourgeois culture.

Watch this, then read the below.

An Astute Analysis, Previously Published in the Washington University Political Review, By James Duesterberg Follows

Is “This is Why I’m Hot” hot? A Marxist Analysis of MIMS’ Seminal Hip-hop Opus.

“The spectacle’s function in society is the concrete manufacture of alienation.” –Guy Debord, La Société du Spectacle, 1967

“If the simulacrum is so well designed that it becomes an effective organizer of reality, then surely it is man, not the simulacrum, who is turned into an abstraction.” – Jean Baudrillard, La Systeme des Objets, 1968

“It is only when the multiple is effectively treated as a substantive, ‘multiplicity,’ that it ceases to have any relation to the One as subject or object natural or spiritual reality, image and world. Multiplicities are rhizomatic, and expose arborescent pseudomultiplicities for what they are…The point is that a rhizome or multiplicity never allows itself to be overcoded.” Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, Mille Plateaux : Capitalisme et Schizophrénie (emphasis added) 1980


“This is why I’m hot.” – MIMS, Ca C’est Porquoi Je Suis Chaud, 2007


New York-based conceptual artist MIMS’ recent work This is Why I’m Hot is taken by many as a tautological exercise in self-glorification, a sort of post-Freudian, urban swan song to male braggadocio. On this view, “This is Why I’m Hot” is not hot; in fact, it “ain’t.” The song would thus represent a simple ideological reaffirmation of the dominant class paradigm; in its glorification of “driving cars,” “big spinners,” “different women that you niggaz never had,” “shutting down stores just so I can shop,” etc, Hot is just another cultural artifact glorifying materialism and the hence the current mode of production in late capitalism (as defined by Jameson in Postmodernism, or: The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism)

However, if we follow Herbert Marcuse in The Aesthetic Dimension, we can look at the song in a different, and potentially much more progressive, light. Marcuse writes that art, “by virtue of its aesthetic form…is largely autonomous vis a vis the given social relations” (Marcuse ix). If revolution must be rooted in the felt subjective needs of individuals themselves, revolutionary art must address subjects as such. The “content” of works of art – e.g., what MIMS says[1] - does not necessarily have to be revolutionary (i.e., proclaim the need for social change). Aesthetic beauty works to reveal ideology for what it is, simultaneously laying bare and clarifying the revolutionary consciousness underlying the bourgeois subject (ibid).

We are now ready to look more carefully at MIMS work. MIMS presents us with a seeming tautology, repeating “This is why I’m Hot” as a justification for the proposition “This is why I’m Hot,” or alternately stating “I’m hot cuz I’m fly.” Either way, he seems to suggest that he is hot because he is hot. The song is indeed rife with such paradoxes: When asked how he “does it” (i.e., how he maintains his hot status), he “simply repl[ies]: This is why I’m hot.”; in a recent interview, MIMS claimed, in response to a question asking why his work was popular “There’s really not too much I can say about the record. It’s just a huge record,” implying that the record is hot because it is hot.

We can take this tautology to mean, denotatively, that his hotness is essentially a simulacrum (following Baudrillard)[2]. Does this imply that MIMS is advocating a simulationist conception of hotness – essentially a culturally relativist, Rortian-pragmatist position? In fact, he is not. By revealing the essentially tautological nature of hotness in postmodern society (a critique also performed, albeit less skillfully, by Paris Hilton in her 2003 video-art piece The Simple Life), he implicitly refutes the intellectual poverty of late capitalism and the reactionary conception of hotness embodied in traditional bourgeois culture.

If we look closely at certain passages in Hot, we can see this ironic critique more clearly. In Vol. 3 of the work, MIMS relates an episode in which “shorty see the drop.” Subsequently, she “ask me what I paid,” to which MIMS responds “yeah I paid a guop.” By deliberately obfuscating the actual purchase price of his drop – which he could easily have revealed, probably with a correspondingly desirable reaction on the part of the shorty – MIMS subverts dominant consumerist ideology. In Vol. 1, MIMS relates how his hotness – again seen as a simulacrum – translates cross-culturally (e.g., in his ability to move from “the dirty dirty [South]” to the Midwest, to “[San] fr[ans]isco,” to “the Chi[cago]”). This could be considered an affirmation of the reactionary-bourgeois concept of hotness, but the fact that he is able to seamlessly move from coast-to-coast, receiving accolades for his hotness even though he “don’t gotta rap/I could sell a mil[lion dollars worth of records] sayin[g] nothin[g] on a track,” simply reveals the pervasiveness of ideology in a globalized capitalist system. That is, his (simulated) hotness does not depend on a local cultural scene for recognition, but rather the globally hegemonic ideology of capitalist exploitation.

MIMS, then, serves as a paradigmatic example of the ability for seemingly reactionary or apolitical high art to embody the liberatory politics of social transformation through a critique embodied in the form itself. We might, then, be in a position to revise Marcuse’s dictum that “there may be more subversive potential in the poetry of Baudelaire and Rimbaud than in the didactic plays of Brecht” (Marcuse xiii), substituting the work of contemporary artists such as MIMS for the older poets, whose work seems less relevant in an age of late-capitalist consumerism.



[1] MIMS claims that “could sell a mil’ sayin’ nothin’ on a track”; thus, MIMS anticipates, and explicitly refutes, the orthodox Marxist reading of his work.

[2] “Simulation…is the generation by models of a real without origin or reality: a hyper-real…simulation threatens the difference between the ‘true’ and the ‘false,’ the ‘real’ and the ‘imaginary.’” (Baudrillard, Simulacres et Simulation, 1-3)

5 Comments:

Blogger Josh said...

That song is pretty good. I just can't quite put my finger on why it's so good. It's just good becuase it's good.

-Hippie Killer

9:21 AM  
Blogger The Sheriff said...

Yea, people just enjoy the song I don't see why you have to criticize it

4:13 AM  
Blogger tradebeasters said...

i really hope you are kidding with the capitalist lens on the song and lyrics. you totally missed the boat on this one. "this is why im hot" makes numerous refernces to wholesale cocaine distribution you just dont know the code. mims follows the same cookie cutter im a hustler lyrics of any hip-hop song that has been popular in the last few years. talking about hustling here, drug dealing selling large anounts of cociane.
for instance, when mims states he can "sell a mill" with out saying anyhting on the track he is referring to how much he made or can still make without rapping by hustling, and not small time stuff but by selling kilos. which brings me to anohter point in the song. at one point mims says hes got 16 bars , those are kilos, i he says he can get one chopped, as in his buddy can chop a kilo off a bigger block of coke for him. he usees that common code word for a kilo " bird" then goes on to say he has a "flock" = lots of kilos. get it. mims even goes into specifics by saying they go for 24 the "bird" or kilo $24,000 get it? and when he says he paid a "guop" for the car mims is specifying exactly how much he paid for the car, he uses code for a specific amount of coke a "guop" so hes letting people who Know ...know get it. so now in the proper context "this is why im hot" takes on a double meaning or allegory for the non-phillistines listening to hip-hop these days. mims is HOT because he could go to jail hot , but at the same time has money, cars is fly and known or HOT because he gets HOT. to be a known hustler is considered hot or risky dangerous. mims is displaying street cred, it used to be how tough or rough you were, but for a while now its been about did u really hustle or not? and the more accurately or authentically one raps about his hustling escapades or how much $ they made . the more popular tehy seem to be if they can do it with any skill or finesse. as i said before most popular hip-hop songs follow this format, rap about hustling yayo and all the money you have before and after you become a rapper. 50 cent , jay-z lil wayne, T.I.. everybody. so if you wanna talk about economic theory i guess we could talk about the "economic strain" to make loot and the decisions to make illicit money. ??

10:42 AM  
Blogger dchan said...

im sorry. was 'the simple life' just referred to as a 'video art piece?' did i miss something?

6:03 PM  
Blogger jimbobuddy said...

Austin, dont you have some lawbooks to go buy, or something?..you know something that ACTUALLY justifies your existence, here?

8:19 PM  

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