Remarks on Losers and Criminals

by

Remarks on Losers and Criminals

Buy cialis online
     I rarely get to discuss this sort of thing, and when I do, it excites me so much that the other person ends up resolving to put a shock collar on me if they ever entreat on a conversation of a similar nature, so here it is, for us all: my favorite Pimp C line of all time, but more importantly, favorite rap line of all time, is bolded below.

Buy cialis online
I'm trill working the wheel, a pimp not a simp/ Keep the dope fiends higher than the Goodyear Blimp/We eat so many shrimp, I got iodine poisoning/Fuck, n*****s make me sick with all that pinchin' and bargaining

Photo courtesy of holdmycoat.com

     Pimp C, the producer and other rapping half of UGK (Underground Kingz), along with Bun B, possessed an odd wisdom: his tales of having sex with any female he could, drinking cough syrup mixed with sprite, smoking weed, driving around in candy-painted cars, selling cocaine to everyone he has sex with and some he didn’t, and generally not giving a damn what anyone thinks grew into a Falstaffian elegance. He tempered his verses with humor and sadness, over-the top boasts like the above example, and sometimes, confessionals. On his greatest album, Ridin’ Dirty, in the space of two tracks, he goes from questioning God for burning down his friend’s house and killing his son (“One Day”) to bragging about the usual (“Murder”), often in ways more subtle than usually understood.

Kamagra viagra kamagra cialis
     Consider above the line I pointed out as my all time favorite: “We eat so many shrimp, I got iodine poisoning.” The set-up is a boast; first we have a symbol of success, then the effects of this success. Many rappers speak of people who hate them now because they’re successful. It is one of the genre’s familiar tropes, like bluesmen who get their heart broken, but one of the most tiresome. Here, Pimp C isn’t talking about haters; he’s talking about his own body being against him. His immune system is the hater, tied to a body not built for this unexpected opulence. But he has the money to do so, and he prevails.

     It is tempting to sell Pimp C as someone with a lack of depth due to the lack of obvious social commentary or Huey Newton shout outs. This misunderstands Pimp C. I used to have a bootleg of one of Ryan Adams’s earlier groups, a lo-fidelity rock group, where he asked, “Can you understand what I’m singing?” When the bassist replied, “No,” Adams said, “As long as I sound like I mean it.” The emotion meant more than the words.

     Pimp C’s greatest weapon is his voice. It is more helpful to see Pimp C less in the lineage of rappers like Nas or Jay-Z, where the language is the source of ingenuity, but rather as a blues or soul musician. Blues music has a group of set concerns, a more limited use of language than a singer songwriter, but what the artist brings behind it is the most important thing. Howlin’ Wolf and John Lee Hooker both sing about hardship, but Howlin’ Wolf’s hellfire and pain is a contrast with John Lee Hooker’s vibe of horniness and occasional melancholy. Both may touch on that same subject, but that’s because they are three-dimensional. Braggadocio, like pain in blues, does reveal pounds about personality, how each person deals with it, when they reveal their hands. Language is a slippery quality. The best realize this, and while Pimp C isn’t throwing torrents of language at you, how his voice hits a line tells the story. When Pimp C raps, “I'm up early cause ain't enough light in the daytime/ Smoke two sweets and get in these streets out the pop up line,” again we see the complex mix of bragging and world weariness he presented, entirely through his inflections. He sounds tired. He’s excited to do this as you are to go to work and drink bad coffee in the breakroom. This isn’t the travails of fame we’ve grown to believe are the greatest woes; this is the grind, but ask the narrator himself, and you’d likely get a sly admission that he’s proud to be this bored of it. This is the person we were sold.

     That personality seems to be the element missing from many rock bands today. Let’s be clear: personality in either genre will not make up for the songs sucking. I am not proposing that great rock bands no longer exist. What I am is that the ones sold as great rarely do little for me, with exceptions.

     The fantastic trick of character that Mike Cooley of the Drive-By Truckers has accomplished is, as the Truckers are want to do, still keeping the humanity of Mike Cooley behind even the least Mike Cooley characters. We see through each song, whether Mike Cooley is a former Dixie Mafia captain teaching Sunday school (“Cottonseed”), the son of a bootlegger (“Where the Devil Don’t Stay”), a rock musician recovering from alcoholism (“Women without Whiskey”), or a stripper (“Birthday Boy”), we understand something, that wisdom often appears in the mouths of people we would never expect, that the least read still talk pretty when they can, that closing yourself off to people who are a bit sketchy limits your understanding of people. All of his characters are worn out losers, but through Mike Cooley’s gift, they are sympathetic and wryly humorous, belting out one-liners like a redneck Keith Richards, quipping with the ferocity of Winston Churchill on his greatest days, and, like Chad Butler, delivering zen wisdom from someone who can’t get their own life straight, whether it be a drunk or a man trying to a wrangle a threesome with the eponymous character (Lisa’s Birthday).

     What they are is alive. In “Cottonseed”, a six minute, dark, acoustic ballad off of The Dirty South, the mobster sings during the chorus, which isn’t arena quality, “I drove a big old Cadillac, bought a new one anytime I pleased, and I put more lawmen in the ground than Alabama put cottonseed.” Later in the song, he sings, all gravelly:

"I ain't here to save no souls and even if I could/ I could never save enough to put back half the ones I took/ So if they rest in torment you can't say it's cause of me/ They'd long been bought and paid for like that fool's in Tennessee."

     There is little question that this is a character. Cooley is definitely not a Dixie Mafia boss who has done time, but here’s where the question arises in a Judeo-Christian environment: if all sins are forgivable, then aren’t all sins in some way the same? Couldn’t Cooley imbue tales of murdering cops with regret he had felt, even for the smallest of transgressions? Does he have to kill somebody to understand heavy regret?

     So humanity is what it all comes down to. What the best art does is give us something of humanity. Where we lose the forest for the trees is thinking that trees don’t make a forest. To paraphrase another important Southern musician in my life, just because you have dreads doesn’t make you smart, and just because you have gold on your teeth doesn’t make you ignorant. So don’t get caught up in appearances.

     That was my great failing for many years, because I thought the spleen that Pimp C represents and the cracked knuckles and calluses of Mike Cooley had nothing for me, because I viewed myself entirely as a conscience ruled by my intellect, my intelligence being my one defining feature, which doesn’t say much for my thoughts about other people. Looking at the one thing on display for other people, be it intelligence or ignorance, is a disservice. The greatest service is the moment when an idiot comes through with shining wisdom and when kings show themselves to be susceptible to aging. This is the true importance of Mike Cooley and Pimp C, out of the mouths of those we may assume to mentally be babes.

     Why paint with one color? Why the Drive-By Truckers too redneck for you, or, even worse, think that Drake’s tales of heartbreak are automatically deeper than Pimp C because Drake gets heartbroken and Pimp C sells cocaine? To banish Mike Cooley and Chad Butler is to banish what makes us all worth saving.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

s2Member®