It’s almost impossible to be thoroughly stoked on a music festival’s Sunday night. Twilight is encroaching, anxious thoughts of all the neglected weekend tasks are creeping in, and your pants don’t feel as good as they did 48 hours ago. It is scientifically proven that you are more likely to eat wings at a Hooter’s than watch a meaningless set from a touring band, if you’ve already spent the last two days watching other meaningless sets from other touring bands. I was considering cutting out of Austin’s Fun Fun Fun Fest early, but AraabMusik was one of the things I had circled from the start. Say what you will about modern music festivals, but they know how to hit their markets, and even if I was dropping Lincolns on sugar-free Red Bulls, Araab seemed like he’d give me a return on my investment.
I like AraabMusik because he is weird. Fusing together puerile hip-hop vibes and fluttery rave hooks is kind of like the Chicken & Waffles of pop music. It is powerful, charming, addicting, and vaguely disturbing. Electronic Dream is an album for silly maximalists with no sense of taste or discourse. I like feeling large, dumb and wordless, and so does AraabMusik. We got each other, so we rocked together.
But AraabMusik is not into the things that I am into anymore.
There is no reason absolutely no reason to be befuddled that AraabMusik took the stage to play a concentrated hour-long mix of pure, Skrillex-birthed dubstep without the slightest hint of Electronic Dream. Sure, I was disappointed, but I shouldn’t have been. Let’s review the facts: Dipset-affiliated producer falls in love with dirty trap and diva-house--two of the most hedonistic and critically ignored scenes in the entire lexicon of music. Dipset-affiliated producer moves from his MPC-rave experiments into loud, teeth-shattering dubstep. I don’t think you can find a more logical evolution. I’m not on some bullshit aesthetically-driven high-horse and I don’t think loud obnoxious dubstep is an evil thing, but I couldn’t help but think Araab’s former craft had a little more luster, and a lot more singularity. His newfound fixation of bass had scrubbed away the things I found most interesting.
I wasn’t being paid to write about AraabMusik’s set, but if I was, I wouldn’t know what to say. There is nothing at all wrong with his music--hell, it probably works a lot better to blast a live audience with a wall of sound rather than ask them to sit there and find the nuance in your set. And criticizing someone for following their muse the wrong direction seems like a severely fucked-up thing to do. But sometimes bad taste happens to good people. It’s unavoidable, it’s chronic, and we never know what to do.
People who make music are constantly in a state of flux, because when you’re trying to promote and profit off of fragment of your soul encoded in pop songs, existential crisis comes quick. This leads to a lot of questionable ideas. I guarantee nobody told Common it was a good idea to put out a sweaty electro-hop album, but when you’ve been rapping about keeping it real for more than two decades, weird shit tends to happen because people can’t tell you you can’t do stuff. Same with Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, who, after deciding they were tired of being an indie-rock band, released a hilarious industrial-noise fumble in The Effects of 333, which is completely bewildering to this day. These people, in a constant quest to make great art, sometimes make baffling decisions. It has nothing to do with their talent; just what they think is compelling.
Is it ethical to shit on an artist just because they’re into something new and uncool? I’m pretty sure Universal Mind Control is still a bad album, even if it’s basically a Neptunes album with Common rapping over it. But the crazy thing about watching AraabMusik crank through his dubstep was how totally artistic he was. The dude rips on the MPC. Sweat, heart, blood and soul were all going into these jams, and even if I wasn’t feeling it, it was hard to call him out. I felt the same way about “How To Love,” the deathly serious R&B tune Lil Wayne put out a couple years ago. It probably scared a bunch of people away from Tha Carter IV, but that was much more for its earnestness, not its technical shortcomings. Talking very specifically about why a girl made you sad is ripe for crucifixion if you’re Lil Wayne, but I’d still rather listen to “How to Love” than, like, “Blunt Blowin’.”
I think I’d love to give musicians the benefit of the doubt. Because in a lot of ways, taste isn’t my business, it’s something that’s impossible to curate. But then I remember that Q-Tip made a song with Korn. That is not okay. Q-Tip should not be rapping on a Korn song. I could email Assistant Editor Drew Millard right now, and ask him if I could write 50 reasons Q-Tip should not be rapping on a Korn song, and he’d ask me to make it 100 (Ed: Actually, I listened to this after Luke claimed I would hate it and I kinda love it. This is because I have terrible taste in everything.). I think I am allowed to be disappointed in Q-Tip for rapping a Korn song, maybe that’s a bias, but there has to be a limit right?
I’m glad that AraabMusik is enjoying what he is doing, and I’m glad that a ton of kids are coming to his shows. I’m glad that he’ll be inevitably co-headlining EDC in 2014, and I have no doubt in my mind that dubstep is paying better than Killa Cam might. But there is a remote and completely selfish urge inside of me to want AraabMusik to like the same things that I like. I know that is an impossible and completely preposterous desire, but that’s just the way it is. If everybody liked the same things you liked, all music would be awesome. For me, it would mean that Jay-Z would’ve never done that Linkin Park thing, but I know for another kid, it would mean that all music would sound like remixes to “Numb.” That’s just the way it is, but I refuse to give up the right to say that Q-Tip shouldn’t have rapped on a Korn song.
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