fawny.org: Pimp me, Li’l Kim!

Pimp me, Li’l Kim!

Now with superpiquant response from Geez Louise!

I don’t get Li’l Kim, but apparently I’m supposed to. (Insert apostrophe in faux-contraction of “Little” anywhere you want. I give up.) The ballbusting hiphoppeuse/ho, who would find the back seat of a Porsche 911 spacious but the front passenger seat more practical for typical usage, either is aggressively marketing herself to urban homosexualists or is allowing herself to be.

If we are to believe the gay issue of New York, Vibe (“Vibé”) editor Emil Wilbekin, himself a known homosexualist/negroid, masterminded some kind of all-gay Li’l Kim concert, allegedly a first for our diverse hiphop, gay, lesbiana, bisexualist, transgenderist, and “questioning” communities.

Really? I seem to recall reading of a regular invert hiphop night at a New York hotspot graced with the cleverest name in the history of klubdom: Phab. (The soirée has changed venues regularly since 1997. This is, after all, New York.) The rent-boy connotations of the multilayered duet between the two Es have been identified, and actually, these days Eminem can boast more homosexualist apologists than Dame Elton.

I assume there are three cohorts at work:

  1. Kids today who have never bothered to be in the closet, the kind who end up with few distortions in their lives, putting a stop to their previously inevitable diversion toward musical theatre. Quite frighteningly often, these kids are interchangeable with heterosexualists. In the olden days, we’d call them homophobes: Straight guys who crave dick on the sly. Now you can’t tell them apart unless you play a game of Twenty Questions, which itself brings up a generation gap. “You’re gay? Prove it.” “I don’t have to.” “Yes, you do. You look like you’re gonna fucking beat me up any minute. Give me three songs by Madonna. Who was Oscar Wilde? Name three colours that match aubergine. What does ‘exfoliate’ mean? Complete this sentence: ‘Boogie oogie ______ oogie dancing _____ keep me dancing all night.’ ”
  2. A subset of the former: Black kids who also don’t bother to be in the closet. For Americans, this is a big deal.
  3. The sizable minority of aging kids of the ’70s, for whom, in the words of John Waters, Deborah Harry was equivalent to Elvis Presley and who cannot survive without rock & roll. Unexpectedly, in the mishmash 1980s, all musical styles coalesced: We lived the dream that there was no such thing as high music or low music, only good music and bad. To this day I can recite entire Public Enemy stanzas from memory. (And not just the singles. I thought the destructive dissonance and perverse radio-announcer samples in “She Watch Channel Zero” would kill me.)

Anyway, now the undersized bleached-out harlot is infiltrating Macintosh separatism: Yes, that’s Li’l jeezly Kim in the current (inaccessible, high-contrast) Apple television advert. Is the cute, inoffensive caucasoid college student up to Li’l Kim? Then, in another mix, is he up to Barry White? (“For, you know, the ladies”? How conventional. Distastefully so.)

“You sure you ready for that?” I would just like to see Li’l Kim using a goddamn Macintosh. This I would like to see. Her PowerBook might require a splashguard.

(Apparently there is a long history of Mac use by rappeurs. Certainly black musicians have always jived on the bleeding edge of technology.)

The commercial attempts to persuade us that an ’80s-style mishmash is still viable with the kids today. I doubt this. I doubt this strongly. Or, if nothing else, I doubt the mishmash extends beyond last year. I want a superannuated medium to rise from the dead: The compilation cassette. But I want it to happen in purist High Fidelity style, culled from a 2,000-LP record collection, but maybe now assembled digitally and burned onto a disc.

I miss my old roommate with 2,000 records. Quite simply, our compilation tapes were a language unto their own. Yet now, with the bulk of commercially-recorded music available for the hoovering, it may go the way of the language of cranes and be lost for good. ICQing your gf a link to an MP3 lacks... feeling.

Geez Louise!

A kid named Geez Louise writes (posted here with permission):

I just read your article on fawny.org regarding Li’l Kim, and I found it very insightful and entertaining. I agreed with most of what you said, but I still feel some need, as a young gay white guy, to justify, or at least to explain, my brief obsession with Li’l Kim.

The generation born in the 1970s has never really had a music of our own. The New Wave sound of the ’80s reminds us of kindergarten. And the “alternative rock” of the nineties, with a few exceptions, was just a rehashing of the least interesting aspects of rock & roll. (That explains the ridiculous Mac commercial; there is no genre to associate with twentysomething white guys, so they settled for an absurd and unlikely mix. I pride myself on my ability to make mix tapes that combine disparate and eclectic artists, but I can’t imagine how the group on that stage could work.)

Hiphop is our best hope for something new. It is a unique musical form and subculture that have evolved during our lifetime. And it holds the possibility that it will someday follow jazz, blues, and rock & roll in the eyes of history from the lowest of lowbrow forms, to, in retrospect, the highest of highbrow. And history will remember us as the first white people to take it seriously.

Those of us who, unlike the scary butch guys you describe, are willing to be distinctly gay in our cultural tastes, are looking, more specifically, for a hiphop diva. We are looking for the Judy or Barbra or Diana whose story has not already been told in a hundred cable documentaries, but will unfold before us, speaking to us through much-anticipated new CDs instead of dusty LPs. We have Madonna, of course, but even she can’t stay cutting-edge forever.

Queen Latifah’s rap career ended before I got hip to hiphop. Lauryn Hill has the talent and the audacity required, but it worries me that she is taking so long to follow up her prodigious first album, and I suspect somehow that she would not really appreciate a gay white audience. It seemed for a long time that Li’l Kim was the best candidate. Not only are her rhymes tight, but she has a diva’s talent for posing for pictures. For a time it seemed like every magazine on the shelf was filled with provocative page-sized photos of her, each chock-full of over-the-top symbols of her sexual power.

Li’l Kim appeared as a solo artist at about the same time that a lot of academics and others began challenging in mainstream media the conventional feminist attitude that women degrade themselves by allowing themselves to be viewed as seuxal objects. Media began to acknowledge, with the support of some feminists, what gay men and Madonna have always believed: That a woman’s sexuality can be a legitimate and enviable source of power. And that is the essence of Li’l Kim’s rhymes: She boasts about her sexuality in the same way male rappers boast about their guns or their money. (Plus, she reminds us that she has guns and money as well.)

Kim’s offstage persona adds to her charm. In interviews, she comes across as the tiny, sweet black-girl-with-bleached-blond-hair-next-door. Yet in videos she explodes with energy. In Puff Daddy’s “All About the Benjamins” video, she appears to be a high school student at a prom until she tears off her dress to reveal a metal bra. Recently, there was rumor that associates of Li’l Kim and associates of Foxy Brown got into a gunfight outside a radio station in New York, resulting somehow from the rappers’ rivalry. Maybe this is the hiphop equivalent of rumors of bitchiness between Bette Davis and Joan Crawford, or among the Supremes.

But now that I have explained all this, I must admit that the trail of the hiphop diva turned cold when I saw Li’l Kim in concert. She performed with a posse of about five guys, who rapped as often as she did, often talking over her. Instead of performing her signature songs, most of her set consisted of oldies from her days with Junior MAFIA. She didn’t control the stage, or draw in the crowd – that is, she was decidedly undivalike. This disappointment helped me to admit what I had been denying to myself for weeks: that her latest album was not so hot, either, and could hardly live up to the hype she had received since her first.

So this candidate did not work out. But in my mind, the position of hiphop diva is still open, and the job description is clear.

Posted 2001.03.14 | Updated 2001.04.08

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