Regardless of how many of our storied institutions have broken beyond repair, I can’t imagine a timeline in which The Onion is irrelevant. “Chance The Rapper Clarifies He From Chicago” is one of its latest headlines, an obscure, esoteric joke. It is unshareable. It is unviral. I love it.
I finished my master’s creative writing program last week, and I walked across the stage while a professor read a line from my thesis. “My favorite yoga pose is corpse pose because it will be my final pose.” He read it in a deliberate, rhythmic way that I can never replicate, and in doing so he drew an auditorium to laughter.
I traffic almost entirely in the obscure, esoteric joke—so much so that I’m deep into a manuscript of dumb cracks about colonial New England townships. Will this be a book you’d purchase? I’m not sure I care. As a project, it keeps me occupied, keeps me from whatever deep darkness waits in the wings.
Chance provides a balm. He is from Chicago and he doesn’t much care that you know its grids and buildings, its vocab or shiny gaudy sculptures. Once I ate a vegan hotdog in Wrigleyville. Once I made a table of enemies in Logan Square when I started a Scrabble game with a bingo. “KERATIN,” I wrote on my first turn. My opponents couldn’t catch up, and at the end of the night when I slept on the couch of an old college friend’s, this friend said to me before turning out the lights, “You shouldn’t have played that in your first turn. Now everyone thinks I was a nerd in college.” Sorry, Matthew.
Perhaps this is summer’s song: one of the four songs Chance released this week.
“65 & Ingleside” by Chance The Rapper is another result in my search for summer’s song. The last one was “Fast Slow Disco” by St. Vincent.
What song will capture my summer? I am searching for it. Discussed: “I’m The One” by DJ Khaled, feat. Justin Bieber, Quavo, Chance the Rapper, and Lil Wayne
Perhaps this is summer’s song: a collaboration of braggadocio, a group effort at making promises not a single one of these dudes with feature verses on this track can keep.
Khaled—who tries and succeeds at redefining the DJ’s role as one of facile mediation and posse orchestration—brings together Lil Wayne, Justin Bieber, Quavo, and Chance the Rapper to feature, though I can also imagine him hosting these artists to see if they would be his starting five for an upcoming celebrity basketball tournament. (I can see them beating Arcade Fire.)
Some people have strong, half-formed opinions when I ask them about DJ Khaled. They love him; he has become a comfortable waypoint on the pop landscape since 2010’s “All I Do Is Win.” Others, still, hate him as a low-rent jester who screams, “Another one!” at the top of every song, as if it’s a promise that music will continue unabated forever.
Even those with whom he surrounds himself are in on this joke: the DJ as headlining star. Lil Wayne in his verse: “ Straight up out the Crescent / Fly your bae down for the Essence / For the record, I knew Khaled when that boy was spinnin’ records.” It’s the music industry’s open secret! A DJ who jockeys no discs! Who cares. “I’m The One” is good, treacly, and I welcome its constant rotation.
“Another one!” says DJ Khaled, reassuring us. “Another one! In case you were worried about the collapse of art and commerce, the twilighting of our civilization, brought low to its knees and returning to dust. Another one.”
Here is another one.
2016’s music has been good to me. Here’s a sampling of my favorite tracks from May. Continue reading “More Songs I’ve Heard: May”