post by John Hoff
I Miss Him So Much I'm Going Mental
Once upon a time, I had the white hot Mental Mid music story all to myself, the story of how "Mid's" songs (SOME of his songs) appear to reference the murder of gang leader Tyrone "Ty Crack" Washington in a downtown Minneapolis nightclub.
Every previous blog readership record was smashed by that one blog post about Mental Mid, click here, and then the red hot follow up stories, oh my word! Music video participant "Prince Kibbie" both shooting victim and accused shooter! People sending me stuff from social media, saying "LOOK WHAT THE (EXPLETIVE DELETED) PRINCE KIBBIE WROTE ABOUT THAT TY CRACK MEMORIAL BRACELET BEING LIKE, OMG, A 'CHAMPIONSHIP RING.'" (I am paraphrasing, of course) (Except for "like a championship ring," THAT is a direct quote)
The much-anticipated "Young Dro" concert was cancelled downtown, amid fears of violence, and what did Mental Mid do in the midst of all this, while there was (no doubt!) a rival gang "APB" posted for his murder and/or slow torturous death?
Well, cool as a brand new bullet Mental Mid released a song called "Back Flip," which according to my analysis after listening two dozen times, and consulting with some random urban dude in a coffee shop, is both about...
...breaking down the "back door" of your enemies and killing them, as well as proclaiming a kind of skillful virtuosity in the art of, well, let's call it "Greek love."
And leave it at that.
Well, OK, we can't leave it at THAT. The song "Back Flip" also appears to depict Mental Mid hiding out from his enemies. But not really HIDING as he's depicted swigging from a big bottle of, what? Champagne? Near a pay phone in the middle of the night or early morning?
Where does somebody even FIND a pay phone anymore? If I found a pay phone, I'd probably want to celebrate that rare moment with champagne, too.
Just Call Me Johnny "Stepping Stone To Stardom" Northside
Mea culpa. I got busy for almost a month and didn't keep checking to see if Mental Mid had posted anything new. Today, with North Minneapolis murder hanging in the air as thick as the Agatha Christie section at Half Price Books, I found myself wondering if Mental Mid had released any new songs about, well, MURDER seems to be a recurring theme in his music.
Off to YouTube.
The latest Mental Mid music video ("Neva Bluff") reminds me of the Greek legend Narcissus, who stared into a pool at his own reflection until he starved to death. In like manner, Mental Mid gazes upon mainstream media coverage of his "murder rap" music controversy, (JOHNNY NORTHSIDE WAS THERE FIRST!!! MY TEETH MARKS WERE ALL OVER THAT STORY!!!) and he invites the viewer of "Neva Bluff" to gaze upon the media coverage as well.
I'm sure he won't starve though. Well, he does seem to have lost some weight, however.
What does it all mean? It means "I am significant. I am in the news. My music is important." Right beneath the nose of our civilization, built on law and order and NOT MURDERING PEOPLE OVER "DISSES" OR DRUG TERRITORY, a genre of rap music appears to be developing which I would call "True Murder" or "Murder Rap." The rules of the genre are simple: You have to rap about actual crimes, the more serious the better, so nothing beats murder.
You lace your music with tantalizing clues, with "disses" of the other side, perhaps you even daringly invade the turf of a rival gang to film a music video sequence. You smash the line between art and evidence. The more interested the police are in your lyrics, the better, especially if the media starts commenting on the police interest. The more upset your rivals are, the more they want to kill you, the better.
If they ACTUALLY try to kill you (Prince Kibbie) you try to kill them back (Prince Kibbie).
Thus your gritty urban music is "authentic." It's "real." It's not only what people in the streets want to hear, ultimately it's what the rich suburbanites want to hear. A blogger notices it first (oh, yes!) but it isn't long before mainstream media notices, before the police are having a press conference, before the cancellation of a concert downtown SORT OF makes you as important and famous as the well-known rapper "Young Dro."
But are you too red hot to touch? Too real for a record deal? Music executives don't want people being shot at concerts, after all. Bad for sales. Bad for venue bookings. And what about the MUSIC? This blogger thought "Backflip" showed some originality, but "Neva Bluff" seems like more of the same.
Oh, yeah, I love how the audio of the news coverage is mixed in with the intro of the song and the song's ending, but besides those textually interesting points it's Mental Mid (and ONLY Mental Mid!) mouthing the same threats to enemies, the same assertions of toughness and superiority and "can't trust anybody but myself" super-solo independence.
Who is standing with him? (OK, yeah, I see two guys in the background at a few points in Neva Bluff, standing in front of what appear to be gas or electrical meters from an apartment complex. I guess those guys can't sing?)
Mental Mid is featured singing in a little kitchen. In a messy bedroom full of scattered clothes. The "Neva Bluff" video fades in images of OTHER music videos, where lots of homies (am I using that word right?) were standing with Mental Mid. These homies have now been transformed into "video production values" rather than actual human beings hanging out with Mental Mid and sharing his fate, his risks and (if musical fame ever lands like miraculous chopper evac) his success.
Was It Worth It?
The gamble--Mental Mid and Associates carefully calculated gamble--appeared to be that songs full of "disses" to dangerous and violent enemies, songs with clues about murder (possibly, allegedly, maybe, reportedly, insert your own favorite disclaimer or caveat) would be rocket fuel on a self-constructed vehicle of "street cred" rap authenticity to musical success. Record deals, limos, fame and a parade of high-quality women and cannabis couldn't be far behind.
Or could they?
The "Neva Bluff" video stakes a claim to (local) fame and significance through sampled clips of media coverage about the Mental Mid musical murder controversy. Talking head news anchors comment. The new chief of police comments. The video fades out with (OMG!) discussion about the shooting of a pregnant woman.
But what about the music? What I hear--placed between interesting audio snippets of news coverage--is Mental Mid hitting the same tired, utterly self-involved themes. In fact, the whole song is TOO SLOW. The video itself verges on DEPRESSING.
Singing in front of ELECTRICAL METERS? (OK, they might be gas meters) ARE YOU SERIOUS? You can't even get out of the house to the rare and wonderful pay phone? You can't get anybody else to sing the song with you and add some variety? This is what happens when you don't dare leave the house. How will you get feedback from an audience?
Now I offer a counter argument to my own points. I could be wrong. The Neva Bluff video might resonate with its audience as a defiant cry of alienated urban individualism, a complex personality hounded by the media monster he himself has deliberately created, but not sorry about it, in fact daring his enemies to seek clues in electrical meters (they might be gas meters) about his location and hunt him down, IF THEY DARE.
The answer to "Was It Worth It" lies in three words:
Big record deal.
And Mental Mid isn't there yet. The crowd of comrades who once stood with him...their ranks have been thinned. The faded in images of his comrades in "Neva Bluff" almost seem like dream sequences, like happy memories of a past that is gone.
It's an open question whether Mental Mid's wanted for questioning about the murder of Tyrone "Ty Crack" Washington, but the very videos he samples in Neva Bluff point to "probably." (Such an epic session of police questioning would, of course, be the one time Mental Mid would NOT open his mouth and sing) And if he stays "In Tha Bassmint" trying to make music, sooner or later he'll be making songs defying the coin-operated laundry machines at Mysterious Apartment Building X to impinge upon his urban individuality.
And yet I believe in Mental Mid. There was a brilliance to "Back Flip," a cleverness at multiple levels. Neva Bluff was, perhaps, a necessary reference to self-significance via media recognition, a message to himself as much as his audience. But to take his music to the next level, Mental Mid must break free of the protective shell of isolation he has created...
He can't keep singing "in tha bassmint" about the streets. And nobody in the streets wants him singing about the "bassmint." If he's going to be a major musical force, sooner or later Mental Mid must face every fear (even the realistic fear of his own murder) so he can face an actual audience. He needs to sing IN THE STREETS about THE STREETS.
This requires one simple thing...
Somehow making peace with enemies who currently want nothing more than to MURDER him.
Truth And North Minneapolis Reconciliation Committee?
This week our police chief called upon citizens to lay down their weapons and settle their differences in other ways. I assume this was merely a throwaway line by the chief in the course of a longer statement but the media made this empty platitude sound like something the chief was really attempting to SAY, like this was actually a MEANINGFUL SOLUTION to the violence in our streets. The Chief doesn't want to HEAR what people think of that on the North Minneapolis community Facebook forums.
But let's assume the chief was somehow SERIOUS.
Well, I say, let's make it happen. What if we can get these violent (but quite musically talented!) gangs talking with the help of political and religious leaders? By which I mean the real leaders, not the fakers with military boonie hats purchased at yard sales, knocking on doors with big metal popcorn cans, begging for money.
I digress. What if we can have Minneapolis gangs formally agree to BURY THE HATCHET? To call the beefs EVEN? To agree the past "disses" in music videos will be regarded as free speech, offensive but not requiring a violent response? Would it even be possible for A MASS OF PLEA BARGAINS to be procured, and old murders solved so old beefs could be forgiven?
So OK, chief of police with new approaches and new ideas...
Where better to start than right here? Mental Mid isn't going to stop singing, obviously, and the bullets aren't going to stop flying.
So why not start the peace process with the high profile Mental Mid "murder music" controversy? Ask this guy to sit down, not as a suspect but as a musical artist who could turn his talents toward a more mature call for peace, reconciliation, and legalization? (You know THAT will come up at some point) You, Ms. Police Chief, commented on HIM at that press conference, right?
I say give the man an opportunity to respond in a public way.