Sonic Science Fiction

Sonic Science Fiction

"Sonic science fiction
opens up... the secret
life of forms, the
discontinuum of
AfroDiasporic Futurism”
—Kodwo Eshun, More
Brilliant Than the Sun:
Adventures in Sonic Fiction

Sonic sci-fi—as hiphop history? The archeology—of the musical future?

“Utopia has always been a political issue” as Fredric Jameson says in “Archaeologies of the Future: the Desire Called Utopia and Other Science Fictions (Verso 2005).

This may seem like an unusual destiny for a musical form like hiphop—yet it's this literary value of the music form that’s subject to permanent doubt. Sonic fiction’s political status is structurally ambiguous. The historical fluctuations of hiphop context does nothing to resolve this ambiguity—which seems to be more than just a matter of taste and individual judgment.

Take the Blue Scholars lyrics from “Morning of America” for example:

“Now, nothing beats the sound of a Posmix cassette
Bumpin' in the system of your hooptie stock deck
8-bit systems and kung-fu flicks
I rock like Herbie Hancock with prosthetic limbs”

What the above phrase does—is to describe what Kodwo Eshun is getting at in regard to sonic science fiction: “It moves through the explosive forces which technology ignites in us, the temporal architecture of inner space, audiosocial space..."

Like its Anglo-American sci-fi precursor’s “hard science fiction” early period—the Blue Scholars, leaders of a school of hiphop that emerged in 2005, seem to be describing the AfroDiasporic Futurism “hard sci-fi” early period of sonic science fiction:

“Jesus Freaks all believe to leave
On these streets, will they please just leave us be
Mix tapes of Fat Boys and Run DMC
Too Short, BDP and EPMD
Watch more Nickelodeon than MTV
Eventually every week it was Fab Five Freddy”

Hiphop lyric phrases such as these embedded in the historical/techno-cultural zeitgeist—describe in minute detail the “hard sci-fi” phase of early sonic fiction:

“Now everybody born about ‘87 up
Got a VH1 version of "The Years We Came Up"
But VH1 never played hip-hop at all
How the fuck they be the ones giving hip hop awards y'all?”

And this hiphop phrase which continues the idea of the archaeology of sonic fiction’s future:

“Everywhere somebody trying to moon walk
Rock Steady crew, jams with Steve Pool
Site beyond sight, yo, I pulled roots
Like Super Mario 2, a bowl full of Cheerios
Looking back "Just Say No" was not enough”

As well as this sonic sketch of the times back then:

“To the mobile DJs with the pompadour fades
Rockin' Debbie Deb Stevie B. all day
When I hear music, I can't wait to rock
New shoes, nothing less than some fresh hightops”

In a way I suppose this last lyrical phrase of “The Morning of America” is a sort of summary of early sonic fiction dayz back then:

“And things happen for a reason, they say
But I say there's a reason things happen
And it wasn't all good way back in the day
Struggled then, struggle now, still standing”

In his seminal essay “Get Your Head Out of Uranus: Blue Scholars Aim to Scuttle Seattle Hiphop's Space Program” in The Stranger, Charles Mudede does a concise literary-hiphop review of the present sonic fiction event horizon:

“But before I closely examine the meaning and implication of "Paul Valéry," I want to make a clear distinction between the "real-izm" (as DJ Le Gooster called it) Blue Scholars represent and the kind that Eshun had in mind when he wrote More Brilliant Than the Sun: Adventures in Sonic Fiction in 1998. Blue Scholars are about the realities of poverty, exploitation, state control, and working-class blues. What Eshun had in mind ("keeping it real, representing, staying true to the game") was about the dangerous streets, tough corners, drive-by shootings, drug dealers, thug niggaz, "crosstown beef," and "feeling closer to god in a tight situation." This reality has nothing to do with the more authentic reality of making ends meet, looking for a job, and raising noisy children. However, both Eshun and Blue Scholars reject the street-realism. This is where they meet ("Paul Valéry" also attacks the thug tradition that stems from Tupac—those rappers are "chumps") and also where they depart—Eshun to the celestial, Blue Scholars to the diurnal.”

No comments: