Among all of the various definitions of art, Aristotle’s notion that “the aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance,” is perhaps the most condemnatory for modern rap music.
Defined along these lines, the world’s most popular rap song today, (according to one metric: Spotify’s Global Top 50) Swervin by A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie, contains the smoking gun that confirms the unartistic state of rap music today:
How you look so perfect on your worst days? /
Double C your purses, you deserve it /
Nig%#s in your DM, they be thirsty (Thirsty) /
And in person, But you’re curvin’ /
Curvy little body, LOVE YOUR SURFACE (Surface) /
Yeah, I’m all on your body, make you nervous /
In light of such lyrical tomfoolery (where the phrase “I love your surface” is representative—and also phenomenally vain), the title of Icelandic rapper Kött Grá Pje’s new song “Rap Isn’t Art” (Rapp er ekki list) is particularly apt; rap’s purview, these days, rarely penetrates outward appearance.
Although it is difficult to make out the exact lyrics of the song, at times, what is clear is Kött Grá Pje’s frustration (a euphemism) with modern rap music. I’m no synesthete, but I know black when I hear it—and Kött Grá Pje’s Rap Isn’t Art is as dark as our newly photographed black hole (its event horizon); feces trickle down the walls as bass lines boil and synthesizers simmer, and, at one point, Kött Grá appears to re-crucify one of the island’s most prominent emcees:
Saints on a cross
Tell vulgar jokes /
Having grown filthy rich
From telemarketing /
The song’s chorus is most bountiful in its ambiguity; a play on the now-defunct slogan of Iceland’s Independence Party (“social class for social class”), the refrain finds Kött Grá implying that rap music as a political force is more Wall Street than main street: a loose alliance of self-interested consumers united by their pleasure in luxury brands (the Icelandic word for class, stétt, can also mean street, and the Icelandic word for sneaker, strigaskór—literally canvas-shoe—is a subtle jab at just how commercial the canvas of rap has become).
We were saddened by the reports of Kött Grá Pje’s early retirement from rap—because now, more than ever, rap music needs poets. SKE sincerely hopes that Rapp er ekki list signals the permanent homecoming of the Gray Cat P.
May the pigeons be damned.