Song of the Day: Vince Staples, "Norf Norf"
There's a video going around the Internet of a woman filming herself getting all riled up about having heard Vince Staples' "Norf Norf" on the radio. It's insane. Over the course of 11 minutes, she spins the tale of how she was dropping off her cadre of daughters at their various schools while listening to the local Top 40 station. (Based on the channels she brings up, this appears to all have gone down in New Mexico.) She explains that she had just finished listening to a Meghan Trainor tune when she was suddenly accosted by Staples' track, one of the highlights of his album-of-the-year-worthy 2015 debut Summertime 06. She notes that it bothered her "as a mom," and also brings up the fact that when she was younger, she listened to pop stars like Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, and the Backstreet Boys.
Up to that point, she's merely a white lady whining about scary urban music. But then she just starts reciting the lyrics to "Norf Norf," and that's when it enters into absurdist theater. With a super young child crawling around in the background, she proceeds to run through "Norf Norf," leaving in all the n-words even though she notes that the "cuss words" were taken out of the radio edit of the track. She gets particularly upset at two spots: First, when Staples arrives at the track's understated chorus, wherein he mumbles, "I ain't never ran from nothing but the police." The other time she gets upset—and at this point, she is damn near weeping—is at the very mention of abortions (Staples explains that he needs to sell dope because "Folks need Porches, hoes need abortions").
I could fact check this woman, or poke fun at the fact that she for some reason pronounces "Norf" as "Nerf," but I'm mostly fascinated by the idea that this was recorded at all. The source material is a little unclear, though it does seem like this originally arrived online via Periscope (she notes at the beginning that she is waiting to get into the meat of her rant so more people can jump on, suggesting that she was waiting for viewers during a live stream). Periscope is a remarkable source of self-delusion; having just watched a bunch of random feeds on the Apple TV app, I am dumbfounded by the culture surrounding it. Log on at any time, and there are dozens (if not hundreds) of people live streaming events (last night, there were a handful of people broadcasting from concerts by Paul McCartney and Puff Daddy), but there are even more people broadcasting nothing at all. One video I clicked on was just a dude vaping while doing an impression of Gollum. Another was just a girl in a bathroom mumbling stuff about Houston. Still another was a dipshit sitting at a piano defending his use of Kim Kardashian's name in the title of his stream. Yet another was a guy walking around the streets of New York simply saying hello to people who were sending message—an endless information ouroboros lacking both text and subtext.
All of these people, including the woman who doesn't like "Norf Norf," are obviously intelligent enough to embrace the type of technology necessary to deliver medium-quality video over the Internet airwaves. But they all lack something that seems to constantly come up when discussions of modern tech arrive: They lack the emotional intelligence and the guile to understand what they are doing. Self-aware people recognize broadcasting personal nonsense on Periscope as the narcissistic cry for help that it is. I would never bother knowing that if anybody did decide to drop into my stream, it would mostly be for the sake of trolling. (For women on Periscope, it's an inevitable invitation to remove clothing, which adds an extra creep factor.) But for people like the Norf Norf Lady, it's simply another platform that acts one of two ways: As an echo chamber (where like-minded people can simply congratulate each other for being right all the time) or as a source of victimhood (because feeling wronged by the outside world is an excellent excuse to entrench yourself in whatever nonsense your subconscious needs to justify, be it food, sex, or the subjugation of entire minority groups).
So while part of me feels bad for the woman whose daughter will be alienated from a normal existence because she can't listen to Top 40 anymore (because she didn't ask to be notorious), but another part of me does not at all (because she kind of did). If somebody is making a scene in a public place (store, restaurant, gym, whatever), I tend to simply stare at that person, granting them the attention they so desperately desire. It's a small, subtle bit of public trolling that will probably get me stabbed one day, but I consider it a tiny little victory.
Perhaps the most shocking element of this whole tale is that "Norf Norf" was played on Top 40 radio at all. It's a fantastic song, but it's not the stuff that crossovers are made of. Over an eerie, minimalist Clams Casino beat, Staples reps for Sprite, shouts out the various high schools he attended in Long Beach, calls out some Crip markers, and generally nails the detail-obsessed autobiographical tone that makes Summertime 06 such an incredible success. "Norf Norf" has an excellent video (see above), but doesn't appear to be an official single from Summertime 06 and does not appear to have charted. It's a song that simultaneously revels in the gangster lifestyle and pushes against it, and it's emblematic of Staples' unflinching look at his own life and the reality around him. If that is scary to people like the woman who thinks we need to pray for our children because of a rap song, I think that's a good thing. Pop music is supposed to terrify the generation slightly too old to be listening to it, but so much of the junk littering the Top 40 is centered around hedonism or sounds like the soundtrack to a Xanax binge (the former has always been the case, but the latter is a new and odious development). Since we don't have Marilyn Manson to fool parents into thinking their kids are worshipping Satan, we're going to have to stick with the clear-eyed rapper who won't pull punches for the sake of a radio hit.
Oh, and DMX was also fucking huge when Britney, Christina, and the rest of the teen nymphettes were cranking out hits, so her memories of shiny caucasians singing about their pussies have conveniently left out X growling "Y'all n----s remind me of a strip club, cause every time you come around it's like I just gotta get my dick sucked."