There’s nothing quite like the sugar high of a blindly creative internet binge. It’s wholly different from craft or goal-oriented creation, and probably activates a different part of the brain entirely. Repetitive compulsive internet usage is, to put it colloquially, some real shit, combining creation and consumption in one glorious blur. We internet users are making things impulsively and filling a void with something that’s hollow. But at least those hollow bodies of work occasionally produce beautifully bugged-out shells. Here are some great bugs and shells.
In a recent interview, Chris Viscardi, creator of The Adventures Of Pete & Pete – a Nickelodeon sitcom that fucked up a small sliver of my generation – spoke about Bayonne, the New Jersey suburb where they shot the show: “There’s a certain feel of that kind of New Jersey town that is kind of beautiful, and kind of sad, and kind of lonely. Even when it’s sunny, it’s not completely sunny; there’s always something a little bit shaded about it.” It’s a pretty apt description, and that understanding of this New Jersey – and not the drab, dumpy, institutionalised Jersey that New Yorkers usually see and shoot – is part of the reason that show worked. One point of contention though: it’s not really sadness when you’re in it, it’s just regular. Actually, it’s comforting in a way.
YouTube rapper S’morez is probably familiar with that dull Jersey comfort. He’s even more familiar with rapping hideously offbeat. I like to think of him as the Lil B to Lil B, doing to Lil B songs what Lil B did to all rap songs ever: destroying them, making them sloppy without a wink or a reveal and just producing endlessly in the process. S’morez doesn’t rap well, but he raps a lot. There’s some interesting stuff going on sonically in his oeuvre – weird beats, hang-gliding themes – but visually he’s done a pretty magnificent job of capturing the very specific washed-over sensation of his home.
He has uploaded 555 music videos to YouTube since October 9, 2011, and each one is essentially the same as the last. As a performer, S’morez inverts the typical rapper attitude into the most lifeless thing you have ever seen. Generations die in between his blinks. Then his tiny, energetic hypeman hops in to lipsync the chorus, even though S’morez himself is still clearly handling vocal duties. The clothes and the scenery and the song change, but not really. They’re set in front of power lines over yellowing woods or cracked roads across fields, or power lines over cracked roads in front of woods and fields or a community college parking lot. All the colours are bright and dim at the same damn time. Everything around him is motionless. It’s a near perfect suburban New Jersey lull.
2. How 2 Draw Sanic Hegehog
A few years ago, a YouTube user by the name of 0nyxheart – who was either a young child or someone pretending to be a young child or (most likely) a young child pretending to be an even younger child – uploaded a how-to video detailing a crude computer drawing of Sega video game icon Sonic The Hedgehog with the phrase, “Cum on step it up!!!!” chicken-scratched in as dialogue (presumably). The since deleted (but preserved) clip, titled “How 2 Draw Sanic Hegehog” was set to the soundtrack of the first level of the very first Sonic game pumped up to hyper distorted, ear punishing levels. The video was posted at the internet’s largest meme incubation chamber, 4 Chan, and it spread quite quickly, first through users drawing their own Sanics as per 0nyxheart’s instructions but then across mediums: imitations, animated gifs, psychedelic homebrew games, Youtube freakouts inspired by the psychedelic homebrew games and musical remixes that all exaggerate the original track’s inherent brutality, as if to explicitly trigger tinnitus. (My favourite of these is something called “Sanic In Paulstretch”, which quite simply stretches the Sanic theme into what could be the best Fennesz song in years.)
This sustained hum (via piercing hiss) of Sanic obsession might all seem random, one of those dumb internet jokes that picks up for a while then dies to make room for a shy cat or a dancing baby, but it isn’t. It’s saying something, I think. Back when Sanic was still known as Sonic, he predicted the current pace of consumption by a decade or so. This is a character whose brand was speed. “Sonic is fast” was the literal selling point for Sonic and the system he hitched a ride in on. (You might remember the phrase ‘BLAST PROCESSING’, which wasn’t even really all that big of a deal anyway, but damn did it sound fast.) Then, when he got a TV show, the theme song was the oh-so-subtle shout of “Gotta Go Fast”, which of course has been absorbed into the meme jelly. He personally groomed all of us for this new pace of existence and the consumption rate and THE NEED FOR RINGS – or likes or whatever the fuck opens up your own personal secret level. Perhaps the finest thing to come out of the whole Sanic meme spillover is this unattributed jpg that depicts a ring-crazed Sonic bathing in the blood of his enemies. And it is true that Sanic will destroy you and all that you love. I’ve personally lost countless hours and burned out endless cochlear fibers inside of the wormhole that the internet created in his honour. Just like he did when I was ten years old, Sanic controls my mind and soul and free will once again. Give me a minute here, I’m thinkin’ of fast.
3. Aaliyah Is America (and assorted tin foil hats.flc)
One unexpected and very welcome side effect of the internet is that it gives a national soapbox to the many nutjobs at society’s fringes. Finally, the very specific madness that was once confined to in-the-moment street corner bug-outs and witch trials before that now has a permanent, traceable home digitally. The internet, and YouTube in particular, is now a clearing house for every crackpot compulsion in recent history. And one of the great enemies, if not the greatest enemy, of crackpots everywhere is the Illuminati, which, as far as I can tell, is the name of the day spa where Kanye and Jay-Z give each other footrubs. According to someone or someones on the internet, nearly every celebrity is part of this conspiracy to do something horrible, and it seems like these allegations are particularly prevalent in the music industry. Justin Bieber, Kendrick Lamar and even gospel singers Mary Mary are all definitely Illuminatish, as rationalised and confirmed by scattershot reasoning and de-masking tactics lifted straight outta scared parents playing Sabbath records backwards. The best of these, though, is the incredibly cryptic “Aaliyah Is America”, which melds video clips of the late R&B star and biblical verse into something that makes next to no sense. Most importantly, the music is actually pretty awesome, with user FrumAbuv dropping a sloppily chopped and remixed reinterpretation, highlighting certain phrases that clearly implicate her in some kind of evilness, and punctuating them with surprisingly competent synth lines that would make Timbaland proud. Either that, or they would instantly push him to peel back his skin and reveal the lizard person who has mastered ASR drum programming.
You might know Rik Davis as one half of a little group called Cybotron. While his partner Juan Atkins went on to international fame, Davis continued doing what he’s alway done: making noodly synth sounds for fun. Except now he does it with appropriately trippy computer graphics and biblical imagery. He is either warning of an impending apocalypse or summoning one. I don’t know, you figure out the mythology. I’m just here to consume, and my donut eyes glazed over like 20 minutes ago. (Rik also goes to museums and films children in sparkle vision.)
The impulse to create can even transcend decades. Seattle’s Christopher White aka Future Funk Rocker taped a pair of based and bugged electro funk performances for public access back in 1998. These clips turned him into a minor YouTube sensation a few years back, and then sure enough the Rocker reemerged with his own YouTube channel of music new and old. There he warns repeatedly, “Do Not One Hit Wonder Me Either Or I Will Pull This Song As Well.” The best of the modern Future Funk Rock songs might be “Master Of Escape And Disguise”, which is like seven Prince songs playing at once and is set to a still image of a faceless man with shades and a Korg baseball cap.
The internet was better in the early days, when WEBMASTERS, as they were once called, had no prospect of ever making money and thus were instead just deeply – and often troublesomely – obsessed with whatever topic they decided to run a site about. (Like Sanic, dudes had rings, too. They did not, however, go fast. Word to my mother’s dial-up.) North Memphis Trigg was one such Master, his great talent being a rabid love of Memphis rap (and hatred of Bone Thugs, “cause dey sum bitin’ azz bitchez nuff said”). Louisiana-rap obsessed Frankie Tha Lucky Dog is one of the last of this breed, blogging away at a hyper-specific topic in the vacuum that Blogspot has become, and for no one in particular. Frankie even has his own rap career, recording the politically charged “Estatescalade” in the name of the Floridian mobile park where his grandmother and great grandmother once lived.
The recent blog era is not without its ghosts, either. Existing between February 2005 and May 2008, Umeancompetitor is one of the finest examples of ugly internet art to ever flatten Blogspot. It’s a violent flicker of animated gifs, fanned out in the name of telling a sometimes erotic fanfic about Michael McDonald and Cam’Ron. There’s definitely a degree of self-awareness and irony in here, but it’s such a beautiful ugly that you have to admire it regardless of the intent. While the top half of all its pages has seemingly been self-sabotaged by a kaleidoscope virus animation, scroll to its bottom – past the magic pony plans and flickering Ross Perot campaign t-shirts – and notice that Umeancompetitor has also fallen victim to the natural enemy of the decaying Blogspot: comment spam. A highlight: “THE GODS ARE CONDITIONING YOU INTO THIS BEHAVIOR WITH ‘MAGIC’, MANUFACTURING YOUR HYPERSEXUALITY THEN PUNISHING YOU WITH AIDS!!!” Blog bug-outs don’t die, they multiply. (Umeancompetitor still lives on formally as a pile of gif vomit on Tumblr, but gif vomit has become so commonplace over there that it doesn’t quite offer the same shock.)
OnepoetGem The Poetic Rapper aka TransamOne is like S’Morez if he was very old. And he only had one beat. And he was concerned with pressing issues like the failing economy and #YOLO taking lives. And if Mercer County Community College was actually a fever dream happening inside the brain of a Rubber Duckie. OnepoetGem The Poetic Rapper is a poet and he has made 362 songs and they’re all exactly the same except when they’re different.
10. Lil Scrappy “Money In The Bank” The Video Game
One for the pure consumption category, this is a promotional internet video game about putting money in the bank about a song about having money in the bank, and it’s the best game on the internet, apart from the recent Skrillex game. Rapper Lil Scrappy is at the club promoting his single while diamonds and other stuff falls from the sky, which is something that happens all the time to him in real life as well as video games. This is because he has money in the bank. I lost all of 2006 to this game and I plan to lose most of 2013 to it, now that I know that it has been preserved by the great wizard named Archive.org.