This last few days I've been on one of my periodic pop culture rendezvous, where I survey a specific landscape that I feel my touch slipping away from.
This round happened to be hip-hop, it's new culture and the first wave of OG's reflecting on where the form has gone. Just a footnote before I get labeled; my youth was spent listening to rap and hip-hop and my roots are that of B-Boy. My crew, OSB used to battle at malls, schools, clubs and anywhere else little dudes could roam the streets and engage in rhythmic warfare. Violence hardly ever broke out, but occasionally a dance battle would turn into an actual battle.
This was during the second wave of breakdancing. I experienced the first wave as well, but I was too little to understand the culture. From spreading out cardboards to keeping PLEDGE in my backpack for lubricating linoleum, this was one of my true teenage passion. I'll provide visual evidence at the end. But alas, i grew out of favor with hip-hop, mostly as a result of new hobby's and experiences. Still however, I am a fan to this day.
One particular note of interest in my recent cultural prowling was promo videos featuring the new kids on the block in hip hop. This being the social media age, the youngsters are all savvy of the technology of promotion. You don't need to fork over big bucks of your advance to do elaborate music videos or smart campaigns, because in essence, you are doing it all the time. Always on twitter, always on instagram, and tumblr, the homies have some form of capture device on them at all times.
It's not hard to come by a 5d, or a Red Scarlett, or a slew of semi-professional camera's these days (and hell, what is professional anyways anymore). Everybody, including your momma has them. And shit, on a 1080 screen, an iphone is good to go. So, everybody is shooting something all the time. Now you just package that extra footage into "promo's" that end up going on youtube as a way to diversify.
The flow of content is a stream. And to not participate is death to an up and comer. In fact, it's death to everybody except a very select few who've managed to keep those giant, top down, middle of America careers of yesteryear.
One thing that struck me odd about these promos is that the subject of the piece often, if not incessantly, would be looking down at their phones. This was a very common thread. It's jarring watching videos of somebody who spends an inordinate amount of time looking down at their phones. They're not even fully present through the prism of something that is trying to capture them in the present. And this becomes self reflexive. You ask, "do I do that, because, it looks really dumb". In fact, you might. I know I'm guilty at times.
Further, the subjects would often use their phones to capture another fleeting moment through a picture (instagram) or video. Always looking at a screen, or through a screen. Contextualizing everything through pixel.s
Now, granted I was looking mostly at Hip Hop promos because that's where pop culture is now. I don't think there are 17 year old rock and roll kids getting 6 million dollar 360 deals. And they too probably spend time staring into the abyss of electronics. It's an age thing. It's a culture thing. But, my guess is that there is more to this story.
Which brings me to my theory that our phones, through technology serve some strange psychological need to stare at moving things through light, while desperately trying to hoard moments, and store them away; basically trying to capture a life that's always slipping away, ungraspable.
There is no doubt that our second life in digitalism will be our preferable choice in a very near future. It's an extremely effective opioid, creating the distance from the dirt and grime of reality. You can break up a relationship without direct conflict. You can insult someone without consequence; you can be a sexist, a misogynistic creep, all without even a cold stare from the other end. However, it comes with many consequences. Chief among them, loneliness and detachment. That might not sound so bad, but when added up, the results are terrifying.
And with all that talk; here is some breakdancing in a living room, featuring your's truly and some ol school homies.