Lil B is Miley Cyrus, Ellen DeGeneres, and Dr. Phil.Â But heâ€™s also â€˜Alt â€“ Litâ€™. . . at least thatâ€™s what Iâ€™ve been told.Â But Iâ€™ve been told a lot of things.Â Andrew Marantz, in a New Yorker essay on Lil B, told me that â€œHis songs about celebrities are, like Warholâ€™s Marilyn Monroe prints, a comment on the mechanization of celebrity.â€Â And Kittie Tourniquet, in reaction to Act One of this Forsley Feuilleton, told me this: â€œDonâ€™t you dare put my sweet babyâ€™s name in your dirty dirty cunt-whore blog ever again.â€Â Her â€œsweet baby,â€ I assume, is Marie Calloway, who I unfairly used to dismiss all the writers of â€˜Alt â€“ Lit.â€™ Â Â But most of the writers involved in this new literary movement, if asked to name their â€˜sweet baby,â€™ would name Lil B, who I â€“ unfairly? â€“ used to renew my interest in their work.
I donâ€™t know why Lil B is their sweet baby. But, because of all the research I so thoroughly conducted on â€˜Alt â€“ Lit,â€™ I can use, by way ofÂ the scientific method, my findings â€“ which includes the discovery of a temperamental feline internet persona that isnâ€™t a writer â€“ to make a blogfessional calculation: Lil B is their sweet baby because of his skinny pants, his exploitation of social media, his manic productivity, his refreshing positivity, his cultural consciousness, his ironic playfulness, his unashamed self-promotion, and his. . . dumb writing.
If you donâ€™t believe me that Lil Bâ€™s writing is dumb, just read these lyrics to â€œIâ€™m Miley Cyrus,â€ one of his biggest hits: â€œIâ€™m Miley Cyrus / Cyrus / Cyrus / Iâ€™m Miley Cyrus.â€Â If those lyrics arenâ€™t dumb, than Bob Dylan is Robert Zimmerman.Â But Bob Dylan is Bob Dylan, and dumb isnâ€™t dumb.Â Here in the Bay Area, where Hip-Hop culture has a history so long and storied that it has evolved into Hyphy culture, dumb is dope. . . and dope, at least in my 90s molded mind, is praise reserved for only the most respected and relevant rapping writers.
Steve Roggenbuck, who the New York Times recently called â€œThe Prophetâ€ of â€˜Alt â€“ Lit,â€™ is to poetry what Lil B is to hip-hop.Â Theyâ€™re both dumb fucking writers. . . no, Roggenbuck is a dumb fricking writer.Â Thatâ€™s how dumb Roggenbuck is: he spells fucking â€“ â€˜fricking.â€™Â He also spells life â€“ â€˜lief,â€™ and misplaces so many commas and forgets to capitalize so many words that soon, if they havenâ€™t already, every English Literature teacher in every high school across this country will ban his writing just as they ban all writing that offends their sensibilities.
Roggenbuck is so dumb that if he was a rapper in the Bay Area, he would be the dopest rapper with the most swag.Â The East Oakland â€˜Sideshowâ€™ girls would all hail the Hyphy halo that would hover over his head.Â And he would do more fricking than Don Juan in a female frat-house.Â But Roggenbuck isnâ€™t a rapper, and heâ€™s not from the Bay Area.Â Heâ€™s a poet from the internet.Â He might even be, according to Jacob Brown of the New York Times, â€œthe first 21st-century poet.â€
But Iâ€™m not so sure.Â Iâ€™m not sure if heâ€™s a poet at all, let alone the first 21st-century poet.Â Is he dope dumb, or just dumb dumb?Â Heâ€™s not a rapper from the Bay Area, so should I applaud or bombard him and his dumbness?Â I donâ€™t know.Â I donâ€™t know if he can spell correctly but doesnâ€™t want to because heâ€™s trying to revolutionize language, or if he canâ€™t spell correctly but doesnâ€™t have to because heâ€™s writing for an audience â€“ todayâ€™s youth whom learned to text before they could talk â€“ that all spell fucker and life, â€˜frickerâ€™ and â€˜lief.â€™Â Â Â In his spoken-word videos, he talks like an idiot, walks like an idiot, and looks like an idiot, so he could be just that: an idiot, the idiot. . . the idiot of the village known as the internet.
Or maybe heâ€™s not just any idiot.Â Maybe heâ€™s an idiot savant and can couch surf with a talent unheard of among us non-idiots â€“ us non-idiots who spend our lives slaving away at jobs we donâ€™t like so we can pay mortgages on houses we donâ€™t need.Â Maybe he can count Facebook â€˜likesâ€™ with the skill that Dustin Hoffman counts toothpicks.Â Â Or maybe heâ€™s neither an idiot nor an idiot savant.Â Maybe he just comes off as such because, like he told Thought Catalogueâ€™s Matthew Sherling, he cares â€œabout the community (heâ€™s) building and the impact (heâ€™s) having in peoples lives soooo much more than the craft or technical aspects of (his) work.â€Â Itâ€™s hard to say.
Itâ€™s also hard to say heâ€™s the first 21st-century poet when every Thursday night at the corner of San Franciscoâ€™s 16th & Mission close to a hundred poets â€“ who, unlike Roggenbuck, care deeply for both the community they are building and the technical aspects of their work â€“ gather under the fog to take turns spitting their creations through the crack smoke, over the crazies, and up into the misty ocean air.Â Â Â And, from what I have observed, none of these poets â€œare afraid to distinguish themselves,â€ which is why Roggenbuck, in â€œBE YOURSELF,â€ says most poetry is boring and why most people donâ€™t read poetry.Â Are these San Francisco poets, the Charlie Getters and Sam Saxs of the world, not living in the 21st century?Â And if they are, which they are, why the frick would Jacob Brown of the New York Times even consider crowning Roggenbuck as the first poet of the century?
The only way to answer that question, and the many others I have about this new internet based literary movement in which Roggenbuck is supposedly â€œThe Prophetâ€ of, is through further exploration.Â And, in Act Three of this Forsley Feuilleton, I will explore another dumb but influential figure of â€˜Alt â€“ Litâ€™ who goes by the name of Tao Lin.Â Is Tao Lin dope dumb, or just dumb dumb?
To Be Continued. . .