Lil B is Miley Cyrus, Ellen DeGeneres, and Dr. Phil. But he’s also ‘Alt- Lit’. . . at least that’s what I’ve been told. But I’ve been told a lot of things. Andrew Marantz, in a New Yorker essay on Lil B, told me that “His songs about celebrities are, like Warhol’s Marilyn Monroe prints, a comment on the mechanization of celebrity.” And Kittie Tourniquet, in reaction to Act One of this Forsley Feuilleton, told me this: “Don’t you dare put my sweet baby’s name in your dirty dirty cunt-whore blog ever again.” Her “sweet baby,” I assume, is Marie Calloway, who I unfairly used to dismiss all the writers of ‘Alt-Lit.’ But most of the writers involved in this new literary movement, if asked to name their ‘sweet baby,’ would name Lil B, who I- unfairly?- used to renew my interest in their work.
I don’t know why Lil B is their sweet baby. But, because of all the research I so thoroughly conducted on ‘Alt- Lit,’ I can use, by way of the scientific method, my findings- which includes the discovery of a temperamental feline internet persona that isn’t a writer- 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 don’t believe me that Lil B’s writing is dumb, just read these lyrics to “I’m Miley Cyrus,” one of his biggest hits: “I’m Miley Cyrus / Cyrus / Cyrus / I’m Miley Cyrus.” If those lyrics aren’t dumb, than Bob Dylan is Robert Zimmerman. But Bob Dylan is Bob Dylan, and dumb isn’t dumb. 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 “The Prophet” of ‘Alt- Lit,’ is to poetry what Lil B is to hip-hop. They’re both dumb fucking writers. . . no, Roggenbuck is a dumb fricking writer. That’s how dumb Roggenbuck is: he spells fucking- ‘fricking.’ He also spells life – ‘lief,’ and misplaces so many commas and forgets to capitalize so many words that soon, if they haven’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. The East Oakland ‘Sideshow’ girls would all hail the Hyphy halo that would hover over his head. And he would do more fricking than Don Juan in a female frat-house. But Roggenbuck isn’t a rapper, and he’s not from the Bay Area. He’s a poet from the internet. He might even be, according to Jacob Brown of the New York Times, “the first 21st-century poet.”
But I’m not so sure. I’m not sure if he’s a poet at all, let alone the first 21st-century poet. Is he dope dumb, or just dumb dumb? He’s not a rapper from the Bay Area, so should I applaud or bombard him and his dumbness? I don’t know. I don’t know if he can spell correctly but doesn’t want to because he’s trying to revolutionize language, or if he can’t spell correctly but doesn’t have to because he’s writing for an audience- today’s youth whom learned to text before they could talk- that all spell fucker and life, ‘fricker’ and ‘lief.’ 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 he’s not just any idiot. Maybe he’s an idiot savant and can couch surf with a talent unheard of among us non-idiots – us non-idiots who spend our lives slaving away at jobs we don’t like so we can pay mortgages on houses we don’t need. Maybe he can count Facebook ‘likes’ with the skill that Dustin Hoffman counts toothpicks. Or maybe he’s neither an idiot nor an idiot savant. Maybe he just comes off as such because, like he told Thought Catalogue‘s Matthew Sherling, he cares “about the community (he’s) building and the impact (he’s) having in peoples lives soooo much more than the craft or technical aspects of (his) work.” It’s hard to say.
It’s also hard to say he’s the first 21st-century poet when every Thursday night at the corner of San Francisco’s 16th & Mission close to a hundred poets- who, unlike Roggenbuck, care deeply for both the community they are building and the technical aspects of their work- gather under the fog to take turns spitting their creations through the crack smoke, over the crazies, and up into the misty ocean air. And, from what I have observed, none of these poets “are afraid to distinguish themselves,” which is why Roggenbuck, in “BE YOURSELF,” says most poetry is boring and why most people don’t read poetry. Are these San Francisco poets, the Charlie Getters and Sam Saxs of the world, not living in the 21st century? 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 “The Prophet” of, is through further exploration. And, in Act Three of this Forsley Feuilleton, I will explore another dumb but influential figure of ‘Alt- Lit’ who goes by the name of Tao Lin. Is Tao Lin dope dumb, or just dumb dumb?
To Be Continued. . .