Batshit Insane Vol. 5: Straight Outta Compton

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Anyone that knows this record doesn’t need me to explain why I included it.  However, I see this as a great comedy record.  Like many comedies it takes horrible realities to such extremes that it exposes truth, while at the same time making you laugh at the absurdity.  Lets take the famous, or infamous, song Fuck tha Police:

You’d rather see me in the pen
Then me and Lorenzo rollin in the Benzo
Beat tha police outta shape
And when I’m finished, bring the yellow tape

Those four lines both expose truth and take violence to a comedic extreme at the same time.  It’s the fact that many white people would rather see black males in prison than driving around in a Mercedes Benz.  And then in the next two lines Ice Cube is bragging about beating a cop to death with maniacal glee.  So it is truth hidden in the guise of absurdity.  (And unfortunately this song still seems relevant to our daily headlines.)

For all of this records violence and insanity, I have a hard time taking it too seriously removed decades from its release.  Ice Cube is in children’s movies and Dr. Dre is a respected CEO.  I think of it along the lines of something like George Carlin’s Life is Worth Losing, where he talks about some of darkest subjects ever and twists them until they become funny.  But while Carlin is making you laugh, he is again making you see truths that evade us in everyday conversation.  (It’s not as smart as Carlin is, but then no one really is.)  Unfortunately many of the groups that were influenced by this seemed to lack NWA’s knowing sense of humor.  For all this records absurd violence and gritty reality, there is the sense that they are having fun.  And it is precisely that fun that makes this record fire on all cylinders for me.  They’ve driven straight over the edge, and are having a laugh in free fall.

For the first week of 2015 I am writing pieces about records that I can only describe as “batshit insane”.  These are brilliant albums that are so dark they cross the threshold into a knowing comedy.  If you want to understand exactly what I mean in more detail read the first paragraph from the start of this series:

I love records that one can only describe as sounding “batshit insane”.  Where the artist seems as if they are out-crazying the din and the whirlwind of the Great Void.  Albums that trump death, even if the artists are alive and the albums don’t even have death as a central theme because, even if it is subconsciously, they know it is out there and they seem not to give a shit.  I am reminded of the character at the end of Kurt Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle who dies, “lying on my back, grinning horribly, and thumbing my nose at You Know Who.”  I also think of George Carlin, putting on a show making the batshit insanity of this world hilarious, and then ending his set by standing on one leg with his arms outstretched, daring to be smited.  These are albums where artistic fear is not only not present, it almost seems as if the artists are daring you not to like them.  Albums like this make me laugh out loud and warm my heart to its very foundation.  I could be having the worst day possible and when I put one of these records on I think, “Thank God they are out there.”  I wanted to write about several of these records to start 2015 out on the right foot.  My goal is to post at least one record a day for the next week.  I’m just having fun, like a child skipping through a field.

The Murder of Eric Garner and the Assassination of President Kennedy

The Death of Eric Garner

I have been reading today about the death of Eric Garners, another black male that was killed by the police.  Eric Garner was put in an illegal chokehold by the police while resisting arrest and died because of it, even after he told the cops he couldn’t breath.  (I should note although he was resisting arrest he was not directing any violence at the cops.  He was unarmed.  He simply moved in a way that was trying to prevent the cops from handcuffing him.)  As those of you whom read along know, I have been knee deep in reading about slavery and the Civil War.  I also read Matt Taibbi’s The Divide this year, which is about our unjust justice system.  If you read about America enough, you can be horrified about what happened, but you can’t really be shocked at this stage in the game.  I completely and empathetically understand why black Americans are outraged over what is happening to their people.

I want to approach this from another angle to hopefully get some of you thinking.  Earlier this year I went to Dealey Plaza, the place where JFK was assassinated.  If you walk through that place you can’t help but feel something.  Here is an article about changes that were made to the Secret Service after Kennedy was killed:

Changes Made to the Secret Service After JFK Assassination

Someone was killed and the place that he was killed takes on a special meaning in our culture.  There were also changes made at the highest level of our government.  Pretty much everyone that was alive then can remember not only where they were when Kennedy died, but also the shock that was felt by them.  Now, I know what some of you are going to say.  You are going to say that this was a President and therefor it deserves more attention then an average citizen being killed.

Let’s forget any arguments right now that say one life is just as important as another life.  Let’s for arguments sake even say that a President’s life is valued much more than several people’s.  However, when you look at the history of the situation, black males being killed and brutalized by the police, it becomes hard to say that many lives aren’t worth as much as a President.  When the numbers start adding up why do we not act with a similar sense of disbelief and outrage?  Why are we not making changes at the highest levels of government?  Why don’t we, as a nation, mourn and say enough is enough?   Even if Eric Garner’s life doesn’t mean much to you, can you not look at the overall pattern and realize something needs to be done?