Aoki & Carnage Make The Sonic Equivalent of a Trump Tweet

I haven’t written about a singular track on this blog in a very long time, but this one requires it. For many reasons, none of which are good. Carnage & Aoki put out something I can only describe as a nightmare of mediocrity and ignorance. If you told me a neural network wrote it, I’d actually respect it a bit more. Thankfully it’s only 2:40, but in that time it manages to annoy, confuse, and disappoint. While being marketed as “Minimal Techno” by the payola industry (You better hope to the Gods of Techno that Jeff Mills doesn’t hear this), the track more closely aligns to cheesy tech-trance that could be produced with a starter sample pack on Fruity Loops around the time the Vengaboys were coming.  Boilerplate EDM snare drums, lead into some vocals that have nothing to do with the title, the video, or much of anything. I’m tempted to believe the only reason they’re structured the way they are is because “North/West/East/Southside” rhymes with Genocide. They feature a vocalist for this, Lockdown, but at this point, Lockdown could very well be the name of the vocoder they used.  The vox push into late 90’s faux industrial kicks and one of the more disappointing drops I’ve heard in the last decade.

To be clear, the song is structurally coherent, the mixdowns are fine, and if it was created by a kid on the Southside of Chicago with some ripped software and a blown laptop in 1999, I’d have loved it when I heard it…in 1999. Instead, we have two artists who have massive amounts of resources and access to a shocking amount of authentic talent & collaborators, squeezing one out in an hour. But, none of this is the worst part. Not even the baby angels having a knife fight is the worst part. The worst part is something that, for the life of me, I simply cannot figure out. Why the fuck did they call this track PLUR Genocide?

A Tweet by @ARPdid911 talking about DJ Carnage & Steve Aoki

Steve Aoki is Japanese and DJ Carnage is Guatemalan. Both of these countries have suffered massively, from internally & externally spawned genocide that caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people in the 20th Century alone. What purpose would there be to naming the track this, especially when you’re discussing PLUR, the aesthetic of the Rave era, the thing DJs like Carnage, Aoki, Swedish Fish Mafia, and GuettaFace killed? There’s something entirely infuriating about a track that could’ve been built by an algorithm fed late 90’s dance music, while actively denigrating the era. Many DJs have rode a wave of fame on the back of parties that would not have existed without communities of poor, queer, black & Latinx artists, which included refugees. Early rave culture on both sides of the Atlantic was a space for the excluded, rejected, and misunderstood. EDM gentrified the shit out of a lot of these spaces, to the point where the original community members were no longer welcome. Over time, “rave culture” gave way to retail festivals, with the safe space giving way to commercialized & exploited spaces.

Then, the culture is packaged and sold back to us at a profit. This track is the Pei Wei version of authentic music that moved dance floors almost 30 years ago now. Which is idiotic when you stop to think about it. This track will get a bunch more traction than a lot of the innovative stuff going on out there. They could’ve named it “Angel Baby Knife Fight” and I wouldn’t have cared. But instead, they called it PLUR Genocide. Even McDonalds has the decency to not call the McRib “Pork Slavery.”

Why call the track this? Why even release this? The only possible explanation I can come up with is that this is the dance music equivalent of trolling. This is a track that a ton of people are going to rail against (myself included), which will drive clicks/streams. This is EDM in the era of the Facebook algorithm. People will have a ton of hot takes in the coming days about it, but it doesn’t matter because they’re still getting paid for it. And while it’s a sound business strategy, I’m just kind of sad that’s where the industry has gotten to. This is what happens when labels decide to start “triggering the libs,” as it were. Trump tweets set the narrative and take the spotlight off people doing real work in our country. This does the same, but on Spotify and YouTube.

A while ago Aoki did this interview where he said that DJs should step aside and let women lead. As Dim Mak doesn’t have any solo producers/DJs on their roster, and Aoki’s work with Carnage sounds like fucking a war crime, maybe he should step aside, book some woke First Nation, Mayan, Japanese, and Guatemalan women & queer artists, let them benefit from his platform, and have himself a think.

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DXM, Promethazine & Lil Wayne: An Observation

First hit for “high on cough syrup” by the way.

Today, I wanted to present a small observation I found kind of interesting relating to, but not exactly about today’s #DFF on DXM/Cough Syrup. Cough syrup is used all over the world, with a varying degree of narcotic in them, depending on the specific laws surrounding opiates. For example, in France, you can get cough syrup with small amounts of pain killers in it. In the USA, the prescription strength cough syrup has both codeine (moderately potent opiate) & promethazine (sedative & weak anti-psychotic). Compare this to the active ingredient in over the counter cough syrup & the drug that many college kids experiment with, Dextromethorphan, an “antitussive,” or cough suppressant with mild sedative/dissociative properties.
This is why when you & your friends got fucked up cough syrup it felt like you were in a vomity K-hole, while Bieber, Lil Wayne & Soulja Boy are walking around, slurring their words & getting their “lean on.” The motivations for doing DXM include the psychedelic aspects & the hilarious lack of independent limb control at higher doses, though, that part of the drug is more entertaining for everyone around you. Sizzurp, or Purple Drank, has a very different effect, combining a weapons grade painkiller & sedative. If you ever wondered why the rap was so fluid & almost slurred, it’s because he is almost asleep. If you want to know why people consume this, the best way I’ve ever heard it described was from a case manager at a homeless shelter in the South Bronx. He reminded me that you can sip on sizzurp all day, quietly & slowly, and still be “more fucked up” than everyone at the party drinking Champagne or Hennessy or any alcohol. That meaning, you were intoxicated, but quickly, & cheaply, and remained at a low-level plateau all day. You didn’t ratchet up from buzzed to drunk to blacked out. Plus, you weren’t consuming alcohol, so you didn’t start fights/get violent which frequently got the cops called on parties. But this is where the funny part comes in. DXM does not provide the same effects of Purple Drank. But because of the explosion in popularity of Lil Wayne, & other rappers who embraced the cocktail, I wonder how many kids are out there unsure of the difference. I wonder how many Beliebers saw that he was drinking something that had cough syrup in it, then absolutely had to hit up a Walgreen’s on the way home. I definitely know kids who have “I swallowed 20 DXM gelcaps” stories. And, as we all know, those stories usually involve projectile vomit or descriptions of how their bookshelf turned into a pack of wolves. The other drug, definitely developed some cache, showing up on Instagram over and over, even getting repped in a Future rap video.

At the end of the day, DXM is not a particularly safe drug, as most cough syrup comes with other ingredients that are quite toxic in large doses. This means that if you consumed enough DXM to get fucked up, you’d probably make yourself sick from one of the other additives. Also, DXM addiction is real, and it sucks. When more than half users report flashbacks & general apathy, and 25% report nightmares and impaired memory for weeks after not doing the drug, just because it’s over the counter, doesn’t mean it won’t fuck you up. I have known people who lost summers & years to this, sipping on a cough syrup bottle. And they weren’t even rappers. For more safety info, or to swap stories, join Ravelrie, Stay Safe Seattle & NY DanceSafe at 4:30p/1:30p PST using #DXMFFCJ1LGEjVEAAc3Dd

MXE, Maxine or Mexxy: Ketamine’s (Legal Not For Consumption) Younger Sister

8dJpCibMethoxetamine is a drug that started as a synthetic replacement for the popular recreational drug (Ketamine), but soon found a following all its own. When Ketamine became difficult to find, some peeps decided to buy still legal versions of it on the grey market. Lots of places online sell novel psychoactive substances, especially ones that haven’t been picked up or ingested by random users yet. In 2010 people started purchasing it as a cheaper alternative to the dodgy K that was going around at the time. It went from first described to formally identified by the European Monitoring Center for Drugs in 6 months. While it’s certainly not acid, the trips online of the intensity of the experience became legendary. People report intensely disassociative experiences, powerful psychedelic rides & huge problems moving and coordinating their limbs.  Continue reading

Ayahuasca: Buckets, Diapers, Addiction & Trauma.

LfMvhgNThis Drug Fact Friday is one of the big champions of the jungle ones folks. This is a concoction of different chemicals that some of your more groovy/hippie friends may have mentioned at a party once or twice. Ayahuasca (sometimes called yagé) is a powerful psychedelic brew. The brew is created because the DMT containing plant needs a vine that has what’s known as an MAO inhibitor in it. If anyone ever tells you Ayahuasca is one thing, hit them. This concoction of a couple of plants allows the DMT to survive what’s known as first pass metabolism and reach your bloodstream. Traditionally, shamans may also add other plants to the mixture, but the DMT & the MAOI are the two primary ingredients. These brews are traditionally consumed during tribal music & shamanistic ritual. It’s not something that has a lot of festival/club use, as many people report severe nausea, vomiting & diarrhea while on it. If you thought you were going to puke when you took shrooms and went to see Ratatat that one time, this blows that out of the chunky water. Some of my friends in San Francisco & NYC have lovingly referred to it as a “bucket & diaper” drug, for this exact reason. And yes, the purging properties the drug has are referred to as “la purga” (guess what that translates to) in shamanic tradition, so get with it.10628587_10205166622379969_5351340714662551154_nNow that I’ve sufficiently grossed out all the kids, let’s talk about how & why people take this stuff. “Ayahuasca” is a non-indigenous spelling, as the natives of Ecuador, Bolivia, Peru & Columbia may prefer ayawaska, and the cultural differences between taking it in the jungle & taking it in a loft in Brooklyn are as striking. Like all other psychedelic experiences, set, setting, goal, community & purpose can mean the difference between a transcendent journey or a nightmarish stumble. The ceremony associated with Ayahuasca helps align people to their goals and can have a tremendously therapeutic, possibly life-changing effect. The plants making the brew, importantly, are not illegal. The chemical, DMT, within the plant is illegal, but the plants from which the DMT is obtained are not scheduled. There are plenty of super positive experiences listed within the Erowid vaults but I’m not going to bore people with “I got so high I saw the galaxy” stories. It’s a much more sophisticated experience, as the research diagram below shows. Even the purging aspect of the drug has a purpose. It was administered traditionally at non-psychoactive doses to vacate parasites & worms from a digestive tract.AyahuascaThere’s been a continuing problem of recreational users doing powerful psychedelics in contexts that don’t require them, or in places where their use is very risky. Whether it’s taking the brew without knowing its potency, doing so because some cute girl is doing it, or even because you’re using it to escape from your life, there are plenty of risks involved with using Aya improperly. The most important is possibly an exacerbation of pre-existing heart conditions. With these hugely potent psychedelic experiences, significant increases in blood pressure & pulse rates have been reported. To stress, no one has died from Ayahuasca per se. The deaths associated with the brew may be due to complications because of medication regimens & the addition of problematic plants & other additives to it.  This VERY tongue in cheek video (oh my God, please don’t yell at me, plant teachers are important, I agree and there are a ton more serious videos on Aya here.) shows a lot of the dark sides of people calling themselves shamans & abusing powerful psychedelics without proper context or motivation. There have been reports of “shamans” exploiting drug tourists, there have been people who died because they didn’t disclose all of the prescriptions they’re taking during their consultations with the shaman.Burns TrippySo, I think it’s important to keep that in mind that what is known about the chemicals clinically is fundamentally different than what is experienced by the ingestion of the brew in a particular place & time. And it can help people in really tangible ways. Ayahuasca has been shown to fight addiction and has a growing following when it comes to its use in processing trauma.   A veteran by the name of Ryan LeCompte took a squad of veterans down to the jungle to have a real ceremony, with a real shaman, and work on some real problems. Not “my apartment doesn’t get enough southern light & my boyfriend can’t commit” level problems. Real veterans, who saw some shit, people who have dealt with things that would make the average basic cry. Lisa Ling from CNN went down to the jungle with them and saw what real healing, post-OIF/OEF looks like. There’s a lot of disputation about whether psychedelics can heal in the academic/ivory tower community. Among Ryan’s comrades in arms, I don’t think that’s an argument they’re having anymore. There is a real potential to help people using this brew, and there are wise people who will watch over you when you do it. If you can find them. This drug is hugely contentious for precisely this reason, so join ravelrie, NY DanceSafe Stay Safe Seattle & I at 4:30pm EST/1:30pm PST for #ayaFF on Twitter to learn more & join in the conversation about it. 

Adderall, Vyvanse & Brain Doping

With 5.3%of college students currently prescribed ADHD medications, Adderall & its newer, “difficult to abuse” progeny, Vyvanse have just been used in massive quantities all over the country to get heads through finals. There’s a beautiful round up of how Adderall is used/discussed in digital spaces by Tazin Karim Daniels here. While plenty of people are going to hem and haw about it, if 47% of 12th graders say it would be “easy” to obtain this stuff, let’s take our heads out of the sand and try and understand why. Continue reading

Nitrous Oxide: 215 Years, From Humphry Davy To Hippie Crack.

largeNitrous oxide, also referred to as Laughing Gas has a particularly interesting history, being one of the only drugs beside cannabis & alcohol that people still use in similar forms/dosages to centuries ago. It’s on the WHO Model List of Essential medicines because of its use in surgery & dentistry, it’s what the NoS tanks in Fast & the Furious cars use for that video game style speed boosts & it’s been used recreationally by half a million people in the UK alone. Nitrous has been shown to be relatively harmless from a neurotoxicity perspective. The issue with most users developing hypoxia is related to their using “whippets” instead of medical grade Nitrous. While medical grade Nitrous has oxygen mixed into it, chargers do not. Hence the potential for harm if you’re getting the stuff you can get at Zabars instead of having it be administered by someone with medical or dental training. But here’s the crazy part, it started out just as a party drug for the British upper class & academia.
Nitrous 1830 Continue reading

Khat, Cathinones & Culture: A Continuing Story

In many cultures around the world, drugs are primarily consumed not by smoking or snorting, but chewing. Coca leaves in Latin America, Betel in Asia, and Khat in the Middle East and Africa. This process is the traditional method of psychotropic substance consumption, especially in places where only tobacco is frequently smoked. In Somalia-land, the Eastern regions of Africa & the Arabian peninsula, Khat is king. This cathinone has amphetamine-like effects, but is significantly less powerful than something like adderall or methamphetamine. However, just because it’s a plant, not a powder, doesn’t mean it’s not still potent & hugely popular in much of the world.

KhatFF graphicThis “herbal stimulant” has followed sub-Saharan migrant workers to Europe, while entrenching deeply within its native Somaliland (an independent autonomous region from Somalia). Approximately 20% of the government’s revenue comes from the sale of the plant. The drug has been seen as a problem for some, while an opportunity for others, and with the government encouraging the sale, a ban or restriction of any kind seems unlikely. The plant is  considered less potent & addictive than powder or pill based concentrates that have made it over to the Western world. Al Jazeera has a great pair of features about the plant and the migrant worker culture surrounding it.

While the West has a terrible history of using racism to make drugs illegal, only Missouri in the USA has made this specific plant illegal. The active substance, cathinone, has gone on to much infamy being associated with “bath salts.” Cathinones are internationally scheduled, but the Khat plant was made illegal in the UK after a long & bitter fight that seemed to occur along racial & class lines (as discussed in those dope Al-Jazeera articles), as the plant is chewed primarily by immigrants. Ravelrie, NY DanceSafe & Stay Safe Seattle will be joining me to talk about the effects, information on the addictive potential & the positive/negative effects of the plant. Use #khatFF to join in the slightly sped up fun!