Genrefying Tracky Birthday's "New Album," or Not, and a Fierce Copyright
Enlarge image (© Up it up!) By writing this PopTip for German musician Tracky Birthday I am in violation of CopyrightPlus™. Much beefier, and teethier, than a mere copyright, CopyrightPlus™ warns that if you “talk about, listen to or even think about all or any parts of the music” of the Stuttgart emcee's new record, “New Album,” a hefty fine and the “public immolation of your first born” will follow.
But for the Internet's intrepid, Tracky Birthday's second record on Up it up! Records is worth it – and, despite its fake teeth, it is totally free online.
Tracky Birthday, who got his start playing drums on Germany’s Disney Club television show when he was a mere 14 (see video), melds hip hop and electronic music into what most call “nerdcore,” a rap sub-genre that doesn't take itself so seriously. This, however, does not quite pinpoint his style – just as he told me: “Anything '-core' already says enough about the person using the term... It's like something '-step,' it means nothing more than '-ish.' The term 'nerd' is very outdated, maybe even more outdated than the term 'amateur'? Everybody is a nerd / amateur/ musician / artist/ designer / manager / [insert word] nowadays.”
Putting music, especially without the clarifying lens of history, into a genre is a fool's errand – it's hard to disagree with that. But Tracky Birthday's music is certainly a funny hip hop wrapped in self- and genre-directed irony. Take the song “Sh-sh Sh-sh,” which begins so: “Tracky Birthday heating up the spot / All the people in here smell like art. [emphasis mine]” Enlarge image (© Up it up!) Now what else might he have rhymed with “spot”? The purposeful rhyming misfire introduces a bit of clever self-deprecation. Later on in the song he pokes fun at the genre, taking the tried-and-true rap ego comparison into absurdity: “And my raps are rapper than yours / And my skills are skiller than yours.”
Or there's the accountant's inept attempt at office love in “Secretary Love” (Another one where he eschews the obvious rhyming of the words “female” and “email”: “I never wrote an e-mail / to such an attractive [pause] girl”). On “Cheeseburglar,” his homage to fast food, Tracky rhymes over slow, menacing bass akin to the hardcore beats of the 80s and 90s – but with his mouth full. I asked him to describe his humor: “Childish, silly, smartypants, unnecessary, juvenile, foreign, low-brow, hobo, homo, yo bro, punny, ...” Then he asked, “I don't know, how would you?” Well, I tried …
Enlarge image (© Up it up!) So, he's funny. But what he nails, beyond self parody or poking fun at rap and pigeonholing music, is that overly indulged, superficially informed Internet zeitgeist. It's as if the iPhone, 80s nostalgia, fast food and every bit of tawdry gluttony on the world wide web had a child, who understands the shallowness of the Internet in the deepest way possible.
In a virtual world, where virtually everyone has a virtual “I” who follows, “likes,” “tweets” or “flattrs” everything and anyone else, Tracky Birthday's gaudy orgy of influence snickers at all of it, commenting on the breathless “everythingness” of Internet culture, in which he ironically fits.
The only table at which he would not be an apposite guest would be at the lonely graveyard at which he directs his sideways jeers: the record industry, the one that is doing everything it can to stop you from sharing music. Which, incidentally, is something that neither Tracky Birthday nor Up it up! Records will do if you want their music, CopyrightPlus™ or no. As he told me, in the music of the future, “Copyright will be long forgotten, like phonebooks and beepers.”