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Hyperpulp: It’s All the Rage (2001)

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Mark De’Rosario
London Hyperdub HQ

Oxide and Neutrino’s Up Middle Finger is as important for 01 as the Pistols’ Anarchy in the UK was in 76. Like Anarchy, Up Middle Finger is both a call to arms and an darkly exuberant gesture of joyful defiance.

Alongside Ms. Dynamite’s Booo! (an instant classic, surely the biggest tune in the last year), Up Middle Finger demonstrates that UK garage’s efforts to ethnically cleanse the genre of all impure’ elements has failed, big style. Everything exiled from the snooty, purocentric higher echelons of UK garage – jump-up ragga-chat, abstract numanoid electronix, frenzy-inducing MCing, deep darkcore bass, film samples, kiddiecore refrains – has returned to terminate its former masters. With extreme prejudice.

Up Middle Finger captures a mood, a growing undercurrent of rage in the country about the discrepancy between the sunny vistas projected by managerialist PRopoganda and the webs of corrruption and incompetence that are lived everyday reality. Neutrino’s fury will resonate with anyone who has the misfortune to have tangled with Style London’s sad coterie of promoters, PR zombies and A and R people. But, more generally, his invective also speaks to and for anyone who has been blocked and patronized by the complacency and arrogance of all the bullet-pointed, empty-headed drones who officiate in the blurry liar lair of Blair’s Britain. Neutrino brings back an edge, an aggression, that has been lacking for too long in a British culture that has seemed to pride itself on its tolerance of mediocrity.

Whilst totally contemporary, Up Middle Finger (and the Execute album from which it hails) sound like a return to the vibe – if not exactly the sound – of jungle in its earliest, most fissile and molten phase, when the sonic contours of the new genre were first becoming audible. Effectively, O and N have rejected everything ‘progressive’ that’s happened since then – they have rescinded the supposedly inevitable maturation process which proceeds from bolted-together, frankenstein-monster cyborgianism towards the smooth and seamless surfaces of the painstakingly simulated organically ‘pure’ sound that has enjoyed dominance lately. Listening to O and N, you’re reminded of the cargo-culting, skip-scavenging exuberance of Rufige Kru, Tango and Ratty, even the early Prodigy. You’re taken back to that vertiginously exciting moment, or series of moments, when rave’s synthetic hyper-energy was swept up into the sorcerous vortex of timestretched breakbeats and hyperdub bass.

Ms. Dynamite and O and N are being sold as ‘garage’, but as their interviews on this site show, they are themselves uneasy about the classification. The currents passing through them belong to ragga, rave and hip hop as much as to garage. Essentially, like early jungle, they are hyperpulp. Hyperpulp is a mode of hyperdub, but defined by a particular relation to mass culture; it is a cybernetic monster that feeds on pop culture and trans- [or de-] forms it into a blobby, seething multiplicity.

Hyperpulp culture finds its model not in the club scene, with its cult of the DJ, but the Jamaican soundclash, with its ruff and rugged indifference to smooth mixing, and the pivotal role it accords to the MC. Oxide and Neutrino – the DJ and MC team – re-effectuate this abstract machine. For those schooled in a white European post-romantic tradition, MCing sounds like something supplemtary to the ‘primary text’ of the music itself. But in hyperpulp, there is of course no primary text, only an intense multiplexed libidinal experience, which includes and is intensified by the MC’s chatting on the mic. The MC’s melting of dominant english into the lyrical flow of patois sloganeering functions as an excitation-heightener for those who want to get hyper.

Like NYC hip hop in its early days, Jamaican dancehall culture is fuelled by the antagonistic energy of competing crews. (It’s no accident, of course, that Oxide and Neutrino are part of the So Solid posse.) Whilst the intense competition between collective groups is sometimes transected by hard war gangsta/ yardie territorialized violence, it is essentially a soft war – a gift exchange in which no-one loses, and the pressure to outdo the other crew produces a spiralling intensity of experience for da massive.

Da massive is crucial in all hyperdub genres, but it is especially important in hyperpulp, which feeds on and amplifies hype-waves. Witness Oxide and Neutrino’s sampling of 100,000 Scottish ravers on Up Middle Finger. The sheer size of the collective body is used as an audio-weapon targeted against the closed-system entropy of scenes which pride themselves on their disdain for popularity, as much as it is directed against the dismal tastefulness of overground popculture. O and D’s use of samples of the Casualty TV theme and of dialogue Lock, Stock… are acts of audio-abduction or sonic viracy, in which existing mass cultural associations are radically deterritorialized and minoritized; the certainties of spectacular culture are de-faced, contaminated with traces of rogue semiotic virus.

Where pop tends to interpellate the lone consumer, the solitary spectator, hyperpulp dissloves private subjectivity in the oceanic bassdrome of collective delirium. In overground capitalist popular culture, maturity is signalled by the move from impersonal collective pulp-out into privatized, facialized emotion. Goldie’s career offers an exemplary map of this dreary trajectory. Beginning with Rufige Kru and Metalheadz, in which he anonymized/ pseudononymized himself into the collective while simulating the synthetic POV of the terminator and the replicant, he ends up sold as a ‘solo’ artist, hangs around with saddoes like Noel Gallagher, and devotes much of his last album to baring his soul.

Soul and soulfulness are of course crucial terms for the anti-pulp purists. It’s worth remembering here Foucault’s remarks in Discipline and Punish on the production of the modern soul. The soul, Foucault tells us, does not precede modernity’s disciplinary institutions: it is precisely constructed by schools, prisons, and factories, all of which act to extract an individual subject from the dangerous, teeming multiplicity of ‘compact masses.’ Baudrillard’s arguments in Symbolic Exchange and Death take Foucault’s position further. According to Baudrillard, the arrival of the immortal soul marks the imperialistic triumph of monotheism over primitive cultures, which transforms its swarming pantheon of warring entities into ‘demons.’

The tyrannical domination of Dance’s SS – the Style and Soul gestapo – has kept the demons out, but they are everywhere in hyperpulp. (Even Goldie, never fully seduced by the soul paradigm, was still invoking Demons on Saturnz Return.) Hyperpulp trades in sonic fiction, and as such feeds upon pulp modes effectuated in other media, especially Horror and SF video. Video samples, once so conspicuous in jungle and speed garage, have been noticably absent in the re-musicalised, soul-dominated phase of garage.

Over the years, there has been a remarkable consistency in the sonic textures of the various reactive, boracratic genres Style London has tried to foist on the rest of us. From rare groove through to acid jazz, from ‘intelligent’ drum and bass through to soulful garage, the same sonic traits are always evident : there’s a preference for melody over rhythm, for ‘real’ instrumentation over the synthetic and the samploid, for personalised emotion over dehumanised abstraction. Naturally, these are reinforced by snooty social codes based on snobbery and exclusivity, which are diseminated by the scene’s lapdogs in the depressingly hedonistic dance music media and in the style press – all of whom are dissed, hilariously, by Neutrino on Up Middle Finger.

The so-called garage wars are nothing new, and in fact date back at least as far as the emergence of jungle. Jungle, don’t forget, was so named as an insult. Devotees of the original US garage sound – that finessed-to-the-point-of-body-numbing-tedium ‘lush’ production identified most closely with that high priest of sonic bureaucrats, David Morales – decried the use of breakbeats, essentially for exactly the same reasons that Style London’s current hipoisie are cussing Oxide and Neutrino – lack of purity.

Purity is no more real in music than in ethnicity, and no more desirable. It is only ever a retrospective simulation, something hallucinated after the fact by a group of control freaks resentfully anxious about its fading status. Inevitably, purity has no positive features of its own, but is defined negatively, by what it excludes. What purocrats hate about hyperpulp is its ruffness, its refusal to close down into a well-formed aesthetic object. But this is precisely what is exciting about hyperpulp – its dubtractive removal of all that we thought we knew about identity, genre, about where sonicultures had come from and where they are going. Subtract identity, contaminate ‘purity’, and potential is produced. Now that Soul and Style are losing their grip on garage, something new can be heard emerging. Hyperpulp has come back to corrupt its illegitimate offspring. Celebrate its return.

Up Middle Finger Written by Oxide/Neutrino

(Up middle finger I show dem)

Didn’t wanna back we
Now they beg friend
Up middle finger I show them
Back in the day, they didn’t wanna know
They wanna dis bound 4 da reload
They wanna talk to Neutrino, no no no
They wanna dis so solid so, no no no
Didn’t wanna back we
Now they beg friend
Up middle finger I show them
Back in the day, they didn’t wanna know
They wanna dis bound 4 da reload
They wanna talk to Oxide no, no no no
They wanna dis so solid so, no no no

The garage scene well it’s really fucked up
Certain guys can’t, won’t keep their mouths shut
All they do is talk about we
Something about we’re novelty cheesy
Smelling your top lip stop the jealousy
What, ‘cos we didn’t start from 1983
Oh, I was in my nappy
Did I mention we’re only 18
Carnival ’99 DJs put up a list telling other
DJs not to play this
But when I asked a certain DJ why
He gave me a shit of a reply

Later a bitch said to me
We’ll never make it with Casualty
Ha ha ha, he he he
Now the silly bitch wants to try and hire we

Didn’t wanna back we
Now they beg friend
Up middle finger I show them
Back in the day, they didn’t wanna know
They wanna dis bound 4 da reload
They wanna talk to Neutrino, no no no
They wanna dis so solid so, no no no
Didn’t wanna back we
Now they beg friend
Up middle finger I show them
Back in the day, they didn’t wanna know
They wanna dis bound 4 da reload
They wanna talk to Oxide no, no no no
They wanna dis so solid so, no no no

Certain guys can’t face the fact of
What we’ve done
Sold over a quarter of a million Casualty went
Straight into No 1
And they still wanna cuss come on
Oh yeah about the Casualty theme
Well no one controls the scene
So you do what you want
And you do what like
And you do what you please

Yeah, guys want to cuss our tunes, say it’s shit
Think other people don’t like it
But boy we don’t care
And we got something for you
This is DJ Oxide playing in front of about a hundred thousand people
Listen to this

When I say you say we say they say make some noise
When I say you say we say they say make some noise
When I say you say we say they say make some noise
When I say you say we say they say make some noise

Didn’t wanna back we
Now they beg friend
Up middle finger I show them
Back in the day, they didn’t wanna know
They wanna dis bound 4 da reload
They wanna talk to Neutrino, no no no
They wanna dis so solid so, no no no
Didn’t wanna back we
Now they beg friend
Up middle finger I show them
Back in the day, they didn’t wanna know
They wanna dis bound 4 da reload
They wanna talk to Oxide no, no no no
They wanna dis so solid so, no no no

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Copyright © Hyperdub 2001 – Reprinted with permission.

Category: Hyperdub

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Riddim.ca was founded by DJ/writer paul autonomic (aka Mr. Bump) in February 2005 as a hub for North America's nascent grime and dubstep scenes. Since then we've helped promote events across the continent and made friends around the world. Mostly dormant now, we're host to one of the web's largest collections of writing on the late-Garage dis/continuum as well as a growing collection of rare audio and scans (coming eventually).