On Fungal Matters
November 22, 2012
Speaking of identity politics and its befuddling effects, Julia steers us to another classic sentence from the Guardian:
As a lover of white truffles, a stereotypically upper class food, the rapper [Jay-Z] is bolstering a new kind of black identity.
That glorious caption is the work of a subeditor, but it’s perfectly attuned to the deep political musings of the article’s author, Ms Kieran Yates, who tells us:
Jay-Z has shelled out an eye-watering €15,000 on three kilos of white truffles on a recent holiday to Italy.
Before asking the question pressing heavily on no-one’s mind.
What does this extravagant detail say about the Jay-Z brand?
And then answering it, excitedly and with tremendous gravitas:
The term [bling] has always been political… This new kind of spending goes a long way to help his brand while bolstering a new kind of black identity.
There we go.
This “new kind of spending” - buying overpriced fungus - is much more radical than buying Rolex watches, ostentatious cars or cases of Cristal champagne. It’s a thrilling development in “black identity.”
Food has always been an issue in working class communities, and one of the first things you learn when you are finally allowed consumer power is that food that you once thought was off limits is in fact accessible. Jay-Z understands the cultural capital of food, and with his purchase he is showing the world that taste is not for the white elite to dictate.
Note the words allowed and dictate. And indeed white elite. Ms Yates, an English Literature graduate, has evidently learned to regurgitate the kind of airy, tendentious guff her lecturers expected.
What Jay-Z is in effect saying is that the world of decadent foodstuffs is not off limits – not to him, or to hip-hop culture. Assumptions are slowly being challenged.
See, radical and profound. One Guardian commenter helpfully distils the intellectual heft of this mighty opus:
BLACK MAN EATS TRUFFLES.
The fanciful pseudo-politics of “urban” music and rap paraphernalia are a Guardian staple, obviously, being as they are so daring and transgressive. Readers may recall Lanre Bakare, the recipient of a Scott Trust bursary, who tried to persuade us that “the soundtrack to the credit crunch is being written by hip-hop artists” whose “socially conscious” rapping should be acclaimed for its “focus on harsh economic issues.” Among the insightful thinkers offered as guides was the well-heeled Atlanta rapper Young Jeezy, aka Jay Wayne Jenkins, of whom, Mr Bakare said,
Jeezy concentrates on his own money issues, with lines like “I’m staring at my stack like where the fuck’s the rest at” and “Looking at my watch like it’s a bad investment,” making it clear that even successful rappers suffer in an economic downturn.
In a later column, Mr Bakare urged us to believe that graffiti is deserving of taxpayer subsidy. Behaviour that our Guardianista would presumably find aggravating and costly to undo if done to him and his belongings should nonetheless be done to others because, well, it’s so edgy and countercultural. And let’s not forget Adam Harper’s apparent belief that “bobbing in time to the wacky syncopated beats and pitch-shifted vocals of Major Lazer’s Pon De Floor” is some kind of radical act, especially when done within fifty yards of a police officer. Wacky, syncopated beats having only been discovered in the second decade of the twenty-first century.