To think about a piece of music critically is to wonder about where it came from, to an extent. Not only how does it make you feel, but how did the artist feel when making their art? In other words, why? Why did they do this thing. And to consider the why leads eventually to the should — should this person have made this music? If your answers to these two questions are interesting and affirmative, respectively, you probably have yourself a song worth listening to. You could really say the same of most types of art, and eventually you might consider the criticism itself with those same questions.
I have no idea why Trevor Bauer made this music as part of the duo consummate4sight, and I don’t think he should have. And yet, only bad things will come of my critique of his art, and so therefore I’ve joined this conundrum that he created. Or maybe it’s my fault.
For example, I can say that the production quality, though professional, reminds me of late nineties west coast rap, and in a bad way. That I thought that a former Dr. Dre disciple must have had a garage sale in Trevor Bauer’s neighborhood at some point, and that his loops and sounds were on full display here, fifteen years later. But then I’d just sound like a dick, some elitist rap connoisseur that can’t just, you know, bob ya head to some fun tracks. Why do I need to put this music down? Should I?
And yet, Trevor Bauer wants to say something. He wants to say things like “those hypo-critic critics that’ll get sick of when I’m pinning tails on donkeys, in other words we’re sticking it to your asses, get it” and “knock me down and I’ll pop back up like rubber bands and sting these bees a hell of a lot better than a bumble can.” These from his newest track “You Don’t Know Me,” which seems germane to our main questions. Here’s your ‘why’ right here. The problem is, of course, that we don’t know much more once we’ve listened to the whole track. Just that he’s angry at ‘critics’ behind ‘masks.’ That’s a lot of anger for a player that was once the third overall pick in the draft and is lauded by many for having distinct research-driven ideas about pitching mechanics. Obviously his time was spent doing something more constructive than tearing amateur rap songs down.
“Maybe this is corny but you should peal your ears and adhere to the next words you’re going to hear,” Bauer tells us on “Diamond in the Rough,” a song that also promises to tell us the obstacles Bauer overcame to be where he is today. His next words, though, are “Yes my name is Trevor.” Perhaps even that particular Fat Joe ripoff could do a better job of expressing the why and the should. And yet, who cares that I used to take baths from the hose growing up — I’ll still sound like a snob if I laugh at these words.
This is not to say there are glimpses of what’s going on behind the scenes. In “Glen Park,” we learn that disavowing drugs and hard work were a part of this duo’s resurgence from the difficulties of growing up in suburban Santa Clarita. And he mentions being bullied in “Diamond in the Rough,” so there IS a sense of the why, and if giving the bullied hope is part of the should, so be it. It seems these two feel they have overcome long odds and critics in every corner. Critics like me?
And so we return to “should.” Because, if the music sounds as it does, its message will get lost among the tin pings of yesterday’s West Coast rap. Perhaps they’d best express themselves on a blog? Because even if reviewers and consumers less hung up on academic concerns — less effete and elitist, maybe — come into contact with this, they may miss that message among the plastic trees in the forest made up by these sounds. The best this reviewer could do was a derisive giggle.
But let’s not end on that note. Let’s say you just want to enjoy something without thinking about things like “why” or “should.” That’s perfectly acceptable, of course, even to a critic. In that case, add an ‘a’ — watch this compilation of the best videos set to baauer’s Harlem Shake. Number one is worth your time at least:
A bob of ya head to Matt Dennewitz at Pitchfork for jarring this idea loose.