Wednesday, April 27, 2011
Some Thoughts on An Echo From the Hosts That Profess Infinitum (part I of II)
The only thing we know about the LP, beyond the release date and tracklisting, is this song. It became a sensation on the web immediately and everyone is gushin over it, calling it spacey etc. but what is it about? To me it’s one of the more cryptic of Lazaro’s productions but, here goes.
An Echo From the Hosts That Profess Infinitum - lyrics
Pin-ups in a shady purpose
All that diamond dust,
Blowin’ up your hopes?
Flamboyant obstacles, or deals made to cope?
???? ???? ???? ????
Shouts at all these soft niggas,
Ideas in recline
Rise of the lost
Here we stand
Slaves to networks’ master plans
Swag’s the brand, open a can
Chains off, still y’all never ran.
“I brag, I boast, I kill, I coast,
I toast to cake and crime.”
Doing the most
A stronger dose
A king at leisure time
So erase your mind (?)
Dough is laced, fantasticize
Gang signs point to hang ‘em high
“Who, swindle? Oh yeah, that’s my guy”
The forecast: heat with chance to blast
Hustle dough sure don’t seem fast
My kiss, my list, my dreams, my stash
Since certain things need not be asked
You think I’m selfish
Exist only to wish on stars
Lay in wait n’ cut the bars down then go ice the guards
Touch the hood (?) n’ go kiss gran n’ catch a box of food
Play that blade n’ feel that sunlight till you’re in the mood
But who you think you are?
Who you think you are?
Who you think YOU are?
Who you think who you are?
Who you think who you are?
[thanx to Anonymous for correcting these transcriptions... see comments below]
Let’s start by acknowledging the track’s most startling feature: that disturbing sample. One of my friends can’t really even listen to this because it freaks him out! It’s disturbing for a reason (or two), though. This is a song about self-discovery. That’s a scary proposition for most of us. We’ve become used to what we know and think we are, and going deeper into the self elicits terror. But the sample is also apt because the reason for all the world’s problems is that people are not asking the question that this song wants us to each ask of ourselves. Who am I? That has resulted in a terrifying reality and future. We’re afraid of finding out who we are but in fact we should be afraid of staying the same and maintaining the status quo.
Ultimately, and despite the darkness of this track, it is optimistic. By virtue of the fact that it encourages us to go in this direction it shows the artist’s belief that we are basically good, even divine. I say divine because of the word “infinitum” in the title “An echo from the hosts that profess infinitum”. ‘Infinitum’ is the latin root for infinity. ‘Host’ is an archaic term for a multitude, a throng, a legion. Until the modern age, the vast host of humanity has professed infinity, which is to say has believed in eternity. That this existence is part of a much older and greater story. Calling this song an ‘echo’ acknowledges that we live in different times, but nevertheless we’re being urged to follow the same advice carved in stone above the portal to the Temple of Apollo at Delphi: Know thyself.
(Above: Ruins of the Delphic Oracle)
“Pin-ups in a shady purpose” This line gives the impression of people wanting things which aren’t what they seem, or have a sinister purpose lurking behind. Advertising? “All that diamond dust, blowing up your hopes” I love this line. Beyond the obvious cocaine reference, it recalls the consumerist stupor that we find ourselves in. Like some giant just sprinkled this magic dust on us all and hey presto we forgot about deeper issues, but instead are often inflated with vain, false hopes. What is it that we want? New iphone, big house, ridiculous car, girl like that one in that video, ice, drugs to escape, … what are these things? If you’re after knowledge of self, they’re just ‘flamboyant obstacles’. Even worse, and if we’re more truthful, they’re “deals made to cope” with the false selves that the larger society has convinced us is us. A most vicious circle. Creativity has been put on the back burner for most of us. That beautiful intuitive alive child we once were is buried under years of learning what to be, our innate creativity is “in recline”, a word which contrasts with what/who has “risen”: the lost. And he’s not pointing figures in an us-and-them type way. We need to start with the man in the mirror. We need to find that which has been lost. That’s been a key theme of Shabazz Palaces. “Find out who you are and free it”, and the recent song which is titled “Lost foundling”.
The first few lines of the first verse are self-explanatory. I especially like “dope in a can”, meaning how dopeness which is free (in both senses) and natural has become commodified and can now be bought in a handy container for your convenience.
“Chains off, still y’all never ran” is a vivid picture and beyond the obvious slavery reference which directs it at certain African Americans, it can be taken in a more general sense by all people. For many of us, the modern world gives us freedoms that our ancestors, toiling away in their lifelong jobs, never had. But what are we doing with all this freedom? The thug mentality then articulates, saying how “I brag, I boast, I kill, I coast, I toast to cake and crime.” ‘Cake’ I assume indicates luxury in Ish’s lexicon; it appears elsewhere in SP music.
“Doing the most, a stronger dose” just captures the extreme nature of our situation, the lengths we go to for our slice of cake. The next line is one of the song’s most memorable to me: “A king at leisure time”. The previous line about ‘chains off’ make you think of slaves, which we have all become to some extent and what is the opposite of a slave? That’s the whole point of this dilemma we’re in now. This new slavery isn’t about forcing us to do back-breaking work but it’s about sucking the life out of us by relentlessly feeding what Leonard Cohen memorably described as our ‘swollen appetites’. And I’m sure if we’re honest with ourselves we can all agree, no matter how aware or noble our intentions are, that we’re both “products and victims, to perpetuate this sickness” (that line’s from Belhaven Meridian by the way). You slave away at a job you don’t enjoy… what’s the reward? Well at leisure time you’re a king. You can sit on your couch in your castle, in front of a huge plasma tv with hundreds of channels at your fingertips, the web, every device you can imagine they’ll sell you if they can. Even the choice of the phrase “leisure time” is sharp- a term and concept invented by marketing men.
I’m lost with the rest of the verse, but “gang signs point to hang ‘em high” is interesting. At first it made me think of gang’s killing each other echoing lynchings by whites in the past. But also the phrase ‘hang ‘em high’ is short for “Hang ‘em high and leave ‘em dry” which is a sailing phrase meaning when a ship get’s stranded on dry land with no hope for recovery. With either reading, it’s a regret-filled observation on what is going on.
The last two lines show that with all these distractions, (‘my kiss’ = my lust/emotional wants; ‘my list’ = all that stuff I want; 'my dreams' = my vain hopes; ‘my stash’ = drugs, or escape/avoidance/denial mechanisms) it becomes possible to not even ask certain questions… namely:
Who am I?
To be continued….
PS: I realise that I’m making it sound a lot more ‘preachy’ than it is. This is a limitation with this kind of rational line by line ‘interpretation’ exercise/experiment. The great thing about it is that it’s music, so listen and say your feelings. Not just the lines where I couldn’t understand what he said, but also my readings might be totally different from others, and I’d like to know different ways of understanding this. Help.
PPS: Like the beat, the song lightens up towards the end so have no fear, check out part two of this post coming soon.