In his mile-a-minute guest spot on Rob Sonic’s most recent album Sabotage Gigante, Los Angeles-based Busdriver fires off a verbal salvo about powder burns on a disk drive and generating buzz across the blogosphere. While this kind of technobabble isn’t exactly the purview of most non-nerdcore MCs, broader discussions about the propagation of fame and channels of distribution have always been front and centre in hip hop. Yung Jake is an MC, CalArts student and a web developer with some serious chops who recently launched e.m-bed.de/d, a meditation on “the time after a song is released”, charting a track’s humble origins from a bedroom studio upload to YouTube through to ‘winning the internet’ as it virally spreads across blogs and social web services. Articulated in a visual language similar to Chris Milk’s many-windowed browser-based video for The Wilderness Downtown, Yung Jake’s self-reflexive lyrics and visual design map out a mosaic of influence that chart the hypothetical trajectory of his URL as it is retweeted by Justin Bieber, shared on Facebook and tumblr, blogged on sites like Rhizome and Pitchfork—even seeded on The Pirate Bay—as it racks up hundreds of thousands of views.
In writing the project up for The Creators Project, Dylan Schenker described e.m-bed.de/d as “an anthem for virality”, and while this observation is on-point, the screencast also functions as a deadpan critique of overexposure and the undiscerning nature of audiences and ‘tastemakers’ alike – the video essentially lays bare the mechanics of the hype cycle, and the truth isn’t pretty.
E.m-bed.de/d is full of wordplay and visual puns, one of the cleverest moments occurs when Yung Jake attracts a “banner bitch” from an adjacent ad into his video. While a total cliché, the scene simultaneously thumbs its nose at rap video tropes and winks at the audience, acknowledging the intertextual nature of the screencast and the network of platforms woven therein. Yung Jake’s blasé demeanour is worth dwelling on, as on one hand he panders (chorus: “I’m trying to get embedded, I’m trying to get played out”) and at the same time he aspires to play grandmaster and work the media landscape as if it were a chessboard – this is truly a tension we are all familiar with. There is a great line in Das Racist’s “Sit Down Man”, where Kool A.D. talks about how his father keeps tabs on his activities through a Google Alert. With e.m-bed.de/d, Yung Jake moves far beyond pedestrian engagements with the web and sketches out a weird deterministic universe where attention received is synonymous with quality and the delineation of network topology is an end, in and of itself.