EDITOR’S NOTE: If you’re impatient with me waxing poetic about “what art is” as I review “Weirdope” you can skip ahead a few paragraphs. Thank you.
Reviewing anything artistic can make you philosophical at times — movies, music, literature, video games, et cetera. “What is art?” At the most basic and fundamental level, art is anything created by a creator that didn’t exist before its creation. “Is a fork art?” That’s where the debate begins. Art is entirely in the eye of the beholder. If someone looks at a fork with perfectly shaped tines, picks it up and feels how well balanced it is in their hand, then notices a pleasing motif engraved on the handle, they can look at it with admiration and declare it to be a work of art. You might then say that a plastic fork from a package of disposable utensils you bought at the dollar store is not art. It looks terrible, feels cheap, and breaks easily. What if you spray paint it gold, glue it to a canvas, caption it “American Values” and a museum hangs it on their wall — is it art? Yes. Even if no museum ever finds it worthy of display and it sits in a closet gathering dust, it’s still art. Any expression of an idea which can evoke an emotional response IS art.
This debate has raged since the dawn of human history — since cave dwellers painted what they saw outdoors on walls, since Egyptians recorded their history with hieroglyphs, since Gutenberg invented movable type and Thomas Edison patented the phonograph. Any way to express thought, write down ideas, record sound or chisel a block of marble into a statue has drawn a range of responses about whether it “is” or “isn’t” artistic from the audience looking at it. Instead of bashing our collective heads against over such abstractions, especially given the arbiters of “what is art” bring their own baggage to the debate based on their education and/or cultural background, a more useful question to ask is “What are the artist’s intentions?” If anything can be art, if indeed EVERYTHING is art, what is the purpose? Did the artist intend to reach an audience of millions, hundreds, or just one? What message is the recipient supposed to get from it? Did they leave it open to interpretation or is it undeniably specific?
If I can unpack my own baggage for a second I often find that the reason I write is simply because I NEED to. Having an audience for what I write can be rewarding, being praised for it has emotional value as well, but I find that I can write without appreciation or acknowledgment when the need arises. As a creator I just feel compelled to create and when that inspiration strikes me I sit in front of the keyboard and the words pour out onto the screen. I perceive rappers like Muenster to be similarly afflicted. As I’ve listened to his music over the years I’m struck by his need to CREATE. I’m sure he’d prefer to make something good, and perhaps one day even something that will be talked about as timeless or legendary, but I think he’d keep making art even if he was only making it to fulfill his own creative impulses. He’d stand back and look at the songs he had written and music he recorded and say “Today I created something” and smile, having fulfilled that internal drive to fill a vacuum with a sound and fury that signifies SOMETHING, even if it might only be to him and nobody else.
Over the 45 minutes of “Weirdope” I’m struck again by the Texan’s need to scratch the creative itch. Some songs are not subtle at all about their intent. “Get It Right” mines a backdrop of funky horns and jazzy sounds to deliver a message that life is not to be taken for granted – “we all dying to stay alive just a little longer”. On the other hand you’d expect a song called “Didactic” to be even more preachy, but despite calling out idiots in the lyrics I get more of a Deltron feel from the instrumentation, scratches and theme. The art is definitely subjective. Sometimes though a plastic fork is just a plastic fork. “Trinity” has three different contributors and as such is aptly named, but none of them provoke an emotional response. The chorus does though — annoyance. It makes me want to quickly hit fast forward and move on.
Sometimes I get the impression Muenster is trying so hard to make a point that he’s FORCING it, such as on the enjoyably bass heavy but undeniably awkwardly titled “AWHIWWLB (All We Have Is What We Leave Behind)”. Other times when he simply chills out and lets himself ride along to the groove provided by Juicy the Emissary on “Vieques” you get that perfect balance of artistic desire and audience response as he gets “poignant with the penmanship”. These songs reach beyond his need to create and reach ME by making me want to rewind and listen to his vibes again & again.
What more can I say about “Weirdope” then? I can say it’s art. I can also say that everything in existence is art. I can also say that if everything is art, then nothing is art. I can also say that none of that matters. For Muenster the need to create and the fulfillment it generates is surely its own reward regardless of what any “art critic” might say. You came here for an opinion though and mine remains essentially the same as the last time I reviewed him. He’s good at times, occasionally dabbles in greatness, and is definitely deft of tongue when it comes to his ability to spit words both quickly and coherently into a microphone. I find that too often he just doesn’t “grab me” the way other artists do, and that’s entirely subjective and personal.
I don’t think Muenster is a bad rapper, I just think his need to create art is greater than his need to be considered great or rated as great. You can hear it in some emcees. Rakim in his prime had that dominance over a microphone — “I’m great, I know I’m great, now be mesmerized by my presence and lyrical intelligence and acknowledge the God.” Most of us did. A few hated on him. To this day though he’s widely perceived to be an all time great, to the point that comparing any emcee to him let alone Muenster is entirely unfair. Muenster’s not Rakim and neither is anybody else, but Muenster still creates art to satisfy himself first and foremost. That’s not a bad thing! It’s good to create, and some of what he creates transcends his need to reach the audience, just not ALL of it. He’s in the mid tier of rappers where he’s good enough to be out there doing it but just doesn’t quite have the superstar charisma or presence to be the greatest.