Wednesday, November 7, 2007


'Yacht rap' is a relative of yacht rock.

The genre name yacht rock has been established by the highly successful and important and informative and very funny series of the same name which you can see on the Youtube.

'Yacht rap' is a term that I made up first.

It's rap music for yachting.

Before we can get into the specifics of such a rap, let us turn to its rock precursor, that we might hear and listen closely to the essence of yacht rock, as if for the first time. When we do, what we hear, regardless of instrumentation, composition, and so on, is universal smoothness.

What is this smoothness?

"In part, the term [yacht rock] relates to the stereotype of the yuppie yacht owner, enjoying champagne and smooth music while out for a sail." [Wikipedia].

As the wikipedia entry figures it, this smoothness is concerned with a certain drifting, peaceably inebriated state of mind. A gently woozy, contemplative looseness.

in his poem 'Remembrance' Friedrich Hoelderlin figures this smoothness in this way:

"There, on feastdays / Brown women walk / the silky ground / toward March / When night and day are equal / and down leisurely paths / heavy with golden dreams / Drift lulling breezes. But someone reach me / A fragrant cupful of dark light / that I might rest; it would be sweet / to drowse in the shade..."

The impact of Jean-Jacques Rousseau on Hoelderlin's poetry has often been noted, and it is clearly present here. We can say that Rousseau is the first yacht rocker. Were Rousseau to have had a stereo on the boat where he lay in the middle of Lake Brenne, he would clearly have been listening to Loggins & Messina. Or possibly, Steely Dan's magnum opus Aja.

the source of happiness for Rousseau in these days is an engagement with doing nothing, far niente, as he says in Italian. This doing nothing is bound up with a smooth satisfaction, a cessation of desire which is also the desire for the present moment to "last forever, beyond the flux of time and change, yet not in stagnation or lethargy" because "an absolute silence leads to sadness."

We can see how Rousseau's fifth Reverie permeates most of yacht rock, which is from a sonic point of view largely about satisfaction, satiation, and plenitude.

And doesn't the image of listening to Steely Dan on a yacht while drinking champagne a kind of ideal counterpoint to Rousseau's desire for a moment to last forever, but not in stagnation, that is, while sailing?

The difference in yacht rap is its transformation of smoothness. Instead of going out on the lake in a small boat to be alone with one's 'eyes turned toward heaven', yacht rap is about the smooth, smooth party; ostentatious displays, guiltless hedonism, fortune-fueled indulgence.

Jay Gatsby listens to yacht rap.

It is a celebration of success, and in a certain way is only possible now that rap is no longer strictly the aesthetic territory for poor inner-city kids but for millionaire entrepreneurs, who have diversified into clothing lines, shoes, ringtones.

In a sense, the rap-mogul has found a way around the dissolution of the music industry in the digital era. Your rap song is now merely your calling card - it is part of your CV, your demo reel, your brand. You can give away the song for free and still make a profit - not only still make a profit, but in order to make one.

The 'yuppie yacht owner' makes use of yacht rock to stage his moderate dose of woozy reverie, which maintains an exceptional status in relation to the rest of his life. The yuppie stages a double game - the scene on his boat with his smooth jams is about the smugness of middle-age success but it is also an expression of the romantic inner desire to leave it all behind. Fernweh, the Germans call it, 'Far-sickness', as opposed to Heimweh, 'home-sickness'. Yacht rap is never about 'getting away from it all', rather it is the sheer apotheosis of the desire to have 'it all'.


and includes
Cam'ron - Weekend Girl
Kanye West - Champion
The Re-Up Gang - Hate it or Love it
Child Rebel Soldiers - Us Placers
Twista - Chocolate Fe's and Redbones
Weekend Prince - On the Grift
Jay-Z - Party Life
Pharrell ft. Jay-Z - Frontin
Jay-Z - Excuse Me Miss


Only the track by Child Rebel Soldiers,(from Kanye's last mixtape) with its Thom Yorke sample, approaches the kind of darker, melancholic yacht rock which finds its apotheosis in 'The Lee Shore", by Crosby, Stills and Nash.


1 comment:

kk said...