Sep. 26, 2012 - Issue #884: Strangelove
A Viper in the Mind
Help presents a man at war with his own mind. Clad all in black, a balaclava and (the one-colour-exception) blue surgical gloves, he raps about his bleak state, songs about entropy and hearing voices and being unable to cope with neither the visions presented nor the reality of the world around you.
He's also a mental construction of someone else: a somewhat left-turn piece of output from Old Ugly's head honcho Joe Gurba, Help is an album/project/persona that's less a cry in the dark than an illumination of the same, using rap as the torchlight—not typical subject matter for a genre most associated with swagger and bravado.
"I had an idea for a mix tape that was all about how the mind behaves under the influence of hard drugs." Gurba says, of Help's origins.
While on tour with Doug Hoyer, Gurba started reading Freud and realized that his mix tape ideas overlapped with symptoms of certain psychopathys. So he widened his scope, dug into psychology, and started pulling in philosophy and sociology, the Science of Self, and "Epistemology as redefined by our discoveries in neurology," he adds, clarifying, "So, how the world is, and how it's perceived.
"At the end of the day, Help turned into a study in someone who's schitzophrenic, which means ... your defense mechanisms worked so well that you've actually destroyed the world entirely, and you've rebuilt a new world," Gurba explains. "Because the world as you knew it could not be coped with. So what you have then there is the perfect character for what I really want to talk about. Which is, 'What is the self if you disconnect it from society?"
Heady stuff, but something the album, Viper in the Mind, looks to delve into with the face-first confidence of rap's more regular offerings. From the guy who once wrote an ode to the shitty drunken atmosphere of K-Days comes a vivid and bleak examination of a mind in a downward spiral, and the songs released thus far seem dark but eloquent, their ideas and concepts tumbling out of Gurba's mouth over an entropic, chilly spread of samples.
Gurba points out certain complexities that came with exploring such an idea: rapping very academic concepts without coming across stiffly, for one, and then moulding those ideas further to fit snug among rap's more aggressive tendencies, which Gurba notes he's come to embrace moreso than he has in the past. In its present state, he compares Help to literature, or a piece of theatre.
"It's not that the character is supposed to be taken to be my views of the world," Gurba says. "It's that the character is a study in what your views of the world would be should you be divided from society. Untethered. You'd float away like a balloon, you know?"
Tue, Oct 2 (8:30 pm)
With Philip Dickau, Pigeon Breeders, Short Story & Poem readings
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