April 25, 2021

 

Last Wednesday I put out the video for “hos on my dick ‘cuz I look like a drawing of the Prophet Muhammad.” In the preceding days I oscillated between extreme nervousness and positive excitement. This track was composed and recorded in 2018 as an experiment in a more brash style, and something I never thought would see the light of day.  As I began to work on more rock-influenced music, its irreverence and insane energy seemed like it would be nestled perfectly at the start of a punk record I was composing, especially since I was playing with lyrical themes of controversy and blasphemy in the track listing. 

 

While working on this and other projects, I was getting very tired with being pigeonholed as someone too ambiguous to understand, too multi-entendre-laden to be direct. So I conceived of a way to musically ask, if I were more stupid and brazen and controversial, might more people pay attention to me than when I were subtle and careful?  Is what will be attractive about me to hos-- the rap convention communicating some masculinist desirability-- the very essence of controversy? How could I appropriate outrage to actually trudge through new understandings? So when it came time reveal this song, I shared the distinction that I thought was important to make regarding my intention with the title: 

 

I am neither advocating for the depiction of the Prophet, nor am I saying people need to not be offended by a suggestion of blasphemy. Rather, as the first track on a project that tries to interrogate this detestable age and era of shock and outrage and controversy, it seemed a fitting thesis to say I personify the act of blasphemy— a certain kind which is so inexpressible, that to even thread that needle of nuance is inadvisable. That is, to question the limits of what could be considered blasphemy itself, by suggesting someone could personify the abstract idea of something so untouchable without actually committing the act (with a Lil B allusion to boot).

 

In the days since, the few detractors that (mostly privately) brought up misgivings reminded me of the multiple pauses I had when considering putting this out (holding up the whole album several times). Even though on the album’s following tracks I call the pope “an unrepentant rapist” and then Israeli birthright a colonialist privilege, what gave me permission to immediately think the most shocking thing could be one of the most Haram provisions in the Quran? I knew it semi-consciously before putting the record out, and now I think the real question is rightfully foregrounded:

 

With my Western, American, and non-muslim perspective and positionality, why was this the specific reference I sought in my efforts to abstract and personify the limits of blasphemy / the untouchable? Could there have been a way to abstract the title further to really actually communicate the nuance? As in, is it not my place to even suggest that one can abstract both the sacred and sacrilegious when religion and culture and sociopolitical strata are so intertwined in our world? 


This reminds me of reading The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins, six years ago, and my critique of his whole position about moderate religious people enabling radical fundamentalists (of whatever religion). He argues that their usage of ancient texts and traditions allow the door to be open for ways of life and ideologies that have no place in a modern world. In that, I take umbrage with his white British, stuffy ivory tower postmodern self and position: meaning, he is able to divorce culture from religion and the sociopolitical, imperialist relations that govern many people’s— notably, muslim people’s— identities and cultural connections. People cannot just throw out the proverbial baby with the bathwater and still have integrated senses of identity, legacy, and history. Assimilation, or what he would argue as some kind of modernization, demands an erasure, and that only truly benefits the imperialist’s interests. 

 

Still, I think to remove this video would be to go against these questions I would like to propose, though I recognize they might not be mine to ask. I would like to believe the nuance in my song’s title bears reifying, especially because it is so sensitive. I do acknowledge the nature of power relations and privilege that might govern or be perceived to govern my playing with the lines of blasphemy. Non-muslims, like myself, can try to “start conversations,” but who bears the brunt of the theoretical jousting, who gets saddled with the collateral damage of being abstracted to prove a point?  

 

I hope with these clarifications and elucidations I may hope to earn a bit of good faith from those who might think me reckless. Please do not hesitate to problematize my words in response. I am sorry if the pretenses of my explorations and inquiries caused anyone to feel unsafe, angry, or confused, and if this still doesn’t feel like enough. And I'm sorry if this conciliatory tone doesn't come across as punk enough (lol, fuck you).

 

With concern,

 

Rhys Langston

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