Lil Dicky Is Making A Career Out Of Being Charismatic And Problematic In Equal Measure

It takes actual expertise to create a track based mostly on the premise that Chris Brown is the person and find yourself with one thing likable. For three minutes and 36 seconds — or 5:21 when you’re watching the music video, as greater than 57 million folks have thus far — that’s the phantasm “Freaky Friday” efficiently sells. The monitor, which simply debuted at #9 on Billboard’s Hot 100 singles chart, is humorous, catchy, and contagiously enjoyable, at the least till you cease to consider it.

In the 2 weeks since its launch, “Freaky Friday” has develop into the largest hit by far for Lil Dicky, the white comedy rapper born David Andrew Burd. The track has a gold-plated hook sung by Brown and impeccable if unremarkable pop-rap manufacturing from a group together with DJ Mustard, however what has rocketed it to recognition is the joke that performs out in its lyrics and onscreen in its video: Dicky wakes as much as uncover he’s switched our bodies with Brown (therefore the movie-referencing title) and immediately relishes the advantages of his new identification. He marvels at his tattoos and dancing skill. He FaceTimes Kanye West, blubbering like a fanboy. He gasps at his quick access to fancy automobiles and exquisite ladies. He gleefully and repeatedly indulges his newfound liberty to say the N-word.

The gag right here is that Brown himself is singing in character as Dicky in Brown’s physique, so the white Jewish man from the Philadelphia suburbs isn’t really dropping N-bombs. He will get to have his cake and eat it too. When the second verse rolls round, Brown wakes up in Dicky’s physique and grumbles about his small penis (in case you didn’t catch the punchline embedded within the rapper’s stage identify) earlier than embracing the advantages of relative anonymity: He can stroll down the road in peace, unburdened by paparazzi. He’s a Blood, however he can safely put on blue. He doesn’t should put up with racism or the antipathy that stems from his “controversial past.”

This all involves a head when Brown, fed up with Dicky’s life and alarmed to find his cock is trending on Twitter, tracks down Dicky and confronts him. Things virtually devolve into violence earlier than Dicky reminds Brown that by attacking, he’d solely be hurting himself, initiating the epiphany that switches them again: “I love myself!” It’s a 21st-century parable, you see? This being a Lil Dicky track, although, the blissful ending is preempted by a couple of extra rapid-fire body-swaps for the sake of low-cost laughs: Now Dicky is Ed Sheeran, and it’s sort of lame! Now he’s DJ Khaled, and why is he shouting a lot?! Now he’s Kendall Jenner, and it’s time to discover the feminine anatomy!

“Freaky Friday” is executed with crisp professionalism. Both musically and comedically, the beats are on-point. In the video, Brown excels at portraying a jubilant Dicky inhabiting his physique; he smiles so broadly and emphatically that it’s onerous to not smile again. The efficiency is a reminder of how magnetic the man was at first went bitter and he dug right into a villainous persona quite than try some sort of turnaround. As it stands, although, he’s nonetheless the one who was charged with battery for assaulting Rihanna in 2009 and has continued to perpetrate violence in opposition to ladies ever since with out a lot signal of regret, who simply final yr was hit with a restraining order by ex-girlfriend Karrueche Tran. So making him the hero of a lighthearted hip-hop romp doesn’t sit tremendous properly with me.

Five years in the past I printed an essay targeted on Brown and Surfer Blood’s John Paul Pitts, exploring the age-old query of how one can take care of artwork by disreputable characters. My perspective on the matter has modified since then. I nonetheless consider that whether or not to proceed having fun with music by alleged perpetrators is a private choice everybody should deliver earlier than their very own conscience. What’s totally different now could be my very own calculus concerning the query.

Back then my place may very well be summed up like so: (a) Let he who’s with out sin forged the primary stone, and (b) if the track is nice sufficient, I’ll bump it regardless of who made it. That was an sincere reflection of each my theology and my listening habits, however I’ve come to see the latter level as a copout. I nonetheless assume a godless society like ours is ill-equipped to attract the road about what constitutes unforgivable immoral habits, and the traditional knowledge that takes maintain about who and what’s unacceptable nonetheless feels extremely selective to me. Yet my very own conscience about Brown and different abusers of ladies has grown much more delicate through the years. Especially after watching so many males (together with our personal president) escape penalties for these sorts of actions, it feels proper to carry presumed perpetrators accountable in no matter small, private means I can, even when it’s simply by denying them a couple of streams.

This conviction feels notably pressing on per week when the man with the #1 album in America stands accused of beating up a pregnant girl and intimidating his ex-girlfriend to stop her from testifying in opposition to him, and who appears, um, quite untroubled by home violence. Only God can decide, however within the meantime it’s as much as each particular person to push again in opposition to odious habits as they see match. Redemption, it appears, ought to require some sort of repentance. And if I may give up a musical genius like R. Kelly on the idea of disturbing proof in opposition to him, you higher consider I may give up Chris Brown.

This is the place appreciating Lil Dicky will get a bit of sticky. As far as I do know, his solely crime is being distasteful, typically charismatically and in methods so refined they barely register on the social media outrage meter. Yet so lots of his jokes rely upon frat-boy stereotypes that shouldn’t fly anymore in a tradition that’s more and more waking as much as the damaging results of prejudice. He is expert sufficient to cope with the Lonely Island, however he carries himself like an Adam Sandler for the Chainsmokers period.

I’d name Dicky’s dealing with of race clumsy if he wasn’t so deftly strategic about it. He initiatives an air of self-awareness and sometimes makes himself the butt of the joke. His 2015 debut album Professional Rapper options black celebrities together with Hannibal Buress, T-Pain, and Snoop Dogg, who trades strains with Dicky on the title monitor in a mock job interview, scoffing on the rich white boy’s suggestion that he struggled by “a different kind of trap.” (Snoop counsels, “If you wanna do this, then you won’t get far acting like a little bitch,” to which Dicky replies, “Nah, that’s my niche!”) The monitor makes an attempt to spin racial and sophistication disparity into comedy in painstakingly delicate style, a much less unbearable cousin to Macklemore’s “White Privilege II.”

Then comes the epilogue, during which Snoop’s assistant Juanita presents to offer Dicky some complimentary fellatio. It’s as if the man has grown exhausted from nimbly navigating a minefield and has opted to simply flop backward onto a bomb and get it over with. Elsewhere on the album he particulars his many petty authorized infractions — together with sneaking snacks right into a movie show, filling his water cup with Coca-Cola, and torrenting music utilizing different folks’s WiFi — as a means of reinforcing simply how a lot of a hard-ass he’s not. The joke is mainly that Dicky is a legal, however not like these gangster rappers. This could be uncomfortable sufficient if he left the racial subtext unstated, and it’s extraordinarily uncomfortable for the reason that track known as “White Crime.”

Or contemplate Dicky’s breakout hit “Save Dat Money,” that includes Fetty Wap and Rich Homie Quan. That’s the one the place he celebrates his personal thriftiness and, within the video, makes an attempt to acquire all of the hallmarks of a historically luxuriant rap video at no cost. In a New York Times piece I referenced a couple of weeks again whereas reckoning with pop radio’s love of white rappers, Jon Caramanica known as the “Save Dat Money” video “tricky, borderline-offensive stuff: He’s borrowing the excess the genre specializes in, trying it on, then making an argument against its worth while wearing it.”

Riding that borderline is considered one of Dicky’s signature talents, however simply as typically he careens into outright racism or misogyny seeking a punchline. Again, typically this implies sending up himself, however even then it’s onerous to not cringe when the hammer drops: On “Save Dat Money,” his proud allusions to stereotypes about Jews and cash give technique to an outro on which he threatens to go away a Yelp evaluate “like only a kike know how” when you cost him for a refill. There’s an informal rape joke on “Lemme Freak,” the track the place Dicky waxes poetic about his wrestle to acquire intercourse from a lady. Etcetera, etcetera. You get the thought.

“Freaky Friday” presents extra of the identical. The Kendall Jenner gag on the finish brings up queasy questions on consent. In the video, we be taught Dicky and Brown’s physique commerce is the work of a mystical Chinese man. (I notice it is because a mystical Chinese girl swaps Lindsay Lohan and Jamie Lee Curtis within the Freaky Friday film remake, however its perpetuation of magical ethnic characters was questionable then and stays questionable now.) The whole premise of the track is based in tropes about black and Jewish males so deeply ingrained in society that for some folks they quantity to standard knowledge. To high it off, “Freaky Friday” sweeps Brown’s myriad offenses underneath the rug in order to not intrude with the farce. It’s a multitude, however one introduced so cleanly that you just may not discover.

And perhaps that’s simply it. Maybe the tens of hundreds of thousands of people that’ve made “Freaky Friday” a smash hit have been simply oblivious to the track’s offensive qualities. Or perhaps, like the school lacrosse group who went viral singing alongside to the flurry of N-words on the track, they merely don’t care. There’s a lot to be upset about on the planet today that it’s onerous to justify getting labored up a few low-grade nuisance like Lil Dicky. For his half, Dicky appears blissful to have his personal misdeeds drowned out by that overabundance of concern, to proceed making a fortune tenting out within the grey areas and sometimes dipping his toes into one thing darker.

CHART WATCH

Well, that is awkward: The #1 album within the nation is ? by XXXTentacion, a rapper-singer greatest recognized for beating up a pregnant girl amongst different disturbing fees. The album gathered 131,00zero equal album models in its first week, together with 20,00zero in conventional gross sales and what Billboard calls the second-largest streaming week of 2018 (following the opening body of Migos’ Culture II). This success isn’t so shocking provided that XXXTentacion’s earlier album 17 debuted at #2 with 87,00zero models/18,00zero gross sales six months in the past, however nonetheless, once I take into consideration his wild recognition within the face of those fees I really feel like I must take a bathe.

Back as much as #2 is Metallica’s Hardwired… To Self-Destruct with 65,00zero models and 63,00zero in gross sales, largely due to a kind of album/ticket bundle schemes. At Three-Four-5-6 are Black Panther, Logic, Migos, and The Greatest Showman. Country act and American Idol alum Scotty McCreery debuts at #7 with 40,00zero models/34,00zero gross sales for Seasons Change, whereas bookish indie-rockers the Decemberists begin at #9 with 30,00zero models/28,00zero gross sales for I’ll Be Your Girl; each of these releases additionally benefitted from album/ticket bundling. Rounding out the highest 10 are Ed Sheeran at #eight and Post Malone at #10.

Over on the Hot 100, Drake’s “God’s Plan” is #1 for a ninth straight week and, per Billboard, now boasts 9 of the 14 largest streaming weeks of all time regardless of recording its weakest streaming efficiency but. Perhaps extra noteworthy, although, is Bebe Rexha and Florida Georgia Line’s “Meant To Be” rising to a brand new #2 peak and turning into the best-charting track by each artists. It’s additionally the highest-charting nation track since Lady Antebellum’s “Need You Now” went to #2 in 2010.

Ed Sheeran’s “Perfect” and Bruno Mars and Cardi B’s “Finesse” descend to #Three and #Four respectively, whereas #5 (Post Malone and Ty Dolla $ign’s “Psycho”) and #6 (Zedd, Maren Morris, and Grey’s “The Middle”) stay stationary. Then comes the troublesome XXXTentacion once more at #7 with “Sad!” — his first top-10 hit and considered one of seven ? tracks on the Hot 100 this week.

After Camila Cabello and Young Thug’s “Havana” at #eight comes one other problematic new hit, Lil Dicky and Chris Brown’s “Freaky Friday,” at #9 — however you’ve already learn all about that. Rounding out the highest 10 is the Weeknd and Kendrick Lamar’s “Pray For Me” at #10.

POP FIVE

Sam Smith – “Pray” (Feat. Logic)
The moribund gospel ballad “Pray” was butt earlier than, and a pair verses from Logic ain’t gonna cease the remix from being butt. It is likely to be sufficient to land each artists one other top-10 hit, although.

Shawn Mendes – “Lost In Japan”
I wasn’t a lot of a fan of final week’s bland energy ballad “In My Blood,” however this light-weight funk monitor about flying throughout Asia to rendezvous with a lover hits the spot. It’s an train in easy, tasteful, mature grownup up to date pop Justin Timberlake needs Man Of The Woods had extra of.

Charlie Puth – “Change” (Feat. James Taylor)
My important relationship with Puth is contentious at greatest, however it’s onerous to hate on a soft-rock ballad constructed so expertly and introduced with such informal grace that James Taylor himself sounds proper at residence.

MØ – “Nostalgia”
I’m to see if MØ can rating an enormous hit with out the Diplo and/or Major Lazer model hooked up to it. “Nostalgia” might be not it? She does this bizarre spoken-word factor on the verses, and I can’t inform if it’s a legal responsibility or if folks will reply properly to it. The extra melodic sections are alright, particularly the ultimate refrain part minus drums across the 2:45 mark and the next beat drop simply after Three:00. Even if it’s not a success, I recognize how unconventional that is.

Jessie Reyez – “Figures, A Reprise” (Feat. Daniel Caesar)
Two of probably the most promising younger singers in R&B hyperlink up for one thing pretty. Bonus factors for Reyez’s supply on “Tell me, boy, how within the fuck would you’re feeling?

NEWS IN BRIEF

  • Taylor Swift is seemingly releasing one other “Delicate” video on Spotify tonight. (My how occasions have modified.) [Twitter]
  • Shawn Mendes will do a week-long residency at The Late Late Show in June. [Twitter]
  • The worst-behaved musical visitor whereas Bill Hader was on SNL? Justin Bieber, duh. [Vulture]
  • Swedish House Mafia reunited at Ultra Music Festiva, 5 years after their last present on the identical stage. [DJ Mag]
  • Katy Perry did the Witness bonus monitor “Act My Age” on Japanese TV. [YouTube]
  • Zedd scored National Geographic’s new One Strange Rock documentary. [ET]
  • Video time: Pentatonix launched one for his or her cowl of Charlie Puth’s “Attention.” [YouTube]
  • James Bay launched one for “Pink Lemonade.” [YouTube]
  • And 5 Seconds Of Summer launched one for “Want You Back.” [YouTube]
  • Cardi B introduced a contest for faculty college students on Tinder. [Twitter]

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