“Milkshake with them crushed up Oreos!” Swedish cloud rapper Yung Lean spits on the track “OreoMilkshake.” From an outsider’s perspective, Yung Lean might seem like the male counterpart of your basic “basic bitch” – just another kid dousing his problems in sugary beverages, a hopeless product of consumer culture. Basic.
Truth is, Yung Lean is totally basic. His listless flow and mindless lyrical content encompass everything derogatory about the adjective. However, Yung Lean is also complex – his music is so devoid of meaning yet so genuine that it’s as if he blocks all mental functioning beyond the brain stem and then turns it into high art. Just listen to the track “Lightsaber,” where he raps “Why do I gotta be alive / I ain’t ‘bout the life.” Never before has a lyric said so little yet so much.
Basic is beautiful. Why wouldn’t it be? To make the cashier at Starbucks wait a full minute before you look up from your iPhone to order a Pumpkin Spice Latte (#PSL) is to fully embrace what it means to be a human in America in the 21st Century. To opt out of human contact whilst scrolling through Facebook is to be evolutionarily fit. After all, the times are changing, and our experience of reality is only going to be more within the digital medium – might as well get with the program.
Of course, with change comes resistance. “Old souls” lament the so-called disconnect we experience from social media. Parents scoff at the new generation that processes life with an earbud in one ear. Most of all, our own peers toss the term “basic” – most strongly associated with the Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte – at anyone who embraces 2014 so thoroughly they find it unsettling. Like Miley Cyrus at the 2013 VMA’s, basics are the fearless revolutionaries who we confuse for the complacent fools. Basics remind us so strongly of our neo-primal, gratification-seeking selves it’s terrifying – like the truth. Basics are Kim Kardashian and Kanye West in the “Bound 2” music video, Janet Jackson when she stripped at the Super Bowl in 2004, Katy Perry when she sang “I kissed a girl/ and I liked it” in 2007. Basics are the bearers of everything we can’t bear and yet simultaneously demand – they are the future.
Life’s too short to take stock in what other people think. In the big picture, up is down, left is right, and black is white. The things we need most are the things we neglect the most, while the snare of evil has a way of masquerading as our closest friend. In the end, it’s hard to say where Facebook and the Pumpkin Spice Latte fall on this spectrum in an existence that’s infinitely small yet infinitely large. However, it’s okay because in the end all things happen and all things don’t. So let’s just live.