LANGUID, DOPED-UP, BURNT-OUT, DOWN-BEAT, HAZY, UNHOLY HIP-HOP.
I’ve been to New Orleans, Louisiana (NOLA to the locals) a few times. You won’t find another place on earth with as much variety, quality, and congeniality (especially if you’re on a budget).
A bucket of delicious, soft-boiled crabs goes for a couple of bones, or a dozen succulent oysters for a dollar. Drive-through daiquiri stands abound. Bars open at noon, and you can take your cocktail anywhere to-go, as long as it’s in a plastic cup. Hallowe’en is celebrated at least a handful of times a year (there are a number of themed costume parties). Myriad public festivities are held every weekend, excluding the sporadic shindigs that erupt in the streets of the Marigny, Treme, and French Quarter. Music is omnipresent, like a spirit that hangs in the air, trailing you from a few feet behind. (I swear this isn’t a tourism advertisement for NOLA, but y’all should go).
Sounds too good to be true, don’t it?
As with all clouds and their silver linings, there exists an even slimmer crack of villainy; the possibility of a torrential downpour. I excluded one household name from my list of NOLA-isms, because to me, it represents the flip-side of NOLA’s colourful French Quarter. Bourbon Street (albeit a cornerstone of NOLA history – you should walk down it at least once), is a pimped-out tourist trap, reminiscent of a darker, southern version of Las Vegas, with wanton nudity, lurid inebriety, and subsequent apathy. It’s a strip of laissez-faire smut, a place where you can’t put a high enough price on any kind of amusement.
Mary Gold, a Louisiana native, self-proclaimed nudist, and the “first lady” of Curren$y’s Jet Life label, raps about this seedy underbelly – and, on a grander scale, about deviant human behaviour – in a languid, doped-up, dragged-out, down-beat hip-hop style on her most recent release, Sex Hormon’ed Druggie (Nov. 2013). The realm she constructs through her music – one semi-based on her personal experiences in NOLA, including shootin’ the shit with Poydras Street vagabonds, and hanging out alone on Bourbon – is fraught with hushed invitations to indulge in all things unholy.
Amid drowsy beats, sleezy brass (“Grand Theft” and “Coup De Ville” pay homage to New Orleans jazz and second-line parades), low-pitched vocals, and watered-down samples, Mary Gold’s lyrics echo a simplistic, but ill-fated story. In many cases, such as “Prayer” (very NSFW), “Fukk” (feat. Leaf), “Nephilim”, and “Threesome”, she romanticizes the self-destructive nature of YOLO, where cash and ecstasy – the latter in the forms of powders and lust – flow openly and freely (threesomes in my living room / I just want to get laid). However, flickers of a desire for spiritual redemption (“Mother Mary”) and personal salvation, as well as unsettling juxtapositions (“Miley Cyrus”) will jar you right back to reality: she’s all grown up now / so I can see her perform / I like the way you twerk, girl / twerk it for me.
Sex, drugs, submitting to temptation, and grasping for escape from the vicious cycles of consumption are Mary Gold’s recurring themes, which extend well beyond the geographic boundaries of the Crescent City. Sex Hormon’ed Druggie is a commentary on the overall human condition, namely our dangerous preoccupations with vice and addiction. Pardon the pun, but this record is dope. Keep the lights on while you listen – the devil is at work tonight.