Murmurs 1: Wiley = Kylie

As usual I’m probably the last person on earth to hear the MP3 that’s floating around of Lethal B dissing Wiley over ‘Can’t Get You Out of My Head’ (“merk him with his own rhythm”). Needless to say it sounds fantastic, high NRG pop turning out to be just as appropriate a backing for the attention-deficit hyper-velocity schoolyard slang-slinging as anything more, ahem, grimey. Probably best heard in the context of this revealing interview in which Lethal stresses “the beef is real but professional still”. The whole point of the slur associating Wiley with Kylie is an attack made on ‘rockist’ grounds — “I’m an artist, you’re just a rave MC”. But the ultra-kinetic aesthetic of the track, the possibility of hearing the backing track as something other than dissonance, interposes to suggest that a ‘real’ grudge is always going to depend on its ‘professional’ context… “it’s all hype, we’re both business men”. I understand ‘pop’ to be the something like the principle of publicity which makes possible the release of a signal in the first place. The attempt to keep it real is always the necessary step to restrict or define the ‘proper’ communication of the signal, to separate it from the background noise: just as essential if I want to put my point across effectively to a reader as if I want to sell certain types of record to a particular audience. There’s no question of doing without the real, just as there’s no such thing as pure ‘pop’, no unmediated listening. But just as the signal can always be just noise if we’re not willing or able to hear it, so the reality effect will always be an epiphenomenon of the energies which make it possible but against which it has to fight for its survival. To hear Lethal’s tracks as pop, as more Kylie than Wiley, is not to reject their ‘contexts’ but to expose a more fundamental communicative ‘ground’ (exposure, errancy), but one which disperses the possibility of ranking one signal as more fundamental (‘realer’) than another.