The world is steeped in otherness. I remember, aged 17, learning about esoteric literary theory in school and Frenchman Roland Barthes’ concept of how the ‘other’ necessarily defines what it stands in opposition to. It all seemed rather quaint; deeply complex but simple enough to derive into a couple of sentences in an essay to make it seem like you had a grasp on it all. Now, seemingly, everything has changed. The concept of the ‘other’ remains as intellectually fraught as ever, but it’s practical application has complicated things more than 17 year-old me could have ever contemplated. In a political and social climate defined by difference perhaps more than at any other time, the Other is making a huge comeback.
While we haven’t (and I don’t intend to here) spilled ink on the Donald Trump phenomenon, there is no doubting that the sort of divisive rhetoric that he champions has Others all around the world ready and raring for a fight. Perhaps the most fruitful outlet for the frustration felt by marginalized minorities is in artistic pursuits; more heavily trafficked and widely accepted than ever, maybe as a sort of soft power ‘fuck you’ to the establishment. An exhibition at New York’s International Center for Photography, which incorporated the work of LGBT visual artists carried exactly that message, and reintroduced me to Young M.A.
It’s kind of impossible to not have heard the Brooklyn local’s breakthrough hit ‘OOOUUU’ by now, especially in the city that birthed it, but the biography and video that came with it at the Center changed the way I listened to it. You could be forgiven for thinking the track was helmed by a male rapper – Young M.A.’s style has been likened to Bobby Shmurda’s particularly – but while she might exploit some of the codes and conventions of the genre, she turns it on its head by substituting typical male braggadocio for the female equivalent. This is the kind of alchemy that is going to move culture forward, even while some parts of our society seem to regress; an enthusiastic commitment to subversion. That ‘OOOUUU’ sound? That’s the Other celebrating, knowing retribution is close.
Young M.A. – OOOUUU