Song: Casey and B James vs Zone Libre, “Aiguise moi ÇA.”
Written and recorded by Edwin Hill
Listeners and Listenesses. You’re about to hear the battle of the century. It opposes the whole freakin’ world against…Zone Libre, Casey, and B James. HA! That’s right. First blow, did you feel it? The French West Indian rapper Casey and her crew of rap artists and rock musicians are about to rip….your…face…off… Huh!
Listen to that voice…. That “Pah!” is the growl of Casey on “Aiguise-moi ÇA” (Sharpen me THIS), the last track of the 2011 album Les Contes du chaos [Tales of Chaos]. That cut throat is what the track is all about. It’s about “facing the dropping quality of discs and assholes with no talent who just sit and calculate the risks.” It’s about being ferocious and voracious, getting fed up and going off. It’s about caressing fools with a “foot to the thorax.” It’s about razors, flame-throwers, and nails; it’s about going medieval, animal, and monstrous; and it’s about you: you losing your face your body your throat your stuff, to her and her crew while they rip and shred “you” to pieces.
With these self-proclaimed musical hooligans, Paris isn’t a City of Lights, it’s a City of Fights, or better yet a Series of Fights, battles in the dark “zones” in France–the ones that like to set things off every now and again.
Et s’ils ont croisé dans le bordel leurs deux musiques entre elles
Gros batard de guitare et de cité dortoire
C’est qu’ils adorent bien s’occuper de leur clientèle,
So come, give your throat so they can sharpen their scalpels.
“Sharpen me THIS” calls for occasions like “you” to continue its gestures of critical cutting and invective intervening. Dig into the skin of this thick groove, or let it cut through you. Get scared, or just get pissed. It’s okay. It’s good to rage sometimes! It’s the only way you’re making it through the zone. Now, don’t get it twisted; the way these niggas in Paris go gorillas (huh?) and mark their path to the bottom ain’t like Jay-Z and Kanye’s ego trip to the top. Then again, in both cases, “the zone” is a space of masculine dominance where someone is “Liable to go Michael, take your pick, Jackson, Tyson, Jordon…” Well you know the rest. But that’s just it; Casey’s vocal breakdown disrupts the same old script of generic dominance.
For Casey and the lot, it’s not about just getting off on you and your stuff and your city, it’s about them dragging you to their dark place where you can get your body and your face cut up and destroyed in a critical knife fight.
And if they crossed in a whore house two musical styles from hell
Fat guitars rockin rap right through the projects
It’s because they adore taking care of their clientèle
So come, donne ta gorge qu’ils aiguisent leur scalpels.
Listen. I know you’re scarred and scared. Me too. This is confusing. This isn’t sound of Parisian vacation you wanted. You’d always thought French was such a pretty language. You were thinking more “J’ai deux amours” and Paris Je t’aime. You wanted a little candle lit ratatouille with Amélie, oui oui? Mais non. Ah well, c’est la vie. That’s just the way it goes. That’s right. That’s not the trip to Paris you’re in for. But don’t worry about it. [French accent:] It’s okay! Like Michael said, “You are not alone. I am here with you.” But you and Michael are not the only ones gettin’ cut up in the mix. Casey, aka the Beast, aka the Creature of Failure, is in that dark place with you too!
For Casey, la musique c’est le Sweetest Tabou. “une haine saine que elle assène sur le papier” (a healthy hate she punches on the page). She spits a beastly rage as a refusal to submit to raced and gendered conditions of recognition that function within liberal discourses of civility and humanism. She’ll find her own conditions for embodiment (off you, thank you very much). The cover art for Libérez la bête gives an iconography of this monstrous performance strategy. The image is fragmented by a collage, but also by what looks like broken glass from the picture frame itself; the whole thing seems splattered with blood. Violence has been done to the form in the image and to the form of the image. The “scene of subjection” has had problems of containment and contamination. For Casey breaking down what it means to be black or woman or French are key. In other words, you can’t see this black female masculinity…
Well, here we are. The break. This is the zone. This is where you find yourself now, not just in the cut, you’re facing the cut, your face is the cut, the blind spot, the rupture, the breach. People are about to no longer recognize you. Unconventional practices of reading and writing are about to cut you up beyond all social recognition.
As Audre Lorde says, “The image is fire.” You can’t see Casey’s masculine voice, so let me break it down for you like she does. As she explains in an interview, now she knows how to se péter la voix, to blow up her voice. She uses the challenge of live performance with rock musicians as an occasion to break down the voice while simultaneously pushing her sound to new level of intensity. What I’m saying is this black beast rocks your ever-loving world.
And this is it. Shout out to Jose Muñoz, he said there’d be people “choreograph[ing] and execut[ing] their own metaphoric dances in front of the flaming black lagoon, stamping out fires with grace […] building worlds,” so we all knew it would end like this.
This is the part where you get tore up.
Broken down like voilà.
Now, for “you,” listeners and listenesses, I’m afraid it’s game over.
Or is it game on…?