Last post, I started looking at Karpe Diem’s «Attitudeproblem» and teasing out the tensions within the song between art and entertainment. Today, I want to continue that discussion by looking at Chirag’s verse. Along with looking at art and entertainment, I also want to explore how Chirag’s verse comments on complaceny and material comforts, much in the same he questions at the end of «Lett å være rebell i kjellerleiligheten din» when he questions his own desire for comfort and stability in the face of pain and suffering throughout the world.
The beginning of Chirag’s verse reads like a litany mundane activities that people engage in to fit into, specifically, upper class society.
Fortell meg mer om at du skal til svigers, på kaffe og kake
Og snakke saklig, i vaffeljakke
Kan’ke du fortelle enda mer om ferien deres?
Om lille Lotte, som pottetrenes
Tell me more about going to the in-laws, over coffee and cake
And talk factually, in the waffle jacket
Can you tell even more about your holiday?
About little Lotte’s potty training
Here, Chirag raps about engaging in small talk, seemingly at some social even. People want to learn more about the in-laws as they drink coffee and eat cake. They want to hear about recent vacations. They want to hear all about little Lotetes’ potty training.
These topics, discussed amid a formal or informal gathering, do not get to the heart of any personal relationship. They exist as mere formalities, social niceties that most people engage in before they leave and go back to their separate homes at the end of the event. Where is the personal connection? Where is the intimacy? It does not appear. Instead, what arises is a superficiality. Keeping in mind that Chirag’s role as the monkey places him as the entertainer, one who plays the part and makes people laugh.
We can see these first few lines in this light. While he is not making people laugh, he is playing the part of a rich white man, the group that his persona criticizes throughout the album. He plays the part and feels the tensions of wanting to be a part of that group but also shunning it. In the middle of the verse, Chirag raps, «Bro, du kunne fulgt din egen drøm, overført din egen lønn» (“Bro, you could follow your dream, transfer your own salary”). Instead of buying into the wealthy life, playing the part to succeed, Chirag could follow his own dreams and pave his own path, living the life that he wants to live.
However, that doesn’t happen. Instead, Chirag continues:
I steden valgte du en sveis som passer inn på Ernst & Young
Det finnes ingen ønskebrønn, hvordan skal vi ikke le av det
At livet ditt går ut på å finne en å gå på IKEA med
Du pleide å ha personlighet, du pleide være kreativ
Instead, you choose a mold that fits in with Ernst and Young
That your life is about a fine one to go to IKEA with
You used to have personality, you used to be creative
Now you have the collar up and ask Raggen to get a life
Chirag points out that choosing to fit in the Ernst and Young crowd while craving a beautiful partner to go to IKEA with hinders ones ability to become artistic. Instead, one acts out a role, entertaining and becoming just like everyone else, adhering to the same standards, partaking of the same trends, living the same lives. This conformity restricts and hinders.
I am not sure what to make of the final lines with reference to Norwegian hip hop artists OnklP and Ståle Stiil. However, the final line appears to be, according to 93Zlaton on Genius.com, a reference to Karpe Diem performing a free concert for fans 18 and under. The concert costs the band over half a million kroner, and as 93Zlaton points out, they chose to do something for the fans rather than using that money to pay off loans or buy a car, thus fit more comfortably within the upper crust.
Chirag’s playing a role and entertaining comes up in the video for «Attitudeproblem» where he appears as an organ grinder’s monkey, attached by a chain to an organ that the grinder controls. The opening shot shows the grinder getting ready to start the show, then the camera moves to Chirag, as a monkey, rubbing his hands together. As the grinder turns the organ, Chirag dances. On the other side of the room, a woman sits in a chair watching the performance. Her hands are ape like, adding into the metaphor that she is not her own, conforming to a society she wants to be incorporated into.
When Chirag raps the line “You used to have personality, you used to be creative,” the grinder pulls on the chain, momentarily yanking Chirag backwards. This motion underscores the ways that the conformity Chirag raps about stifles ones individuality, causing the person to become a uniformed person, indistinguishable from the surrounding herd. At this point, the man and the woman both smile and clap. Chirag entertains them.
After the second chorus, the song ends with Magdi repeatedly saying, «Jeg er ferdig» (“I’m done”). Along with this, RSP interjects near the end,
«kommentarfeltet går bananas» (“the comment field goes bananas”). What does “I’m done” mean? Does it refer to the group being entertainers and becoming artists? Does it refer to Chirag being done with trying to fit in with the elite? Does it refer to Magdi being done with trying to explain himself? What does it mean? It means all of these things. The key here, as I have been arguing, focuses on art and entertainment. Karpe Diem entertain and produce art, but for me, the art trumps the mere entertainment of the spectacle. They have something to say, and this is what I see in this song.
While critics may view the duo as having an attitude problem, they see themselves as voices against a system that while purporting equality still marginalizes individuals. They see themselves as artists speaking truth to power. This arises when Magdi confronts the pig in the first part of the video and bananas fly at the large animal. This occurs during the interlude before the end of the song with Magdi and Chirag buy bananas (weapons) from a store. (I do not totally know what to make of this scene.)
Yet, the video ends with police, in pig masks, arresting the duo. They surround the car, guns drawn, and the duo get out, hands in the air as helicopter search lights illuminate them. The inability to counter and topple the system through art or entertainment becomes manifest here. While the duo speak back to power, they do not have the ability to change the system. Rather, they become viewed as threats to the system, and thus the system tries to silence them. They get arrested, unable to change anything.
Art serves as a catalyst for change. It exists as a voice for the voiceless. It provides beauty to the downtrodden. It speaks truth to power. Yet, it cannot, alone, change the systems it speaks back to. It cannot provide for everyone. It cannot raise the voiceless of the voiceless to the halls of power. It cannot do these things on its own. It serves as a tool to enact change, but it takes more than just art to create change. Art serves as the kindling, but the fire must arise from elsewhere. That is partly what I see at work in «Attitudeproblem».
Next post, I will look at «Hvit menne som pusher 50» Until then, what are your thoughts? Please let me know in the comments below. Make sure to follow me on Twitter @silaslapham.
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