Wax Poetics Vol. 57
Not everyone fits in with the mainstream. Some are born to be different. They are misfits, individualists, outsiders, and eccentrics that let their freak flags fly. Yet they have found a way to thrive on their own terms, transcending barriers of categorical concepts and popular expectations.
Janelle Monáe eschews the prosaic biographical trappings in favor of the science fiction of alter-ego android Cindi Mayweather, believing that robots represent an otherness. She is seemingly at odds with current R&B radio, yet she was signed by Diddy and has found crossover success. Jody Watley did not want to be an industry puppet. She broke free, joined forces with like-minded superfreak André Cymone, and established herself as an artist who took control of all aspects of her public persona from songwriting to style. Todd Rundgren embraced all styles. Butterfly-wing eyelashes and feather boas. Rock and roll and rhythm and blues. And he often did everything by himself. Songwriting, playing all the instruments, engineering. He even produced other outcasts like the New York Dolls, and went on to influence countless modern misfits. Souls of Mischief busted out of Oakland with their own style. Surrounded by gritty streets and street players, the rap quartet was instead playful and thoughtful, winning a lifelong audience based on brains, wit, and individuality. Some consider Earl Sweatshirt the weird one of Odd Future. That should tell you something. But in reality, he’s just an outsider, the weight of his intellect making him different than most rappers today. He has a way with words that most poets would kill kings for. He joins the long line of artists that represent the ideal musical other, what true fans long for when wading through depths of mainstream drivel.