ghoul n. (in Oriental stories) a spirit which robs graves and devours corpses.

Today’s pop world seems to be in large part about “devouring corpses.” Some argue that this has always been the case in the pop world: rock ‘n roll legends like Led Zep and the Stones building their empires on the backs of stolen licks from bluesmen who never saw a nickel for their creative efforts, or hip hop’s sampling culture allowing for (at its extremes)more or less re-doing some else’s song and calling it yr own. But let’s cut through that shit and admit that nothing exists without influences, so those who follow in the wake of others should not be faulted for their lack of true or total originality. Other similar, and death-consumption-related phenomena are the Pale Twins “comeback” and the inability of way-past-their-prime bands to give up the ghost. Fleetwood Mac and Jane’s Addiction fit in the former category, while the Rolling Stones and (until Jerry Garcia died a few years back) the Grateful Dead fit in the latter.

necrophilia n. an abnormal, usually erotic, fascination with corpses.

I’m referring to a more direct and disturbing form of defiling the dead. Look around you: 2Pac, dead more than a year, releases a new double album; Biggie Smalls, dead for the greater part of this year, raps on currently charted hip pop hits and is voted SPIN’s “Artist of the Year.” Puff Daddy’s reign of overexposure and aesthetic vacancy over the rap world can be traced directly back to the corpulent gangsta’s violent death, and the “tributes” that followed (containing the now martyred rapper’s voice --for cash-in value-- and steadily increasing amounts of his producer’s flaccid, elementary flow-- to usher in Puffy’s musical career). I would not be at all surprised if “PD” had a hand in the murder of BIG. If “death is the best career move,” as many people suggested after the demise, and subsequent record sales resurgence, of Kurt Cobain (and Shannon Hoon and Brad Nowell and...), this death boosted the dead man’s career and launched Combs’, like 2 birds w/ 1 stone. And if, as PD has said, he would trade his recording career and success for the continued life of BIG (that very assertion suggesting that he may have made the trade in the opposite direction to begin with), I for one wish he could.

cannibal n. a human who eats human flesh.

Unfortunately, this direct feeding upon the musical meat of the dead, using the sentimentality inherent to such a work to ring up $ale$ figures, is not uncommon nowadays. I can but catalogue examples, you figure out whether they were the right (or artistically honest) things to do: Natalie Cole duetting w/ her dead father; Bone Thugs N Harmony putting Eazy E’s “ghost” in the video for their only real hit single; Courtney Love traipsing a tow-headed moppet obviously evocative of Kurt Cobain around the video for a song that was probably about Kurt, and if not written by the man himself as rumored, at least sounded like it was about his death; McCartney/ Harrison/ Starr masturbating all over tapes that John Lennon has intended to be solo material and calling it a Beatles reunion; Death Row and 2Pac’s mother allowing for the posthumous release of two albums and three videos that directly reference his violent death; Puffy’s repeated release of singles from his album featuring “guest appearances” from Biggy in competition w/ singles from the BIG album featuring “guest appearances” by Puffy. At its very crassest, these cannibalistic instincts appeared in the PD wherein Combs, play-acting as a golfer, says he sunk a tough putt w/ assistance from his “man BI in the sky.” I never gave much of a fuck for BIG: his simplistic rhyme-style and monotonous gangsta subject matter made his music repulsive to me. I was sorry he died, but I was hoping the positive upshot would be never hearing a song by him again. Despite this antipathy, I was offended by the “BI” reference in this context. You may argue that any or all of the above are some sort of loving tribute to friends lost. Would that they were. Instead, the purveyors of these acts have removed the dignity necessary for such a tribute and replaced it w/ bald and excessive commercial considerations. Even the horrible “Missing You” song by PD, Faith J Blige & [Boyz]112[Men] (Can’t you come up w/ yr own melody in honor of yr dead loved-one?) ends up being little more than promotion for Puffy. Who cares if he gave the profits to Biggie’s kids? The focus of the whole thing is Puffy’s marble-mouthed rap over Sting’s music, strapped to the meal ticket that is Dead Rock [OK, Rap] Star, getting Sean Combs another hit single.

exploit v.t. to derive unjust profit from the work of another.

So ask yrself: Would I be willing to sell the memory of my lover/ brother/ son/ friend for my greater gain? If yr answer is “No,” maybe you should think again before you feed into someone else’s attempt to do the same. It’s sick. Ultimately, it’s a dishonor to the dead. And it has about as much to do w/ “tribute” as the bloated shopping-mall/ Santa Claus/ Tickle-Me Elmo Christmas has to do with the birth of Jesus Christ: it retains the name, but the spirit is on its way to the bank.
--m bates