"I don't wanna be deep on this beat, but I can't fucking let go of what's around me."M.I.A - “Caps Lock”
In the wake of 2014’s traumatic and shameful moments, I find myself going back to the above quote at least once a week. In it I am reminded of how living out the #StayWoke mantra carries a very specific set of risks and how one should always be careful. Engaging with the truth and remaining unscathed is a challenge that not all accomplish. Eventually those vicarious experiences, wherein injustice and oppression are relived again and again, start to take their toll.
Last year offered seemingly endless moments to relive tragedy. Those that were privileged enough to turn a blind eye often rejected causes linked to those suffering or flat out demonized them (#BlackLivesMatter, #BrownLivesMatter); or even worse, still, they embraced a pastiche version (#JeSuisCharlie, French for #OnlyWhiteLivesMatter). I don't bring up these cases as a way to blindly preach how things now are worse than at any other point in history. Nihil sub sole novum, or better yet, nihil in interreti novum. But the truth is trauma distorts reality. It makes things appear hopeless and leaves with it a pain that becomes so ingrained one cannot imagine a world without it.
Tony Gallardo II first leaked his latest track (days before its official NYLON premier) with an image of him carrying his own child. At this sight I immediately became overwhelmed which only got worse upon confronting the lyrics (“Luchamos por la idiotez, de ser humanos y vivir / Discriminamos por color, mentes cerradas en estupor”). While most everything attached to María y José/Tony Gallardo II is imbued with irony and cynicism, one cannot dismiss the call to arms found on “Juventud Guerrera.” It is one that still holds frustration and disgust towards a system that allows Michael Browns and Eric Garners to be continually repeated. It is a voice that cares about not just 43 but 30,000 missing in Mexico since 2012 and 250,000 dead since 2006. More importantly, it so badly wants the future to be different.
As the vocal narrative in “Juventud Guerrera” mirrors the cry of #YaMeCansé, the music thrives by submerging itself in eighties decadence. Synths take cues from Polymarchs Vs Patrick Miller techno, the beats are glittery and vibrant. Motorcycle engines are not just signifiers of nostalgia, but of passion and purpose. Then comes that pause- a moment of hesitation. How to keep on when “Sigues igual de infeliz, la victoria nunca llegó” The answer comes with a howl: JUVENTUD GUERRERA. Unleashed over and over again with the same raw urgency that MJ once gave us on "Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough." Noting how the internet’s ruined all uses of the superlative, i’ll just add this: You crazy for this one, Tony.