Monday, August 10, 2015

Dean Blunt | Cîroc Boyz

Dean Blunt
Cîroc Boyz
Rome, Italy: Nero, 2015
60 pp., 13 x 21 cm., softcover
Edition of 500

Dean Blunt was half of the now-defunct experimental duo Hype Williams (not to be confused with the music video director of the same name) and has subsequently released several solo records, including last year's celebrated Black Metal, released by Rough Trade Records. His genre-defying music (a term I use very sparingly) is typically loop-based, employing unlikely samples, including large sections of songs by The Pastels, Big Star, Kate Bush, etc.

In lieu of an album release party for Black Metal, Blunt participated in the literary festival "Off The Page" at the Arnolfini Contemporary Art Centre in Bristol. He had his bodyguard read a prepared text, which included a list of "Excuses When Your Album Flops":

“My album was under shipped.”
“My album leaked.”
“I made this album for myself.”
“My label failed to properly promote my album to an urban demographic.”
“My fans don’t want to hear me grow musically.”
“My album will gradually sell more over time.”
“My album was only sold by select retailers.”
“My album wasn’t as good as the last one”
“My fans aren’t supporting me at SoundScan.”
“I don’t care about record sales."

Earlier this year he won The Philip Hall Radar prize recognizing promising newcomers, at the NME Awards. As if anticipating bewilderment, presenter Jarvis Cocker asked the room: "What does NME stand for? Needy middle-aged ego? Nice most elephant? No, it actually stands for New Musical Express. You don't want the same old, same old, do you? We need people pushing the envelope. I first became aware of this person doing my radio show on 6 Music. It didn't sound like anything I'd ever heard of before. It makes me very proud to award the Philip Hall Radar Award to Dean Blunt."

Blunt didn't show up to collect the prize, but also didn't alert the show's producers that he was sending someone in his stead. The NME website and various photographs they distributed to the press misidentified his representative as the artist himself.

Blunt continues the obfuscation in interviews, making it difficult to know when he's speaking candidly and when he's taking the piss. Was he really caught robbing raccoons from taxidermists? Is it true that he only listens to one record, over and over again, the way "Steve Jobs always wore that same polo neck"? Is the album in question really (What's the Story) Morning Glory by Oasis?

An exhibition titled New Paintings at [SPACE] Studios in London last fall consisted of all black canvases adorned with the logo for Evisu, a Japanese clothing designer often mentioned in hip-hop songs (Jay-Z, Lil Wayne, etc). The press release reportedly read: "The good die young, ball in heaven".

Similarly, Blunt's name doesn't appear on the front or back cover of Cîroc Boyz (and the spine is blank), only on the final colophon page, alongside the phrase "Peace to the Gods". His bio on the publisher's website simply reads "Dean Blunt lives and works in London and Harlem."

Subtitled Volume 1, the slim artist book is named after another product signifying luxury in hip-hop. Cîroc Vodka was struggling to sell 40,000 cases a year until 2007, when Sean "Diddy" Combs became a brand ambassador. Jokingly referring to himself as "Cîroc Obama," Combs has driven sales past the two million mark, helping the company to become the second best selling "ultra premium vodka" in the world. The term Cîroc Boy has come to mean a hip-hop artist who uses his or her platform to promote liquor brands.

The title consists of twenty-eight scans of VIP room receipts. They range in total from high ($1289.60 at New York's Hakkasan) to staggeringly high ($189375.98 at Tryst in Las Vegas). According to two stories at (here and here), the book is loosely related to a series of performances in galleries and nightclubs, which included "among other things, men in Cîroc shirts walking around as Blunt played a DVD of comedian Kevin Hart".

Cîroc Boyz is available from the publisher, here.

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