Poetic Injustice: A Marxist Critique of Full Extreme

In 2008/9, SALISES hosted “Is Calypso Dying?” forum at the University of the West Indies, St. Augustine Campus. Panelists included Singing Francine, Elizabeth Montano, Brother Resistance and Dr. Louis Regis. Dr. Regis’ contributions stimulated the most responses in his assertion that soca music did not explicitly express a political consciousness as calypso music had. Citing few and more prominent examples such as Bunji Garlin, Dr. Regis angered the audience in what appeared to be his writing off of soca music. To this day, he remembers the heated environment he helped create at that panel discussion. I disagreed with him then and now. His analysis was not ‘wrong’; an interpretation of soca through the literary canon of calypso blinds anyone from a number of its political statements. In 2017, ‘Busss Head’, ‘Take It Down’, ‘Far From Finished’ and others highlight the capacity of artistes to weigh in to current social and political mattes in their own way. In this vein, ‘Full Extreme’ by the Ultimate Rejects shows that soca music is a critical site of ideological contestation and circulation that describe our society. From the dispossession of youth and alienation of the majority population, ‘Full Extreme’ is an escapist call in Carnival that reflects our contemporary mood of political disconnection and nihilism.

 

The story of the song is simple: the Ultimate Rejects are clearing the way to celebrate carnival with high spirits as a new force in Trinidad and Tobago. The possibility of social decay resembling looting that followed the 1990 coup d’etat (“the city could un down”/”de building could fall down”) and economic failure (“treasury could bun down”/”economy could fall down”) are not enough to stop the revelry (“Recession /Doh bother we /Promote a fete/And you will see/And we go party/Til’ the full extreme/And light it up/With kerosene”).

A simple overview of the song appreciates the artistic description of the pitfalls of a “Carnival mentality” (popularized by Lee Kuan Yew, former Prime Minister of Singapore but also alluded to by the late Dr. Eric Williams). The Carnival mentality refers to an undisciplined and unproductive work ethic that condemns the economy to backwardness. It is also used to speak to the inevitability of failure for political resistances which struggle to sustain themselves due to this mentality of Trinbagonians.

 

Full Extreme is a part of a tradition that weighs the seriousness of social problems and the lure of entertainment in Carnival. Brother Valentino’s ‘Dis Place Nice’ stands as a classic among all:
“Three quarter of a million of people

cannot get up and do something bout de struggle

But they plan for the next holiday

To fete their lives away

And forgettin’ that they own the soil

Of which their fore-parents toiled…

For the people who form the constitution laws

For the oppressors and foreign investors…”

 

For Valentino, however, satire is not the highest form of creativity. Unlike the Ultimate Rejects, Valentino marks the undercurrent of discontent and resistance:

“But ah hear some people talkin’ bout a revolution day, change is on the way”

Although listeners and fete-goers know MX Prime (Maximus Dan) and the Ultimate Rejects are “conscious” soca artistes who produce lyrical content and positive messaging in their songs, this reputation makes us look past how ‘Full Extreme’ negates economic decline with entertainment, cause for concern with apathy, and dispossession with distance and escape. Therefore, ‘Full Extreme’ is not interested in working class and/or popular liberation (or offering us a truth about it), instead, it promotes a drift from political action. In a society where the rich become richer and the poor become poorer, the refrain “we jammin’ still” serves as a stage command to accept the status quo. In our culture, we must encourage our people to jam but we must also communicate a politics that cultivates desire through the idea of solidarity, against alienation and individualism, and a movement in carnival that reconstitutes current economic and social relations.
Perhaps it is only MX Prime, once Maximus Dan who can deliver this message with such success. He represents merit and incorruptibility as he represents authority and diversion. This song is a form of poetic injustice; it stands in the face of a shrinking economy by 4.5%, austerity programme cuts, a mountain of homicides and domestic violence cases and offers nihilism as a response: The choice to celebrate and ignore problems while recognising that the persistence of problems does not provide us with an occasion to celebrate. This song fits well with the elitist shift in carnival to more exclusive and isolated all-inclusive experiences separated from the wider context of political and social life. The song is a depoliticised complaint about the economic recession and alienation.

 

The Ultimate Rejects’ ‘Full Extreme’ has proven the critics of soca wrong – the music has a message! Asking people to listen and look out for bourgeois ideology is not only a difficult task, it’s a bit awkward. As a people, our job is to deconstruct the message and determine its utility as a way of thinking. I draw great pleasure from seeing the return of Maximus Dan with the visibility and respect he commanded in the early 2000s. I do think however, that the politics of this song also represents his physical and stage transformation to MX Prime. In ‘Full Extreme’, the Ultimate Rejects ultimately defend, not defect from the status quo and the current economic order that maligns so many young people who listen, love and jammin’ still to the song.

JulianspromosTV|2017. Ultimate Rejects – Full Extreme “2017 Soca” (Trinidad), 3:52, Published December 6, 2016. Accessed February 26, 2017. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yd8_zvKhtN8

Performed by: Ultimate Rejects
Written by: Ultimate Rejects

So make way for the U
make way for R

Tell them I feeling good

Like a new machine

Like morning dew

Fresh on de scene

And we go party

To the full extreme

And light it up

With gasoline

 

O Lord, the city could bun down

We jammin’ still

We jammin’ still

De building could fall down

We jammin’ still

We jammin’ still

 

Just hold them and wuk dem
Hold them and wuk dem

Hold them and wuk dem

 

Just hold them and wuk dem

Hold them and wuk dem

Hold them and wuk dem

No, we don’t business, woi

No, we don’t business

We get on like we don’t business

We get on like we don’t business

Free up like yuh doh business

Free up like yuh doh business, woi

No, we don’t business, woi

No, we don’t business

Recession

Doh bother we

Promote a fete

And you will see

And we go party

Til’ the full extreme

And light it up

With kerosene

 

The treasury could bun down

We jammin’ still

We jammin’ still

 

Economy could fall down

We jammin’ still

We jammin’!

 

Just hold them and wuk dem
Hold them and wuk dem

Hold them and wuk dem

 

Just hold them and wuk dem

Hold them and wuk dem

Hold them and wuk dem

No, we don’t business, woi

No, we don’t business

We get on like we don’t business

We get on like we don’t business

Free up like yuh doh business

Free up like yuh doh business, woi

No, we don’t business, woi

No, we don’t business
No, we don’t business

(we don’t business)

 

No, we don’t business

(we don’t business)

 

No, we don’t business

(we don’t business)

 

No, we don’t business

(we don’t business)

 

No, we don’t business

(we don’t business)

 

No, we don’t business

(we don’t business)

 

So make way for the U
make way for R
Make way for the U

Make way for the R

So make way

Make way

 

the city could bun down

We jammin’ still

We jammin’ still

De building could fall down

We jammin’ still

We jammin’ still

 

Just hold them and wuk dem
Hold them and wuk dem

Hold them and wuk dem

 

Just hold them and wuk dem

Hold them and wuk dem

Hold them and wuk dem

No, we don’t business, woi

No, we don’t business

We get on like we don’t business

We get on like we don’t business

Free up like yuh doh business

Free up like yuh doh business, woi

No, we don’t business, woi

No, we don’t business

 

Blog Reference:
Santan, Amilcar. 2017. “Poetic Injustice: A Marxist Critique of Full Extreme.” Accessed [Insert Date Accessed]. http://amilcarsanatan.com/marxist-critique-full-extreme/

Cover Picture:
Trini Jungle Juice. Accessed February 27, 2017.
http://www.trinijunglejuice.com/tjjnews/content_images/1/2017/we_jammin_still.jpg

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2 Comments

  1. Micah
    February 27, 2017
    Reply

    Good point Amilcar. I believe part of the struggle with what may seem like the more lyrically sound soca is airplay. As such many may hold to the view that is jus “woman, whining and alcohol ” in today’s music.

  2. Andre Dickson
    February 28, 2017
    Reply

    Great analysis. I have always felt that Carnival functioned as an annual release of frustrations that helped sustain the status quo. I viewed the song as a reflection of that.

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