Rapper Pablo cites his grandfather Bob Dylan as an influence: “I consider him the Jay-Z of his time.”
In his long career Bob Dylan has done just about everything: acoustic, electric, drunk, sober, Born Again. He’s done Christmas albums and Victoria’s Secret ads. But one thing he’s never done is rap.
Which is almost exactly what you’d expect him to do next. In the Advanced Genius school of aesthetics, founded by Death and Taxes contributor Jason Hartley, truly Advanced artists progress beyond being universally lauded to producing material that is almost universally hated, because they evolve to such an Advanced state that most fans simply can’t follow what they’re doing.
Advanced artists don’t do the opposite of what is expected of them for the sake of some predictable contrarianism—rather they do what simply no one could have seen coming. By the ’80s Mick Jagger and David Bowie were both regarded as great artists, each with their own expectations to fulfill or defy. But it’s safe to say no one expected them to start dating, grow a pair of vicious mullets and collaborate on a video for “Dancing In The Street.” It wasn’t the opposite of what was expected of them—they were simply making their own script.
This seems to characterize Bob Dylan’s approach to life, whether in recording his epic Christmas album, getting into a spat with his neighbors for having a down-wind porta-potty outside his home in Malibu, or playing a concert in China whose set was subject to approval by authoritarian Chinese officials. He’s never quite doing the opposite of what you expect, but he certainly does the unexpected.
Given what we’ve seen from Dylan, one can imagine a Bob Dylan rap album—it’d be perfectly in line with how we’ve come to expect him to defy expectations. But what simply no one could have expected was for Dylan to emerge as a champion of his 15 year-old grandson Pablo’s nascent rap career, and to draw such flattering comparisons as being “the Jay-Z of his generation.”
Pablo Dylan, son of music video director Jesse Dylan, has just released a mixtape called “10 minutes.” The single, “Top of the World,” is a slick, auto-tuned affair, bereft of the angst you might expect from most 15 year-olds, but probably not rich ones who are the progeny of American royalty like Dylan.
Pablo cites his grandfather as an influence. “Everyone around me influences me, and I have learned so much from him just listening to his records.” And it doesn’t sound like Dylan the elder is turning a blind eye. “He feels strongly about my music,” Pablo says, “and I love him to death.”
The mixtape is available as a free download at Pablo’s website. Dylan tells AllHipHop, “This was the first project I ever came out with, and it was meant to show people what I have been working for, and how I really want to differentiate myself from everyone else.”
But Dylan will never be able to ignore his grandfather’s legacy. He acknowledged as much in his lyrics, as The Guardian notes: “‘I’m the grandson of a man/ nothing less than legendary,’ he continues, ‘that’s a lot of pressure/ so I Berry Gordy/ I am very Motown, bitch.’”
The lyrics need some refining, to say the least—exactly the kind of thing you’d expect a fully Advanced Bob Dylan to love. Which brings us to the question: Can Advancement be conferred across generations? Does Pablo’s music take on some Advanced attributes by virtue of his being Dylan’s progeny? Or are we simply dealing with a sub-mediocre rapper?
Something tells me that we’ve now entered a philisophical realm where the critic’s criteria matters more than the actual music—but maybe I’ll ask Jason Hartley to clarify this in his next Advancement column.
Check out Pablo Dylan’s “Top of the World” below.