artists

Henny From the Block: Jayson Musson Is Not an Idiot, He Just Plays One on YouTube

Mr. Musson owes what he calls his super-ignorant style to his nine years in the hip-hop group Plastic Little in Philadelphia, where he spent his undergrad years and earned an MFA at the University of Pennsylvania last year. Sample lyrics: “I’m from America, I wear Nikes/Y’all from over there, y’all make Nikes/I’m from America, nigga, I’m the bomb/Y’all from over there, y’all get bombed/like Saddam, sippin’ tea up in his spider hole.”

“That whole underground hip-hop scene that we came out of worshiped the early and mid-’90s, it was so sickening,” Mr. Musson said. In his opinion, heroes like Biggie—who, like Bill Cosby, also favored Coogis—always let you down.

Mr. Musson didn’t watch The Cosby Show much growing up. His tastes were more in line with the heavy irony of Married With Children. His family came to this country in 1965 from Jamaica and, though he was born in the Bronx, he grew up middle class in Spring Valley, N.Y.

“With white sitcoms you have a myriad of situational comedies that detail a normative American life, and before The Cosby Show blacks didn’t really have that,” he said. “You had Good Times, where everything goes wrong, and you had the Cosbys, where you were like, ‘Man, Good Times was tragic!’ Cosby was like the dream that comes out of the civil rights movement.”

Coogi used to sell itself as “wearable art,” which seemed to be truth in advertising to Mr. Musson, who always saw an Abstract Expressionist strain in the sweaters. Sewn together on the frames, he calls them paintings and thinks they look like liquid. Ms. Greenberg-Rohatyn said they hadn’t been priced as of Monday, but would probably sell for around $20,000 each.

Mr. Musson will round out the summer with a residency at Carnegie Mellon University and is apparently at work on a children’s book and a play. I asked him if Mr. Powhida was right about his being an insider now. “I’m too poor to be an insider,” he chuckled.

“Maybe I should start going to parties,” he said, then, seriously. “I think part of the notion of being an insider is having actual power, and I don’t. I’m just a voice in the woods, I’m a new kid off the boat.” That’s something you’d never hear from Hennessy.

dduray@observer.com

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