From late February to early April 2020, internet use skyrocketed. The New York Times reported that, in the month-long time frame, facebook.com use increased 27 percent, Houseparty use increased 79 percent, and remote-work services like Zoom and Google Classroom were used more than ever before. Everything — from our ability to socialize, to many people’s ability to continue education and white-collar work — is Because the Internet.
For reasons associated with our increasingly-virtual lives, among many others, the Spotify Original podcast Dissect is devoting its seventh season to Childish Gambino’s 2013 concept album Because the Internet. The first episode of the season premiered September 8, and episodes will release weekly on Tuesdays.
Dissect is a serialized music podcast that examines a single album per season and devotes each episode to a single song on that album — it is a long-form deep-dive into the history, social context, and musical analysis of contemporary hip-hop records. The podcast previously dove into albums such as Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly and Frank Ocean’s Channel Orange — the latter earning Dissect a spot on New York Times critic Wesley Morris’s list of the best podcasts of 2018.
Podcast creator Cole Cuchna started the project after studying music composition in college. He pondered PhD programs, but was frustrated by the academy’s focus on Western art music. Though well-known composers like Beethoven and Brahms dominated popular culture in their time periods, hip-hop constructs popular culture today. Cuchna, like many music scholars, sought to emphasize the importance of contemporary music by applying academic interpretive tools.
But Cuchna was initially hesitant to devote a season to Because the Internet. He just didn’t love the album at face-value. According to Cuchna, he just didn’t get the album’s cultural and aesthetic value until he interacted with Camden Ostrander’s intellectual work. Ostrander taught Cuchna that the album was merely one part of a large media landscape Donald Glover constructed, centering the theme of connectivity.
“In our opinion, that’s what Donald Glover was getting to,” Cuchna says, “The internet is an extension of what we’ve always been, human beings that are connected to each other. If we don’t recognize this tension between us, we will kill each other.”
This has modern implications, since the internet has become our primary site of social connection during the pandemic. Both the interpersonal connection the internet enables, and the strife increased connectivity can create, are at the forefront of public discourse. But Cuchna didn’t choose to feature Because the Internet for its contemporary relevance — to him, what elevates an art work is its ability to stay relevant regardless of the year.
“A great artist’s most valuable talent is his/her ability to communicate with the future,” Cuchna hand-wrote and posted on Instagram prior to the season’s release. “To encase universal truths in beauty — a gift we can unwrap at any point in history and it remains perpetually brand new, offering us its insights, guiding us with its unweathered wisdom.”
Cuchna says Because the Internet is timeless in this manner; his analysis would have felt relevant in 2013, 2020 or 2070. Glover’s final lyrics on the album, which express a plea for help, emphasize a need for humanity that defies temporal constraints. Along with an increased appreciation for the nuances of hip-hop music, Cuchna wants Dissect listeners to leave with Glover’s message.
“I still remember a world without the internet, but that will be gone soon, Cuchna says. “We’re in this moment Glover describes as another big bang. It’s up to us to decide how we’ll shape this new world.”