FXXXXY and Paranoia
Paranoia accompanies power. Even if that power is imagined, as is the case in delusions of grandeur, there is almost always an accompanying precariousness, a sense that this cannot last, that forces are conspiring against you, that ultimately, ‘no one man should have all that power’.
In a sense, this is self-evident. The powerful are targets and paranoia is a natural response to such targeting. However, in the case of megalomania, in which there is an inflated sense of one’s power, one would not necessarily expect to see paranoid ideation. The two seem mutually exclusive; either you are convinced of your grandiosity, or you feel that you are vulnerable. Instead, what we find is that these two states, megalomania and paranoia, are often intertwined.
A good example of this is in the mid-way switch of the song, ‘Paranoia / #1 Stunna’, by late rapper/ producer FXXXXY (1995–2020). As the title suggests, the song is broken up into two parts. In Part I, FXXXXY discusses his struggles with paranoia and insecurity:
My gun is hidden by your purses
In case you turn on me like the world did
I don’t feel like I’m really worth it
Flawed Up Shawty they call me, I’m not perfect
In Part II, it is all aggression and grandiosity:
Cash, stunna, I’m the, number, one, stunna […]
Taliban gang got the stick in the turban
She gave me head, I thanked her for her service
I got my foot on they neck with no mercy
For FXXXXY, fame (a concomitant of power) exaggerates both paranoid and grandiose tendencies. Some tend to see the latter as a compensation for the former — and in some sense, this is correct. In an interview with Complex in 2017, FXXXXY explains his epithet, ‘Flawed Up Shawty’, as being a sort of preemptive self-deprecation:
‘Flawed up’ is slang for having this strong confidence even though you’re not beautiful to the world or maybe looked at as not valuable. It’s a reaction to whatever situation you find yourself in. It’s making ugly beautiful because you have no choice
However, grandiosity is not simply a compensation for paranoia; paranoia also arises out of grandiosity. As John Farrell writes in Paranoia and Modernity, the paranoiac tends to blame others for ‘his failure to correspond with his image of himself; his purchase on the ideal comes at the price of debilitating suspicion’: i.e. feeling like the world has ‘turned’ on you.
As exhausting as it may seem, the idea that the world is against you can be comforting — especially if the alternative is indifference. This is the appeal of paranoia; it re-establishes the individual as the centre-of-attention. (Re-establishes because this attention is something that we are born with and gradually lose). It is sort of like the recent ‘main character’ meme, in which one imagines oneself to be the main character in a ‘fictionalised’ parody of life. The downside of this perspective is less discussed and is known as the ‘Spotlight Effect’: i.e. the overestimation of other people’s awareness of us — particularly in regard to our weaknesses and flaws. As FXXXXY once acknowledged, ‘this type of recognition swallows people in’; his response was to produce music that was ‘a lot more aggressive and less caring — letting the listener hear my flaws and things that’s not attractive’. In other words, a mixture of vulnerable confession and aggressive superciliousness: basically… ‘Paranoia / #1 Stunna’.