This went up yesterday afternoon. Some fun ideas about my dream of Araabmuzik soundtracking NBA games and DJ Mustard doing a video game soundtrack. Might have included one too many personal tangents, but what you gonna do.
Last fall bored on a Friday night, I texted a friend to see if she wanted to hangout. She was available, so I went to her apartment to watch a few Youtube videos—young people life. Her fatigue—over-committed college student life—seemed to disappear once she started talking about a new rapper she had discovered.
She typed the name Macklemore into Youtube and found the video for “Thrift Shop”. This was the first time I saw the video, as we sat in her sparsely furnished apartment munching on organic raisins. The longer it went on, the more excited she got, whereas, I only grew to dislike it more. I have no profound reason for the disdain; I just didn’t find it funny. A video whose existence serves to mock existing rap tropes is fine, but when those are the tropes I tend to enjoy in rap music, the video kept me at a distance. After the video ended, I slouched into her makeshift couch as to not damper her excitement; still enjoying the high from “Thrift Shop”, she navigated to another Macklemore song, “Same Love”.
The video for “Same Love” lasts for 7 minutes and 4 seconds. That is a long time to spend watching a video for a song I enjoy, but that length is a slow death march for a song I don’t. The video progressed, and she became captivated by the narrative, while I was just getting lost in its sea of beautiful people and the sense of earnestness that screamed “This is an important video!” When the song ended, I couldn’t take another Macklemore song. Not because of the quality—though I would not call them good—I couldn’t stand seeing one of my favorite people trying to share something with me that they obviously loved, only to fail in their efforts to make a connection.
In my infinite 20-year-old wisdom, I figured I’d get rid of this feeling by saying “We watched a couple videos you liked, so why don’t we listen to a song I like?”, I put on Ab-Soul’s “The Book of Soul”. But as I pressed play on the Youtube clip my heart began to bottom out. Something wasn’t right. Two minutes into the song, I wanted to stop; whatever feelings I was trying to express to her just were not getting across. But I didn’t want to abruptly stop the video, so I just let the rest of the song playout, and the only comment she offered was that Ab-Soul’s voice sounded weird.
Reexamining my motivation, for playing “The Book of Soul” that night, I was not trying share something of equal personal importance with my friend, instead I was attempting an act of one-upmanship. I believed that “The Book of Soul” was far more emotionally compelling than “Same Love”. I figured if I show her what I liked then, she would not only come to agree with me, but also change her mind on Macklemore’s middling songs.
But that original thought dissolved once I noticed the song was not connecting with her, and all I could think about were a series of Lindsay Zoladz posts discussing mansplaining. It dawned on me I was THAT DUDE, trying to wield my taste over someone else in hopes of making them appreciate the music I liked, validate my taste, and further confirm that by saying what they previously liked was not that good. Thinking back I know now I would’ve had a better time if I had pried myself off her make-shift couch and tried to enjoy the music that she obviously cared so much about. And seeing as how I’ve spent plenty of time in thrift shops—again, young people life—I don’t doubt I could have found in a song called “Thrift Shop”, if I just tried.
A few weeks ago, I started reaching out to people inquiring about internships in New York City for the summer of 2012. But, as things changed that are outside of my control being able to stay in New York City this summer won’t be able to happen.
The reason I say this is because while I won’t be there all summer, I might still be there at some point and kind of wondered if any of you New York/Northeastern people would actually want to say hey to me. No details of when or how long, but beyond meeting Brandon, Monique and Adam last year; I haven’t gotten to really experience the meeting a person I only know online and figured while I’m in an awesome city, I should try to capitalize on that opportunity and see if I could meet a few of you guys.
I also wanted to make a blog update, just to say as my blog went from primarily rap music to more pop music to generally whatever music I feel like writing about there are still more changes to come. I don’t know exactly what that means: short stories, autobiographic writing, poems, actual music reviews, I don’t know! Maybe nothing will come of this, but if even less music based writing appears here bare with me if it starts out rough.
The very last thing I want to do is say thank you! First to the readers, because as much as I joked about never caring about who reads my stuff, I really do care! And specifically I’d like to thank all of the people this year that have given be chances or told me about opportunities to write beyond my little Tumblr world. My name is in Pitchfork and Complex. That is not to brag. That is to say some days I still cannot fucking believe it and that would not have been possible without the kindness of I guess at this point no longer internet strangers.
Mercy - Kanye West (feat. Big Sean, Pusha T and 2 Chainz)
On “Mercy”, Big Sean begins his verse with grating “ass” puns; the workmen quality of Pusha T reaches its peak or bottom with “heads spinning…that’s Exorcist”; Kanye, well don’t tell him rap music doesn’t usually incorporate Italo Disco; 2 Chainz, my god could someone tell me what his verse is actually about beyond a weird aside about his money being tall like Jordan (6’6”), despite the fact he’s only an inch shorter (6’5”) than “His Airness”. That was my initial reaction to the song. Now, I find Big Sean’s jokes funny and accept “that’s Swiss time, and that’s excellent” is truly excellent.
I don’t know how many times I’ve heard the song again before I came around to it. And usually right here, I’d like to bring up some iTunes library count to say how many times I’ve heard this song in the last five months, but sadly that number does not represent how ingrained this specific song became in my life the last month of Sophomore year.
When the song first was released, I heard it on an online stream from a Chicago rap station. I was not underwhelmed, but I certainly wasn’t yelling at everyone I knew to listen to the new Kanye song.
Yet, soon enough a couple guys I lived with started playing the song: when people were studying, when people were getting ready to go out, or honestly any time during the day when they were awake and could press play. This started rubbed-off on me, and I kept on listening, and listening, and listening, and listening.
The same thing happened last school year with “Niggas in Paris” and “Levels”, where if I ever had to be appreciating of living with nine other dudes it came from the fact that after a while certain songs would become THAT SONG. And, by becoming THAT SONG, it would get played, and played, till a silent agreement was settled upon to cease playing it.
Yet, “Mercy” escaped that fate. It came out in that time between spring break and finals giving it a pure month of blaring across our suite. The video came out in June and the song’s popularity peaked over the summer as I was back home away from the guys that’d quote random 2 Chainz lines and I’d be ready with the next line.
It’s a new school year, and I still see those bros, but I’m living with new dudes. I enjoy my new living situation, but every time I hear “Clique”, even with friends, I cannot muster up the same excitement. The song is about the G.O.O.D Music bros being bros, but Kanye and crew already gave me and my bros THAT SONG.
In Elementary and Middle school, my school afternoons were pretty much always the same: my grandmother would pick me from school; I would go to her house; I’d start packing to leave at 5pm and proceed to stare outside the window waiting for my mother to take me home. I know, people worry about the entertainment kids are exposed to at a young age but being a little kid watching the evening news, seeing stories about car accidents and home invasions was pretty damn unnerving to my 8-year-old self. As I was waiting and hoping nothing bad happened to my mother on her way to pick me up from work.
Nothing ever happened, so my childhood fears were never realized. But, the paranoia that even the most mundane things like driving home from work could keep my mom from seeing me became a back of mind thought that has never left my mind—establishing early in life a firm belief to assume the worst in most situations.
Ab-Soul’s latest album is called Control System and has an unfortunate tag of being connected with paranoid conspiracy theories and drug side-effects. But, that stuff is one part that isn’t the heart of this album, nor his strength. All of that outer wrapping is just another way to frame someone disillusioned with the world, but still willing to ask thousands of questions to better understand it.
Also lost in focusing on conspiracy theories and drugs is how much of the fun of the album can be. Ab-Soul can go from quoting 2 Chainz’s “Spend It” to saying “shitted in a creator the last time I was on Saturn” on a song called “Pineal Gland”, which is could be about the drug DMT, but Soul himself thought of a more a “crazy nightmarish dream”.
And, outside of Schoolboy Q’s “Hands on the Wheel”, the one-two-punch of “Mixed Emotions” and “SOPA” are the most fun Black Hippy songs from this year. They are able to keep the mood joyous all while trying not to give a clichéd tribute to DJ Screw and still incorporate left of field references to Dr. Evil and “_____ taught me” in a song ostensibly about the “Stop Online Piracy Act”.
Ab-Soul can be fun, but he’s best when it comes to issues of the heart. “Lust Demons” manages to reference Trick Daddy’s “Sugar” and conveys that a rapper actually enjoys having sex, which beside Lil Wayne and Danny Brown is something that plenty of rappers actively struggle to do. Because after a while the casual “suck my dick” and many variations on the phrase used by rappers makes them sound like they’re disinterested in both sex and the song they’re rapping on; neither Ab-Soul nor Jay Rock display that problem on this track.
But, best song on the album that touches on this topic is its penultimate track “The Book of Soul”. It’s part auto-biographic tale of Ab-Soul dealing with Steven-Johnsons syndrome. The troubles it caused him in his young life and his relationship with Alori Joh, who committed suicide earlier this year.
I’ve listened to this song dozens of times, and still before the first verse is over, I want to stop the track and go back just to make sure what I’m hearing is true. The details Ab-Soul goes into are so raw and exposed that when he says he isn’t going to cry, I couldn’t say the same. The song is not only about his love of Alori Joh, but also his determination toward achieving his musical dream.
That desire to never give up, and not letting anything get in his way is fucking inspirational, and that he even acknowledges this drive was getting in the way of his and Alori’s relationship (“You wanted to go on dates, but I had a Sounwave beat tape trying to beat Drake”) is something that can be missed when listening to the song, but its inclusion makes the song more powerful. This isn’t a song of pity, it is something more than a tribute; Ab-Soul is trying to do the ridiculous task people say casually of learning from your mistakes and past experiences, but he shows that task is never easy.
I guess the reason I began this with that moment from my childhood is that I didn’t need to worry about my mother, but I still did. The conspiracy theories could put some distance between people and album, but it shouldn’t. As, the album comes to an end, Ab-Soul is still asking questions, because after an hour of questions and self-examinations the world hasn’t given him the right answers or reasons to stop asking questions.
Behind the Keyboard, Episode 1 - David Turner
I’m absolutely thrilled to be uploading the first episode of my summer podcast/interview series, Behind the Keyboard. A few weeks ago I asked everyone on Tumblr if they’d be interested in a series of interviews with music writers who’ve made their digital homes in our dashboards, and the response was fairly large and uniformly positive, so I decided to give it a shot. My guinea pig and honoured first guest is David Turner, a.k.a. dalatu. David has written for Pitchfork, So Many Shrimp, and served as an intern for the editorial board of Best Music Writing 2012, in addition to posting frequently on his own site. We touched on David’s early music writing days, some changes we’d make to Tumblr, major influences on his work, and Gucci Mane-style face tattoos.
This first episode is fairly rough. I’m not an audio editing expert, and my Internet connection is scattershot at best. There might be portions where we’re a bit unintelligible or we talk over each other, and I left the gaffed ending in because, well, why not? I don’t mind letting the seams show the first few times. But with that in mind, please, please, please send me feedback if you have questions or suggestions. (Or if you’d like to be on the show!) My summer dreams would be fulfilled if this turned into a semi-successful, or at least regular, podcast franchise. I can be reached by Ask box, tweet, email, snail mail, and telegraph.
Thanks again to David, for being an excellent sport, an interesting guest, and an all-around solid dude. And thank you (in advance) for listening!
P.S. It’s only 27 minutes or so; I didn’t want to take too large a chunk out of your evening.
Weird?! But, awesome. Hopefully Jamieson keeps this up, because seriously, this can lead to some amazing things. Also, I’ve never said “Tumblr” before more in my life, and I’ll never not find hearing my own voice weird.
- When I read that Drake’s album leaked, I gave it a listen as people on twitter were talking so much about it, and production by Jamie XX and rumored Lex Luger work made more interested a lot more interested than the previous singles.
- On, my first listen, I was kind of blown away by the first 6 songs, especially the opener of “Over My Dead Body” with the opening vocals from Chantal Kreviazuk. I definitely soft crooned “over my dead body” the first few times I listened to that song.
- I don’t know where this rumor started, but until the album came out the credited producer of “Cameras” was Lex Luger, which helped make that particular song an early highlight. It was actually done by 40 with some help by Drake, but imagining Luger doing this type R&B track would have been such a step up from his stuff like “That Way”. But, either way, the song never stopped being a favorite and I would have enjoyed it if it went on for the entire 7 minute run time.
- So, on my second listen of “Look What You’ve Done” I was walking back to my dorm from class and had to stop the song before Drake’s grandmother called in, to keep myself from crying and breaking down in the middle of campus. My first listen of the song, I didn’t know where it was going, so I was caught off-guard by Drake’s examining his different familial relationships. But, on that second listen and understanding better where Drake was coming from, I couldn’t help but see it reflect my life back at me, after I was just in an argument with my parents.
- “And I leave out and you call me, you tell me that you are sorry/ You love me, and I love you, and your hearts hurts, mine does too”.
- “The way you got your hair up, that’s me, and that voice in your speaker, that’s me”, stuck with me because it is a feeling of drowning in sorrows that I have tried to avoid recently, which makes listening to the opening so painful, as I feel like the girl just sitting around in self-pity, as their previous love has already seemingly moved on. This has created a tension listening to the album that remained unresolved even a few months later, because Drake is the main character telling his perspective of this story, which is fine except when I am one that is crying from his actions.
- “I hate when people say they feel me (I hate that shit), it’ll be a long time before you’ll feel, if ever (for real)”. At some point in December, I texted my friend saying that if I catch myself rapping the lyrics of “Over My Dead Body” or “The Ride”, I’m clearly not having a good day.
- I kind of wish, I spent more time on this point, but this album turned Drake around from a guy I kind of sort of liked on hooks to one of my favorite current day rappers, which is something I certainly didn’t see happening when I first started the album.
Those of us who grew up on Drive Like Jehu, Braid, and Jawbreaker can listen to Attack on Memory and sense their artistic legacy is in good hands, but there will inevitably be teenagers for whom Attack on Memory stands to be that kind of record to call their own. And hopefully we’ll all meet up in the mosh pit.
Ian Cohen, from his Pitchfork review of Cloud Nothings’ Attack on Memory.
God knows how many times I’ll be singing along with Attack on Memory as I drive from strip mall to strip mall this summer.
?!A few weeks ago, I went with a friend (of the best variety) to a free concert in Raleigh. Right now, I don’t remember the name of the opening act—they were good though; the second band was the entertaining garage rockers Twerps. But, to short-shift the other two bands further, I was there only for Real Estate.
That this blog didn’t devolve into a sea of Drake quotes from the time Take Care leaked to mid-January still amazes me. As told by my mother, I’m “over-emotional” meaning I tend to attach myself to things and never-ever-ever-ever let go. This not only applies to relationships with people, but also the arts and while Days isn’t the first album I’ve really connected to my emotional reaction to works is usually immediate. But, I streamed Days a few times before its release, wasn’t too impressed and did not come around to it till December zoning out to the guitar melodies at friend’s house. So, when I finally ordered the album, and gave it some proper listens: Turns out this was the album I wanted hear, while getting wrapped up my in self-pity in the winter.
I’m not quite sure what my face looked like when I heard the opening chords of “Easy”, but judging from the reaction of the drunken girl near me and the entire rest of the crowd, I can only image it was pure ecstasy. Shouldn’t be too surprising my favorite aspect of Real Estate are the guitars, because on repeated listens the album melts into a beautiful mush of hard to distinguish reverbed guitar melodies. But, when “Easy” began or when another guitar was added for “Kinder Blumen”, the heavenly jangled mush reformed into those highlight tracks.
This sense of joy was kind of hard for me to place, because if I had saw this concert in February, I told my friend I’d probably be a puddle of tears. Not, that wouldn’t have been a good thing—certainly would make for a more dramatic retelling, but my direct emotional connection to the songs on the album had lessened since we first learned about this show. Even with that said, I’d be lying to say I didn’t choke up a bit during “Wonder Years”—and it was more than just Alex Bleeker being a marvelously bearded human being—it was the song that after 15 or so listens became my favorite song the album, a bit simple, the album’s shortest track, but also the one that SPEAKS TO ME THE MOST. Also, turns out I know every word from all the Days tracks, which currently excluding my 2012 2 Chainz guest verse playlist, I cannot think of any recent album where I can pull off the same feat, which answers the non-existent mystery of why I loved this show so much.