We’re starting a new feature here on Sunset called Artist Picks. We’ll try to make this a semi-regular thing, where we ask some people, be they artists, listeners, or fans, what they would do if they were stranded on an island with an iPod that only held 10 songs. Which songs would they pick and why? This idea stemmed from when I studied abroad in Kenya and had to take an iPod Mini from back in the day and it could only hold about 150 songs. Preparing that iPod for a 4 month trip was a huge challenge. So I’m asking some people if they’re up to the challenge of picking 10 songs. First up? ANTHM.
ANTHM is an up-and-coming hip-hop emcee who graduated from Duke University and had secured a job on Wall Street, only to quit the job and pursue a career in hip-hop. His music has been featured on Sunset several times, and now we get to hear a bit from Anthem on what his favorite music is. Here’s what he had to say:
What would you do if someone held a gun to your head and forced you to delete all but 10 songs on your iPod?** Sounds ridiculous, I know. I made a playlist to answer this question. Welcome to ANTHM’s iPod.
Intro.Stevie Wonder • “Living For the City” • Innervisions
“Living For the City” is classic soul. The narrative reminds me of my own upbringing, and the pride you feel when overcoming obstacles. You can hear the edge and angst in Stevie’s voice as he paints a picture of hardship, inequalities, and perseverance. I play my full-length version because it has Ray Charles singing the final two verses after the spoken interlude.
2. Smashing Pumpkins • “Landslide” • Pisces Iscariot
I’ve always liked Billy Corgan’s voice. Although I really like the original, the Smashing Pumpkins’s cover is a great rendition of the Stevie Nicks hit. Vocals aside, the song features a powerful songwriting and vivid imagery. Replay value through the roof.
3. Donny Hathaway • “Love, Love, Love” • Extensions of a Man
This is an amazing ballad. When I think of the phrase “the voice is an instrument,” Donny Hathaway comes to mind first. He is an unheralded legend of soul music and if you skim through his catalogue, you’ll soon see why. Simply put, he’s a soulful brother. “Soulful” is my way of describing that intangible quality that draws you in and leaves you no choice but to feel exactly what he’s feeling.
4. Michael Jackson • “Rock With You” • Off the Wall
Anyone that knows me knows that Michael is my favorite artist. Thriller and Bad are among my top albums period, but Off the Wall is my favorite MJ album. It’s a great fusion of disco, pop, funk, and soul. This song is a timeless feelgood track. The greatest entertainer; R.I.P. King of Pop.
5. Outkast • “A Day in the life of Benjamin André” • The Love Below
Popular opinino in hip hop can be pretty out-of-sight-out-of-mind. Outkast has one of the best catalogues in hip hop, and in my opinion, André is the most underrated emcee. Without writing an entire blog entry, I’ll just say that I really idolize his lyricism, flow, and creativity. Three Stacks is on my shortlist of greats. This song is a great exposé of his storytelling and effortless emceeing. Go 3000.
6. Jay-Z • “In My Lifetime (Remix)” • Streets is Watching Soundtrack
I think many people shortchange Jay’s early work by labeling it Mafioso rap. He used his slick persona to share honest and introspective thought, giving the listener an insight to the wisdom gained from weathering the gritty realism of street life. He packaged “depth” and made it relatable to the layman. In this song, Jay cleverly spits about the risks/rewards that come with self-empowerment and taking the bad with the good when fighting to create your own fate. I love how he ends each verse with a variation of “I know the price, know the risks, know the wrongs and rights, still my blood flows ice, it’s just my life.” Classic Jay.
7. Notorious B.I.G. • “Everyday Struggles” • Ready to Die
1994 was a good year. Among all the albums that dropped (Resurrection, The Diary, The Main Ingredient, Hard to Earn, Thug Life…the list goes on and on) were three legendary debuts: Illmatic (Nas), Soutnernplayalisticadillacmuzik (Outkast), and Ready to Die (B.I.G.). Biggie epitomized effortless emceeing, and this song is an anthem. It feels like the same frustration and hardship in “Living For The City” (first song I listed), but spoken through the hustler’s vantage point. Storytelling and conviction is phenomenal in this song. R.I.P.
8. 2Pac • “Str8 Ballin’” • Thug Life
When Pac died, Me Against the World and All Eyez On Me were already my favorite rap albums. I’m older now and have a deeper appreciation and understanding of his work. Whether your M.O. is rollin one up, slow sippin, or cruisin at a low speed, this shyt is most definitely a hood classic. Nah, I never sold drugs. But I still identify with that by-any-means-necessary attitude and the hustle of a have-not. You can always hear passion and angst in Pac’s voice. R.I.P.
9. Common • “They Say (feat. John Legend & Kanye West)” • BE
Common + (Ye’s production+Guest appearance) + John Legend hook = G.O.O.D. Music. Along with Finding Forever, Common is responsible for two of my favorite albums in the past decade. I love Common’s verses, and Ye adds stellar production and a hot feature verse. Take into consideration that I’m also a huge John Legend fan and this choice is a no-brainer.
Outro • Kanye West • “Last Call” • College Dropout
Entertainment Weekly is not exactly my first source for hip hop commentary, but they definitely caught my attention when they awarded College Dropout as the album of the decade. I credit him for the evolution of the game and ushering in this post-gangsta rap era. This will remain my favorite Kanye track, but not because of the classic ‘Ye production or bars. It’s the nine-minute monologue at the end. As a rapper myself, I appreciate a close look at another artist’s personality and struggles and really identify with the raw passion and energy in this track. @9:55 “Everybody out there, listen here. I played them ‘Jesus Walks’ and they didn’t sign me!”
**I wouldn’t trip. Best believe I already got all my music backed up. You should too.
Be on the lookout for the next episode of On The iPod! It’s going to be a very special guest!