It’s another Thursday, so I hope y’all are thirsty for a little throwback. Today’s TT is continuation of the story I posted last week — how music forever entangled itself within my life, how my music tastes evolved, and I how I ended up listening to what I do. We left off somewhere around the end my high school years, when I left Texas for bigger and badder adventures in the wild wild west…
When I think of the summer after my first year in college, in terms of music, I think of the Cambrian Explosion — when out of the blue, like, 600 million years ago, life decided to diversify like crazy and start being badass. I was working in Beijing and studying Chinese (long story), and I was living with some friends from other California colleges. One of them, my friend Supallav, was a total hip hop snob and connoisseur. I was not. I didn’t know shit about hip hop, top 40 or otherwise. I never thought poorly of hip hop, and I certainly wasn’t one of those guys to ignorantly bag on it — I just didn’t know where to start, and I knew it.
So I asked my friend to give me some of his albums for me to listen to, and he basically sat me down, laughing, and told me he was going to do it the right way. He began introducing me to all the greats and legends one by one, an album a day, and at the same time he’d let me in on their stories, histories, philosophies, controversies and the works. I had an hour commute to and from work everyday. I spent the entire summer walking and riding the Beijing subways to Jay-Z, B.I.G, Nas, Wu-Tang, Lil-Wayne, Eminem, 2pac, Dr. Dre, and on and on. I couldn’t get enough of it. He’d make me listen to all the old school records, something I don’t think I ever would have listened to without him pushing me. I remember standing in crowded ass subways listening to 2pac’s All Eyez on Me or GZA’s Liquid Swords. The first Jay-Z album I heard was Reasonable Doubt. I remember exactly where I was walking the first time Juicy came on when I first listened to Ready to Die. I had no idea how famous that song was, and when I came back to the apartment that night telling my friend how awesome it was, he just sighed and shook his head. Gang Starr, A Tribe Called Quest, Mos Def, Common, The Roots, Dead Prez, Blu. It was SO good. Kanye and Lupe Fiasco. Every once in a while I’d come back to our apartment, complaining that some of the old school music sounded dated — he’d then play the song on his computer, and break it down for me line by line until I was forced to admit that these guys were clever as hell.
The first song I want to share is D’Evils, from Jay-Z’s Reasonable Doubt. Another one of those songs were I remember exactly where I was and what I was doing the first time I heard it. A super powerful song about friendship and competition between two friends who grew up together — how life hustling on the streets can infect, corrupt, and poison the mind. Look up the lyrics to this song and take your time.
We used to fight for building blocks/now we fight for blocks with buildings that make a killin/The closest friends when we first started/But grew apart as the money grew, and soon grew black-hearted/Thinkin’ back when we first learned to use rubbers/He never learned so in turn I’m kidnappin’ his baby’s mother
MP3: “D’evils” – Jay-z
Hidden Bonus Track on Johnson&Jonson’s self titled album (Blu and producer Mainframe). If you’ve never heard of Blu, get on it. There’s something so real and honest and youthful about him, something that very few hip hop artists seem to touch. It’s hard to put a finger on, but I think this song does him justice. That John Lennon sample…so good!
Old School, from 2pac’s Me Against the World. Ok so I admit it, I threw this one in because it is, after all, throwback thursday. But a great song nonetheless.
MP3: “Old School” – 2Pac
The year after I discovered hip hop, I became a music blog addict. Like friends and the outdoors, music can reinvigorate life like nothing else can, and especially new music. I discovered Blind Pilot and Bon Iver around this time…oh my. Those two guys helped me through one of the toughest times of my life. And Andrew Bird. Don’t get me started on Andrew Bird.
A little while later, I heard Chiddy Bang’s Swelly Express for the first time. A couple weeks later they came to play at my school. I was front row, fist-bumping Chiddy:
I was still happily discovering all the amazing hip-hop in my iTunes that my boy Supallav had introduced me to, but for the first time I was also stumbling on mashups. Do you guys remember when the Notorious XX album came out, the mashup between The XX and the Notorious B.I.G.? Amazing. I was coming across so many DJs, so many mixes… I was in heaven. Some of my favorite indie-rock songs fused with hip hop raps and beats, or with dubstep lines or electronic melodies. I found Big Z Remixes on Sunset maybe a little less than a year ago. All I could think was, holy shit, this guy is so young but his music is SO good.
Here I am a year later, still uncovering incredible music…some new and some that’s been out for ages. And as I move forward with my life, musically and otherwise, I’m just trying to take it all in and shut nothing out. You never know what you’re missing.
I’m resisting the urge to post Bon Iver’s re: Stacks. I’m sure you’ve all heard it before, and if not, it’s on Sunset’s Flying Through Summer mixtape. But..of course, of course I’m posting an Andrew Bird song. Actually, to be embarrassingly honest, I’m actually wearing an Andrew Bird shirt as I write this…I swear I’m not creepy. He’s an amazing artist, and he does everything by himself (even live!) using looped tracks he makes on the spot. It’s nuts. Here’s Plasticities, from Armchair Apocrypha.
My favorite Big Z Remix song, Slow Down (feat. Lupe Fiasco and Mos Def), with a beautiful sample of Nico’s These Days. The song is soft and melodic and wise and powerful, with great verses from Lupe and Mos Def. Mos Def’s verse comes his song Priority, from The Ecstatic. It’s a one verse song, but with a totally different feel.
Save Me Concubine (Ghostface Killah vs. Beirut), TheHoodInternet remix. I’ve listened to this song hundreds of times. Ghostface is a hard dude, but this story is surprisingly touching and sentimental. It was on repeat during another tough time for me.
Finally, here’s an Arcade Fire cover I stumbled across some weeks back, by Mr. Little Jeans. One of the best covers I’ve ever heard. This girl’s voice is gorgeous, and it fits perfectly over the dreamlike dubstep coatings.
If you had to pick 5 or 10 songs to represent the history of your musical discovery, what would you choose? Treacherous, huh?