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?
This interactive video set to Arcade Fire’s “We Used To Wait” has basically just destroyed the term “raising the bar.” Because, quite frankly, they have taken the bar and thrown it out the window, into a swamp full of bar-eating bacteria. That way, nobody can ever reach that bar again.
In all honesty, though, this is one of the coolest things I’ve seen in a long time. Basically what this director Chris Milk has done, alongside some of his friends from Google Chrome and the members of Arcade Fire, is create a story with the song that is centered around the home you grew up in. And without ruining the experience for you, I’ll just put it this way – don’t just expect to see an aerial view of your city or neighborhood. It gets personal. It’s amazing.
The team recommends that you close other browsers and windows for this experience. I demand that you close everything and don’t be alarmed by different windows popping up. Also, don’t make the mistake I made and start moving windows around so you can see all of them. It does all the work for itself.
Enjoy this. It’s a masterpiece. If some crazy scientist is ever able to recreate and raise the bar that has now been dissolved into nothing, then that just says it all right there – ANYTHING is possible.
Click on the picture or CLICK HERE to see this other-worldly experience.
“Rococo” – Arcade Fire
The release of The Suburbs through Merge Records came and went, and just as I often like to do, I listened and soaked it up right when it came out, then read the incredibly positive reviews, and then let it sit for a few days. Let a tiny bit of dust gather. In fact, let’s not even call it dust, because it wasn’t more than two or three days when Canada’s spectacular rock band was looking at me through the other side of the computer screen whispering, “Here, Lydia. It’s okay! We know you want to.” And want to, I did. So I let myself. I listened and relistened. And it only got better each time.
So now, a couple weeks later, I’m still listening, and I’m finding it to be the perfect time to share one of my favorite songs from the album with all of you. The music is magical, and the melody and harmonizing might just be the descendants of peanut butter and jelly-they are, quite simply, perfect with each other. Play this once, and I dare you not to play it again. If it doesn’t come calling your name in a few days, either get your ears checked, or leave a comment and let me know what you think is wrong. I have yet to find anything, but am open to hearing your opinions.
They seem wild but they are so tame…
As it turned out, finding the time to blog about a festival while you’re AT the festival and do not have internet in your hotel room became a very difficult task. With the mix of meetings, after parties, and taking the time to actually enjoy the festival, there was very little time to sit down and write. However, it’s about time for a festival roundup! Here’s a taste of what happened since the last entry:
Day Two of Lollapalooza was fantastic! We started the day a little bit late, as we were finishing up some work from the day before. As a result, our first attempt at viewing a show came with The xx, who played at Bonnaroo just a few months ago. Both Ashley and I were amazed by how large a following they’d managed to rouse up in such a short time period. The crowd was insane! We were able to hear just a small amount of their set before heading over to catch Gogol Bordello. If you haven’t had the chance to see Gogol Bordello live, I strongly recommend it. They put on such a fun show. Everyone in the crowd was singing and dancing around like they were at a big fat Greek wedding. I loved every second of it… minus the heat. The wind in the Windy City apparently completely bypassed the Parkways stage at that point in the afternoon… Ashley had already seen them several times, so she headed over the Grizzly Bear show.
We both met up to catch Metric, who also boasted one of the larger crowds of the weekend (besides the headliners). Other shows we caught (together, and separately) on Day Two: Spoon, Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros, Phoenix, and Green Day. Each of us managed to snap some choice photos at these shows, which we’ll be posting here, on our Flickr account, as well as on the Facebook page.
One of the best parts of our second day at Lollapalooza was by far the after party held at The Beauty Bar. Jamie xx from The xx was one the DJs at this event, held in a bar where you could dance to the music and get a manicure all at the same time. We managed to meet some great people at this event, all of whom have potential to help further Rock and Wrap It Up!’s mission.
The same went for the folks we ran into the next morning as we worked to stay out of the rain, which cleared up fairly early in the afternoon. Look for updates about our future work with them in the upcoming weeks! As far as shows we caught: a tiny bit of Mumford & Sons, Hockey, Yeasayer, Mexican Institute of Sound, Mutemath, Erykah Badu, MGMT (whose management team we met prior to their set), The National, Cypress Hill (who were joined on stage by Erykah Badu!), Soundgarden, and Arcade Fire. The energy, the crowds, and the music were all amazing on Sunday. It was hard to believe that it was all over after the Arcade Fire closed out their set.
The music didn’t completely come to a close with the last note of their set, however. Thousands of festivalgoers flooded the streets of downtown Chicago, singing along with street musicians and making last minute t-shirt purchases to commemorate their time in Grant Park. It was one of the coolest things to watch the entire weekend.
After making our exit from the festival, we showered and got ready to head over to the Official Lollapalooza Closing Party, hosted by Glassnote at the Hard Rock Hotel. With performances by Mumford & Sons, The Temper Trap, and two thrilling DJ sets, this was definitely the place to be on Sunday night. Right after we got in, the event hit capacity! More great introductions were made and I can honestly say that a good time was had by all. So much fun, in fact, that we were starving by the end of it and were forced to go on a hunt for food. (Hey, we’re a hunger organization; we like to make sure everyone is fed, including ourselves.)
Coverage written by Taina Thermidor, Music Program Director at Rock and Wrap It Up!