Category Archives: Favorite Things

“The Only Living Boy in New York” — Simon and Garfunkel

Editor’s note: Matt published this piece today on Leading Us Absurd in honor of Paul Simon’s 70th birthday. I appreciate his allowing us to feature it here on HFL. –HI-FI Janna

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/v/hJGSHMgbB0E?version=3%5D

Today is Paul Simon’s 70th birthday, so I thought today would be a perfect time to write about one of my favorite Simon & Garfunkel songs – “The Only Living Boy in New York”.  If I’m being totally honest…(read the entire post on Matt’s blog: Leading Us Absurd)


Find more artists like Simon and Garfunkel at Myspace Music.

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“Need You Tonight” — INXS

[youtube:http://youtu.be/PrZZfaDp02o%5D

So slide over here

And give me a moment

Your moves are so raw

I’ve got to let you know…

You’re one of my kind

Here’s the thing: I feel like the best, most magical aspect of music is its innate ability to communicate an emotion, a feeling, a mood. Need a pick-me-up? Well, you can always call on Phish‘s “Bouncing Around the Room” to gift you a lift. Need to chillax? Okay – spend some time with Erykah Badu or Jill Scott. Mad at the world and feel like indulging that emotion? I find Fiona Apple‘s music to be an excellent choice on just that sort of occasion.

But this song? Well, this is a *letsseehowfastwecangetouttatheseclothes* song. And that’s always fun.

Seriously, I can’t understand how anyone could listen to this without getting turned on. And of course, this isn’t the only song for provocative underwear dancing–not that I’m into that type of thing…but, you know what I mean (zip those lips HI-FI Andrew!). I would guess a lot of other folks (myself included), respond in a similar way to songs like “Come Undone” by Duran Duran and “Wicked Game” by Chris Isaak. Even still, “Need You Tonight” is really where the money is – I kind of think of it as the definitive naughty thoughts song.

Come on – that guitar riff? Damn. It just sounds like sex. How the heck did they do that? Add in those suggestive lyrics and Michael Hutchence‘s delicious vocals, you’ve got the song that has been touted as “the three steamiest minutes of the eighties.”

Uh, hell-to-the-yes they were – and I think all the more so because the lyrics are not explicit at all. Suggestive, yes – but it’s what *isn’t* said in this song that makes it so intoxicating.

It’s also what makes current pop songs that *try* to be sexy fail so miserably at it. You don’t need to say it all to awaken sexual feelings in a listener – in fact, being too crude or explicit can have a very opposite effect. Case in point: when I hear Nicki Minaj sing (and I’m using that term loosely) “when he gimme that look then the panties comin’ off”, it just makes me want to puke. It most certainly does not turn me on, because there’s something so base about it that it literally makes me cringe.

Now these lyrics, on the other hand, are a completely different story:

I need you tonight

Cause I’m not sleeping

There’s something about you girl

That makes me sweat

Um…WHOA. Are you freaking kidding me?

How do you feel?

I’m lonely

What do you think?

Can’t think at all

Yeah, me neither. I certainly can’t concentrate on writing anything else.

So if you all will excuse me, I think I’m gonna go take a cold shower…


Find more artists like INXS at Myspace Music.

How Neon Indian Disrupted and Grounded My Life

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Okay, full disclosure; I’m supposed to be writing an article for Hi-Fi Lives about the new Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks record. Actually, I originally planned on finishing it about 4 weeks ago, but…something else came along and changed things.

I could go on for hours complaining about the myriad of academic stuff I should be spending my time knocking out. I’m also moving at the end of this week, so I should probably be filling and sealing the boxes creating a labyrinth of obstacles around my house. The backlog of podcasts that I normally would’ve listened to by now is starting to collect well beyond what I’ll be able to get to before their timeliness expires. My August consisted of 2 funerals and a wedding. There’re plenty of other things on which I could be spending my cognitive energy, right? Instead, I have to take the time to explain the nuances of a record, to which I absolutely cannot stop listening, to the internet. It has simultaneously disrupted my life and grounded me to a place where I can focus on the things that need to get done. Thanks a lot (meant both sarcastically and sincerely) Neon Indian

Calling back to previous articles I’ve written about the serendipitous nature that comes along with modern album releases, as well as my article about the affective nature of music in the fall: The new Neon Indian record, Era Extraña, hits both of these beats. I knew the record would be released at some point in the fall, but I’m not diligent enough to remember, or search for, release dates unless there’re multiple things happening on that day to give me an unrelated point of reference. In short, I’m terrible with dates. Discovering this album’s availability amongst the new releases of the day, when I wasn’t expecting it for another month or so, added an extra element of excitement to my already high level of anticipation.

About the autumn release thing; yes, I have a feeling that this will be remembered as a part of my soundtrack of this year, and it’s not the first time Neon Indian’s done this to me. I happened upon the initial release from Neon Indian, Psychic Chasms, literally en route to my modest Tuesday night DJ gig back in October of ‘09. I was so moved by the tonal atmosphere of legitimate synth-pop which sounded like it was being played on a warped cassette that the patrons of the club that night were subjected to my own personal game of “How many songs can I get away with playing off of this record without it being obvious?”

I should elaborate on the aforementioned “warped cassette” aspect. I think there’s something particularly significant to the instant nostalgia that comes along with the batch of chillwave acts that have popped up in the past few years (e.g. Toro Y Moi, Small Black, Washed Out, etc). Those of us born in the late 70’s and early 80’s were more or less the first generation to grow up hearing synthesizers as a normal aspect of pop music. The use of analog synths and antiquated technology are the new low-fi standard, so these type of acts elicit a nostalgic response even though the songs are new. We’re also familiar with the phenomenon of leaving one’s tapes in the car or outside by the jam box in the heat long enough to alter the sound quality. To this day, when I listen to Radiohead’s The Bends, I still expect particular parts of “High and Dry” and “Black Star” to emit those same three-second backward and warbled bits that occurred where the magnetic tape in my copy somehow switched polarities (as they were on opposite sides of the cassette).

There’s another technical aspect of this record that evokes a feeling of neo-nostalgia. A great deal of the melodies on this record come from synthesizers that are looped and/or arpeggiated rather than played out manually. This is nothing new, of course, but it does a lot to negate the old argument that these technical tools take the emotional element out of music. I think I’m also in that first generation of music listeners that’s become so accustomed to automation that there’s an element of soul bleeding through the electricity.

Ironically, the tone of this record reminds me a lot of My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless, which was constructed–with great pride back in 1991–without the use of synthesizers. It’s easily one of my favorite records of all time. However, very similar emotional tones rhyme between Loveless and Era Extraña, in spite of their juxtaposed composition methods. The similarity is probably what’s made Era Extraña so compelling and has placed it in a state of constant repeat on my iPod. It’s something close to my heart, where music belongs–simultaneously new and familiar. I feel as if these types of records are an example of history proving wrong a popular opinion of the past.

Look, my life at the moment is completely in flux. The only consistent piece on which I’ve had to ground myself has been this record. As disruptive as it’s been to my listening habits, it’s comforting to have something that remains constant during the upheaval. I needed Era Extraña more than I realized. Sure; things are finally starting to settle a bit, I probably should finish some of the many projects on my plate, and the new DJ Shadow, Mayer Hawthorne, and J. Cole records are burning a hole in my iTunes. It’s probably time to move on…but maybe just another listen or two wouldn’t hurt…cheers…


Find more artists like Neon Indian at Myspace Music.

A Mosquito. I’m a Beatle. YEAH! (more words on Nirvana)

[youtube:http://youtu.be/hTWKbfoikeg%5D

A lot of noise has been made about the fact that, round about 20 years ago, an album was released by some greasy kids representing a budding genre of rock music defined by distorted power chords, shouted lyrics, and anger.

I was nine, a newly-baptized Southern Baptist Jesushead–and I was oblivious to grunge.

Don’t misunderstand me — I was not sheltered from [what I then called] secular music. In the car, we had two radio stations — Sunny 100 (mom in the car) and Rock 103, neither of which were Jesus music stations. I’m not sure one even existed in the hooch valley back in the early 90s. If one did, we didn’t listen to it.

So basically, I grew up to a mix of oldies and pop from mom, and classic rock from dad. Though Rock 103 was not a classic rock station, my dad would only turn up the volume when he heard music made by bands that were in their prime when he was in his prime — late 60s to early 80s. Zeppelin, Jimi, Cream, The Who, Queen, Santana, CCR, Skynyrd, Aerosmith, Allman Brothers, Wet Willie, Grand Funk, Rush, Yes, Kansas (how prophetic…), Journey, and a host of others. These bands were the rock royalty against which I judged anything else I heard.

Nirvana wasn’t really even on my radar until much, much later in life. I’d left behind the Praise Jesus Bible thumpin’, but never the classic rock. Though the old gods remain strongest, I’ve found a few newer rock deities at whose altars I’d offer thanks, though my focus tends toward individual musicians rather than bands — Jack White, David Grohl, Flea, Vic Wooten, and Robert Randolph to name a few, and some leftovers from my dad’s era, like John Paul Jones, Eddie Van Halen, Dickey Betts, Carlos Santana, and Geddy Lee.

Nirvana, speaking primarily through power chords, was an affront to everything I knew to be worthy in rock. Complex melodies, impossibly fast and technical solos — those are supposed to be the hallmarks of a great guitar band. Seeing that Nirvana was a three-piece group, I understood why their music was simple — the lead singer was also the only guitar player. Instead of doing one thing and doing it incredibly well, he was trying to do two things at once while performing.

Thus, mediocrity.

I am no stranger to live music performance. Long before those fakemusic games came out, I was playing bass guitar with church bands and rock bands. Being only a mediocre player at best, I never tried to do more than play my four or five strings.

So Nirvana sort of offended me on a fundamental level. They seemed to be choosing to be half-ass.

Then along comes Guitar Hero and Rock Band, and music turned into a game that anyone could play. In Bloom featured the best bass riff on the album and there it was for me to play. I even dabbled in drums for the first time. Simple rock turned out to be a lot more fun to fakeplay than to listen to.

[youtube:http://youtu.be/PbgKEjNBHqM%5D

But I still cannot understand a word they’re saying.

“What’s the Frequency, Kenneth?” — R.E.M.

[youtube:http://youtu.be/jWkMhCLkVOg%5D

As a kid, I grew up listening to R.E.M. They were my older siblings’ favorite band. I had no idea how important or different R.E.M. were from most other bands. I just knew their music from the records my siblings played. Before the age of 10, I knew all of the songs off of their 80s albums by heart. Even if I couldn’t understand the words, I knew all of the melodies – even the ones off of their B-sides collection, Dead Letter Office.

By the early 90s, my siblings had moved on and out of the house, yet I still listened to all of the R.E.M. albums. In the summer of 1994 when I was 12, it was announced that R.E.M. would release their long awaited “rock album” after two albums of folk-inspired music – 1991’s Out of Time and 1992’s Automatic for the People. While I adored those albums, I had waited anxiously for a return to the louder stuff that permeated through Green and Document.

The release of this new album, Monster, would be a pivotal moment in my musical upbringing. It’s the first album I remember being excited about before it was released. I was about to turn 13, and I looked forward to discovering new music on my own during my upcoming teenage years.

As the fall rolled around, my older brother told me that he had heard the new R.E.M. song on the radio. “What’s it called?” I demanded, wanting to know every single detail. “What’s the Frequency, Kenneth?” he said and then went on to describe it as sounding a lot like “Turn You Inside Out”–one of the big “rockers” off of Green. This sounded simply amazing. I couldn’t wait to hear it. No, I had to hear it.

Every day when my mother picked me up from school, I would turn on the radio with hopes that the DJ would play “What’s the Frequency, Kenneth?” For weeks, I always seemed to miss it. They had either just played it, or were about to whenever my mother parked the car. “I’m sure you’ll hear it soon,” she told me, trying to comfort me.

At school, the other kids talked about how the song “sucked” compared to newer bands like Bush and Green Day. It always kind of bothered me that they knew nothing about how good this band actually was. Whatever. They had no taste.

About a week before the album came out, I was on a car trip with my parents when the radio announced they would play “What’s the Frequency, Kenneth” momentarily. My heart leapt. Finally, I would be able to hear it. Then I would finally be able to tell those kids at school how awesome the song actually was. Then to my horror, as my dad drove up the mountain, the radio signal was lost. The only thing coming through the speakers was static. “This can’t be happening,” I thought. Five more minutes of radio hissing blared through the speakers. By the time we had passed through the mountain and the signal returned, the DJ announced that the song had just ended.

I had missed it yet again. If I could have said “fuck” out loud without getting in trouble, I probably would have.

When the album was finally released and my brother brought home his copy, I raced to the stereo to put it on. It was 9 o’clock, normally past my bedtime but my mother let me stay up to listen to the album. I didn’t even care about the other songs – I just wanted to hear “What’s the Frequency, Kenneth?”

I turned the dial on the stereo and closed my eyes. Peter Buck‘s buzzing guitar snarled through the speakers. It was loud, noisy, and beautiful. I couldn’t understand a damn thing Michael Stipe was singing except the title of the song–but didn’t matter. Mike Mill’s background vocals took the song to a new level. By the time the song came to the bridge, Peter Buck busted out a squeaky and distorted solo – a total surprise since this guy never really played a solo. I loved every single second. As soon as the feedback ended, I hit repeat and listened to it again.

It was totally worth the wait. “What’s the Frequency, Kenneth?” was better than anything I had expected.

For more of Matt’s thoughts about music, visit his blog: Leading Us Absurd.


Find more artists like R.E.M. at Myspace Music.

“Rhythm Nation” “If” & “I Get Lonely” — Janet Jackson

I was quite moved by metaphoricalgretchasketch‘s discussion in her most recent post about experiencing music, in a rather profound way, via performing it. She was talking about singing which I certainly have no talent for – however, her post resonated with me as I began thinking about all the years I spent in dance classes as a young girl.

I think it’s safe to say that anyone who knows me would not be surprised to hear that I was not an all-star on the athletic field. I didn’t play a sport, per se. However, I don’t think many folks who’ve hung out with me (particularly in college) would be shocked to know that I took dance lessons for several years, because evidence of those lessons resurfaces from time to time when I allow my inner “woo girl” to come out and play. It is also possible that some of my former students might not be surprised by this either, since I may or may not be guilty of allowing them to teach me to crank that “Soulja Boy” or to “Walk it Out”. I plead the fifth.

Dance gets a bad rep sometimes, because you hear a lot about girls coming out of it with lots of body image issues and the like. I can’t say I completely escaped all of that, but in my case, I’d say my self-image problems were largely due to the pressures communicated by the mass mediaadvertising in particular. My dance teachers, on the other hand, were supportive and kind. They challenged us to become the best dancers we could be, but that didn’t mean we had to starve ourselves or whatever. I was fortunate to have had the chance to grow up in those studios under the care of women who were really about helping girls feel good about their accomplishments…even if those accomplishments weren’t going to take us to Broadway.

I was definitely not Broadway-bound, but by the end of my senior year I think I could *bring it* on stage. I’ve always been able to hold my own in a dance club and I could attract attention if I happened to want it (Don’t you judge me! I’m just being honest – and everyone knows that a lot of the time, going out dancing is all about getting attention!). More importantly, though, the experience of studying dance (ballet, jazz, modern, lyrical, hip-hop, and my favorite genre tap) played a huge role in my development as a young girl and onward to womanhood. And I have Janet Jackson to thank for inspiring my interest. It all began with “Rhythm Nation”.

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OAwaNWGLM0c%5D

I was nine years old when the video for “Rhythm Nation” was released. I was old enough to appreciate the positive message communicated by the lyrics, but I was more intrigued by the choreography of the video. Even at that early age, I loved thinking about how to interpret music though movement. I hadn’t started taking classes yet, but I knew I wanted to after I heard this song and saw the accompanying routine. Looking back at the video now, I am still taken aback by the brilliant choreography. The dance is militaristic in its movement and if you’ve never studied dance before, I’m not sure you can appreciate the intricacy of the steps or the virtual impossibility of people being able to move in synch with one another to this extent. The result is powerful and the music video is, rightfully so, an important icon of the 90s. For my nine-year-old self, it was a beacon that led to me asking my mom to enroll me in dance classes and it was certainly not the last time Janet Jackson would inspire me to keep dancing.

“If” was released in 1993. I was thirteen years old and I had been in dance classes for a couple of years by this point. And, as pubescent kids are wont to do, I was becoming a little bored. It made me sad that I didn’t feel as excited about dance classes anymore. Luckily, “If” changed my mind.

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h-OXYotOguA%5D

I don’t think it is a coincidence that this video spoke to me at a time when I was just beginning to become aware of my own sexuality. I was starting to realize that I found boys attractive and I was starting to want their attention. And here was Janet Jackson, performing this incredibly provocative (though not too vulgar) dance with her crew and really owning her sexuality. She seemed to explode with confidence and power, and, as per usual, I thought the choreography in the video was amazing. When I had friends over to spend the night, I can remember us jumping up in front of the television set anytime the video was on so that we could try to learn the dance – eventually, I had to make a VHS recording and we wore out that tape within a few weeks. We managed to learn the dance, too, but we didn’t feel half as cool as Janet since we didn’t have any hot guys dancing along with us. Despite that, my love for dance was renewed and I continued with my lessons through the end of high school.

I mentioned earlier that I had some pretty amazing dance teachers. Jennifer, the teacher I had through high school, was the best of the best. I loved her and I loved that she allowed any dancer who was a senior in high school to perform a solo at the spring recital, regardless of her level of ability. I loved Jennifer even more for letting me choreograph mine.

I chose not to go the solo route. Instead, I choreographed a piece for two friends and myself to perform. In homage to the muse who kept inspiring me to go back to dance class, I chose her song “I Get Lonely” for my senior number. I was so proud of the result. The girls that danced along with me were amazing and they didn’t roll their eyes about me being the choreographer – I think that’s probably because they could tell that doing the choreography meant so much to me and because of the culture of mutual support and camaraderie among the students that Jennifer cultivated within her school. After the performance, I left the stage of the Springer Opera House with a full heart. I’m still extremely proud of that accomplishment, and full of gratitude for everyone who helped me achieve my goal of choreographing and performing that dance. It’s one of my most favorite memories from my youth and I count myself lucky for being able to transport myself back to that important night with the touch of a button on my iPod.

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GYK_pPJaWEg%5D

Have you ever been inspired by someone’s music or other artwork to pursue a personal goal?
Have you had a life-changing experience while creating or performing something that made you proud?

Tell me all about it in the comments, won’t you? Peace!


Find more artists like Janet Jackson at Myspace Music.

“Flathead” – The Fratellis

This song is about a badass chick. She’ll kick you in the face, give you a bloody nose, and is kind of a slut… but in a good way.

I dare you to listen to this song and not get all head bobby.

I FREAKING DOUBLE-DOG DARE YOU.

Well, just because she feeds me well
And she made me talk dirty in a pink hotel
It doesn’t mean she’s got eyes for me
She might just want my bones, you see

Sounds like the reason my husband married me. (Ba-dum! Rim shot!)

And hey, flathead, don’t you get mean
She’s the second best killer that I ever have seen
They don’t come much more sick than you
I could go on if you want me to

It’s just so wrong, so very nice
And I told you once and you killed me twice
I saw you one time at the back of the club
Chewing on glass and a ticket stub

Said I heard you kicked the boy until he bled
Then you stood and said “oh my God” until she said

Bada ba ba da da da, Bada ba ba da da da da…

Warning: Music nerd moment approaching. Excuse me while I alienate anyone not familiar with time signatures.

I LOVE MIXED METERS. Yeah. Caps lock. It’s that serious. It’s like you’re jamming along and then you’re greeted with an unexpected yet pleasant stumble. I FREAKING LOVE IT.

My love of mixed meters started when I first heard the Beatles song “We Can Work It Out“. There was no going back. Who would stick with a lame 4/4 when you could throw in a 3/4?! Or even, wait for it… a 6/8!

And these guys… OMG they throw in a 7/8 in the chorus!! A 7/8 PEOPLE! *gasps with delight* 

It’s the little things, y’all. Enjoy them.

Well, everybody knows you’re the one to call
When the girls get ugly around the back of the wall
Josephine says you got a bleeding nose
She’s taking it with her wherever she goes

Hey, flathead, don’t check me in
Well hers is a tonic and mine is a gin
They don’t come much more slick than you
I’d drive your car if you ask me to

Said the boy’s not right in the head
And he stood and got a kicking instead until she said

Bada ba ba da da da, Bada ba ba da da da da…

On top of the mixed meter and lyrics, I have to say that I also love this video. A hot pin-up girl makes everything better… and this video has THREE hot pin-up girls. What more could you ask for!?

And she said the boy’s not right in the head
Then stood and said “oh my God” until she said

Bada ba ba da da da, Bada ba ba da da da da…

Remember that double-dog dare?  Yeah, I see you over there. I WIN. 😉


Find more artists like The Fratellis at Myspace Music.

“Goth Star” — HEALTH (Pictureplane cover)

Something quite magical typically happens around September. I’m old enough now to anticipate it happening, but I’ve yet to be able to accurately target from where the feeling will come. I’ll usually start pulling out my favorite autumn classic records (which I’m sure I’ll post about in the future) to let the mix of nostalgia and welcome weather change trigger the emotional blooming season. Normally, the new addition to my ever-growing collection of fall records doesn’t really manifest itself until around October and I’ll not realize its memorable impact until long after the fact. This year was an exception.

This past Monday, for the first time post summer heat and humidity oppression, I got to throw on a hat and hoodie to start my day. During my morning internet rounds, I found a free download (via Last.fm) of the band HEALTH’s cover of the Pictureplane tune “Goth Star”, and the feeling of fall came much sooner than I was expecting. It was perfect, and everything fell into place.

There a few aspects I find interesting about this piece. For starters, I’m not really someone who focuses so much on lyrics.  For me, the evocative aspects of music lie in the soundscapes. I think it’s why, as much as I love rock and roll, I’m just as much moved by a well produced hip-hop track or electronic piece. (Pick your sub-genre. I’m pretty open to all of them.) The original version of “Goth Star”, sans the R&B vocal sample that’s essentially unintelligible, had no lyrics. HEALTH’s version adds subtle lyrical vamps which add to the melancholy feel of the tune.

All we have is lost…

Beg for what you want…

I find it interesting that so many current bands cover the songs of their contemporaries. Another good example of this is Small Black’s cover of Best Coast’s “Sun Was High(And So Was I)”. Certainly this isn’t some new phenomenon, as it was more commonplace pre-MTV era. However, the prior practice was more about songs being sold by dedicated songwriters to performers, rather than the current model of bands writing their own music (mostly…at least as far as rock bands are concerned). Unlike this former “business model”, these covers feel more sincere and facilitate a sense of community amongst indie acts. It hearkens back to Jimi Hendrix and the Rolling Stones covering Bob Dylan songs (“All Along The Watchtower” and “Like A Rolling Stone”, respectively). What makes this instance unique, to me, is the genre crossing. Pictureplane is primarily an electronic act, where as HEALTH is a traditional rock 4-piece (think Nine Inch Nails with more colorful clothing and less overt religious imagery). The de-stigmatization of using synths and samplers in rock and roll enables a lot of this cross-cultural tributing and allows for more accurate recreation of the original pieces.

Look, I live in the American Southeast and I know good and well this bit of cold snap is just a tease. It’ll be 90 degrees again, most likely within the week, and proper autumn weather won’t settle in ‘til most likely late October. However, with all of the other auxiliary aspects of fall kicking off (pun half intended) like football and a new school year/semester, it’s nice to have a soundtrack to welcome in my favorite part of the year. Lucky for me, it’s a cover of a song I like by a band I like. Cheers…


Find more artists like HEALTH at Myspace Music.

“It Was a Good Day” – Ice Cube

If rap music has power ballads, then this may be its finest.  I was 13 in the spring of 1993, the same time MTV began airing the music video for what would become Ice Cube’s most recognized anthem.  In 1993, MTV was one of the two ways I learned about new music (the other being my sister away at college and the mix tapes she would make me…bands with crazy names like Hootie and the Blowfish and Counting Crows).  The problem was my parents, who didn’t care for MTV any more than they cared for my burgeoning sense of fashion.  For that reason, most of my viewing took place when I had the house to myself.  It was then, as a 13-year-old suburban white boy, that I realized I loved rap music.

There was and is something altogether relaxing about “It Was a Good Day.”  Perhaps it’s the laid back sampling, the steady, if not monotonous melody that loops throughout the track and invited me into an average day in South Central Los Angeles.  Maybe it’s Ice Cube’s delivery, which is never rushed, making it all the easier for me to rap along with.

Just wakin’ up in the mornin’ gotta thank God

I don’t know but today seems kinda odd

No barkin’ from the dog, no smog

And mama cooked a breakfast with no hog.

Ice Cube likes pork products for breakfast?  This I could relate to.  Hooking up with girls and wondering if I’d live to see another day?  Not so much.  But sausage biscuits?  I feel that.  For real.  Of course the music video made the lyrics come alive.  Ice Cube looked like a total badass cruising the city streets in his classic candy apple green Chevy Impala, the hydraulics thrusting the car up and down to match the beat.  Of course I was unfamiliar with the entire vernacular. “Brew,” “chronic,” and certainly “punanny” were all foreign nouns as far as I was concerned.  My sheltered childhood had left me behind my public school contemporaries, but thanks to a largely descriptive music video, I was quickly putting two and two together.  It wasn’t just the depiction of casual sex and recreational drug use that seemed so authentic, or for that matter, so raw.  It was the flow of the words, not unlike poetry, that grabbed me.  It was unlike anything I had heard up until that point.  Granted, my only real exposure to rap had been M.C. Hammer and (please understand that it pains me to write this) DC Talk, which would be a little bit like only ever eating at the Olive Garden before moving to Italy.  There was no comparison.  I was hooked on the phrasing, the clever word play, the ability to weave a story into four minutes of rhymes.  Both Vanilla Ice and Snow had ruined everything for white rappers a few years before, and Eminem had yet to break through, so I doubted a career was in the cards for me.  That, however, didn’t stop me from rapping in the car, in the shower, and in my head.

And it still hasn’t.

Drunk as hell but no throwing up

Halfway home and my pager’s still blowing up

Today I didn’t even have to use my AK

I gotta say it was a good day.


Find more artists like Ice Cube at Myspace Music.

How Drum and Bass Ruined/Saved My Life

[youtube:http://youtu.be/cwI0gbGEyuI%5D

I walked into the dark, sweaty, smoky backroom in Loretta’s where Hazeus towered behind the decks bouncing a tangled mess of dreads to the roll of the ragga drums. It was love at first bass drop! (Insert every Hollywood movie cliché.) My heart skipped a beat, I had goose bumps, time froze…I was head over heels. Up until that moment I was very much into the rave scene but I loved the culture more than anything. House DJs were basically interchangeable to me and like most anything else to a 19-year-old boy, it was only a matter of time before I grew tired of it and moved on to the next “greatest thing ever.”

Drum and Bass was a completely different animal. While trance and house concentrated on simple, repetitive drums used to drive inspirational synth patterns and elevate the crowd into a sense of faux-euphoria, DnB took another approach to move the crowd.  It almost completely threw out all the pretty melodies, sped everything up nearly double time and turned its focus to… drums and bass. (duh!)  It was deep, moody, heavy and inspirational in its own way, and it was exactly what I needed in my life.

I felt empowered, important and privileged to be a part of this movement, as nearly every college kid feels about whatever it is that they are passionate about. Drum and bass quickly engulfed every aspect of my life. Nearly every CD in my car was a DJ mix, nearly every outfit in my closet was completely out-of-place anywhere but a nightclub, and every waking moment was spent thinking about the next party. Within a year the music was everything. “How can I go to class?  Tech Itch is playing tonight.” “Dom and Roland is playing Saturday. I never liked that job anyway.” “Family?  My family is at the party already.” Before I knew it I was a college dropout, unemployed and essentially homeless. I floated through life for half a decade like this and I had never been happier.

All great highs are followed by devastating lows and mine hit like a ton a bricks. I woke up one day to realize that somehow I had enlisted in the military, gotten married and become a father. What? When did I become so utterly normal? Wasn’t I special? I should’ve been someone by now. Why was I not a famous producer/DJ or at least running a record label? That was my path in life, right? I mean, the only thing I ever wanted to be was a rock star as far back as I could remember. While most boys were dreaming about being fighter pilots or firefighters, all I could picture was a stage in my future. But there I was in my mid 20s…aging early, overweight and nursing what had to be an undiagnosed case of clinical depression. I gave Drum and Bass my heart and she gave me nothing in return.

I look back now at that angry, ungrateful “man” with overwhelming embarrassment. If anything I am lucky to be alive, let alone a father to two beautiful children and a husband to a wonderful wife who stuck with me for better or WORSE. I can’t pinpoint the turning point when maturity knocked at my door. I’m just glad that it finally joined the party. It brought with it a peacefulness that I had never felt and a realization that I am anything but normal. I have seen half the world and I am nowhere near the end of my travels. I have never tucked a Hawaiian-style shirt into a pair of bermuda shorts. I have never owned sandals with Velcro straps and most importantly, I do not listen to Nickelback. I can’t be angry at DnB. In fact, I thank her for shaping me into who I am today. I really like this guy.

Drum and Bass, and more recently its offspring Dubstep, is still a huge part of who I am. I exercise to it, I dream to it, I drink to it. It is the soundtrack to a heaving handful of meaningful memories. It’s where I fell in love with the mother of my children and my partner in life. It’s playing as I write this. It will forever be a part of who I am. About a year ago I saw Dieselboy in San Diego and it was nothing short of amazing! After the show, out of nowhere, I actually shed a tear. The next morning it became clear to me that for the first time in a decade, I felt the magic again. I caught the dragon I had spent the last third of my life chasing. The music never left me out to dry and it certainly didn’t owe me anything. It has always been there — growing and evolving with me.


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