Mental Quicksand

Fear is quick sand. It’s a pair of cement shoes weighing you down. It pulls you down and envelopes you until there is no light, no escape, and no forward progress. You can fight as much as you want, but it will only drown you quicker. You see the world pass you by as you suffer in silence. You wish you could do something, but no matter what you do, no matter how close you get to the surface, you still drown. The only way to escape it is to accept it and let it take you.

There’s a Pixar movie called “Inside Out” that really made me think. Essentially, your emotions are anthropomorphized beings who work in your head, effecting how you perceive the world, with one emotion holding the wheel. Ever since I saw that movie, I’ve wondered which emotion of mine holds the proverbial wheel, is it anger, fear, sadness, joy? I’m torn between anger and fear. I’m angry because I have ridiculously high expectations of myself and everyone around me, and get upset when they don’t live up to my expectations. I’m angry because I’m an emotional punching bag for hundreds of assholes at my bullshit minimum-wage job. I’m angry because I could’ve been better and achieved everything I wanted. But I’m also scared of everything, which is probably why I’m miserable.

It shouldn’t be this hard. Why can’t I overcome my fear when so many others can? Do you think that a Russian Infantryman in Stalingrad wasn’t terrified? No, but he muscled through his fear and achieved his goal, or died trying. What the fuck is my excuse? I want to be better, but there is this mental brick wall that I keep running into preventing me from advancing, and nothing I do can penetrate it. I wonder what the future holds, if this is just a temporary setback, or if it’s the battle of a lifetime.

Persistence Is Key

“You don’t start out writing good stuff, you start out writing crap and thinking it’s good stuff, and gradually you get better at it. That’s why I say one of the most valuable traits is persistance” Octavia E Butler

I ran into this quote recently, and it got me thinking. I don’t think my writing is good, I edit and re-edit, and completely erase parts I don’t like, only to wish I hadn’t minutes later. I’ve been in a bit of a creative rutt lately, I’ve still got ideas, but executing them has been harder than usual lately. Maybe I need to go outside more, maybe I need to switch up my routine, maybe I’ll bounce back in a couple weeks, I really don’t know. What I do know is that I’ll probably still make terrible blog posts, until I don’t. I’ve found that the posts I work really hard on don’t do as well as the posts I shotgun out in 20 minutes, so maybe I don’t know what “good” looks like.

I think about all the things I’ve quit at; soccer, baseball, my pre-law major, my philosophy major, my journalism minor, and I can’t help but wonder what life would’ve been like had I persevered. That Octavia Butler quote makes me think about the inevitable day that I quit writing, since I know that some day I’ll get a real job that keeps me busy enough that I won’t have time to write blog posts on my phone at work. I hope that I still have the time to write, it’s weirdly cathartic to bitch about things you don’t like on the internet for people you’ll never meet to read.

I’ve definitely improved my writing skills since I’ve started blogging, I don’t know if it’s been by much, but I can clearly see an improvement over even my first couple posts. Reading some of my early posts makes me want to go back and edit them and make them semi-decent, but part of me wants to keep them the way they are as a sort of time capsule of where I was at that point in my life, even though it was only a couple months ago.

Your Brain on ADHD

*Alarm buzz*

Time: 9:30am

“Ok, I’ve got time, I can totally just close my eyes for a sec..”

-20 minutes later-

“Shit, I actually have to get up and do things now. I wonder what happened to Shaggy?”

-30 minutes later-

“Ok, so Shaggy was a Marine who served in the Gulf War and sang to pass the time. Let’s see if I can find any pictures of him in uniform, because that doesn’t sound true”

-3 pages of Google Images later-

“Shaggy is an interesting dude, I didn’t know there was a recognized legal defense based on “It Wasn’t Me”

-10 minutes of watching YouTube videos of people losing their shit at Popeyes-

Time: 10:30am

“Huh. I was supposed to do something today, I probably should’ve written that down so I would’ve remembered”

“I wonder if squirrels have names for each other. I wonder what my name would be if I were a squirrel. Squirrel is such a weird word, who came up with that?”

-1 deep dive into the etymology of the word “squirrel” later-

“Damnit, I was supposed to take the trash out for the garbage people today, guess I’ll have to survive until next week.”

“What should I have for breakfast, I’ve been in a toast kick for a minute, but I don’t have much time, so I should have cereal or something quick.”

“I wonder how many Cheerios are in a box, has anyone ever counted them?”

“Shit, I’m late for work, I don’t have time to finish breakfast”

-5 minutes of picking the right album for the ride to work-

Time: 11:30am

“Why is there so much traffic, I didn’t know this many people lived in this town, what the hell?”

-Arrive to work 5 minutes late-

“Everything at work is broken, this day will probably suck. An Always Sunny and Workaholics crossover would be great, I wonder what that would be like”

-Write a spec script on the back of a receipt-

Time: 12:05pm

Only 9 hours before I get to go home…

4 Types of Customers Nobody Likes

I get a wide variety of customers at work, most of them are decent enough people, or harmless. There are always outliers though, people like…

4. The Barely-Awake Stoner

Look, there’s nothing wrong with hitting the ol’ electric lettuce, but c’mon people, get it together before you venture out in public. Sometimes these customers are awesome, they’re usually open to suggestions, they’re funny most of the time, and you might get a big tip if you joke about how baked they look. You can tell you’re in for a bad time when you can smell the reefer before you see the customer, this usually means you’re in for 5 minutes of silence while they figure out where they are, and what they might want to eat. Further signs someone might be catastrophically cooked are when they have trouble relaying their order to you, or if they get distracted in the middle of their sentence and stop talking so they can think. Please smoke responsibly people.

3. The Soccer Mom

I don’t know how common these are everywhere else, but in my pasty-white slice of suburbia they run rampant. This sub-genre of white person is identified by their superior attitude, their cropped haircut, and their complete inability to control their children, who usually have ridiculous names like Braedyn or Jaedon. These woman are about 2 cups of coffee and a Xanax away from total meltdown, so they don’t have time for things like manners or complete sentences. Soccer Moms usually hate the taste of coffee, but rely on the caffeine, so they order drinks that are 95% sugary garbage and 5% coffee, and they expect you to know how much of each of the 7 ingredients to put in without telling you. Jesus help you if it’s even a little off, they’ll make you redo it 4 or 5 times until they think it’s right, even if you make it the same way each time. God forbid, they bring their kids in, forcing you to deal with whatever future asshole they’ve raised to talk down to retail workers. These people have never worked a service job on their lives, so they don’t understand that what they’re doing is wrong.

2. The Conspiracy Nut

There are different stages of conspiracy nuts: the first layer is my favorite, they just vomit out whatever clickbait headline they just skimmed so you think they know what they’re talking about. The layer below that is where I start to get annoyed. These people are usually a couple crayons short of a box, and lack the awareness to realize that I’m not interested in listening to them talk about how Obama was a lizard person, or how the government is secretly giving us Lyme Disease to keep us from getting insurance. Every time one of these Alex Jones- level nuts come by, I pray for someone else to come along so I have an excuse to stop listening to them.

1. The Asshole

These are way too common. I don’t know what these people are like outside of the store, but it seems like the second they get into the store they evolve into some sort of enraged nuclear bomb. For the most part, these people are miserable people who get shat on in their own lives so much that they feel the need to make someone else’s day miserable. I deal with this type of customer every day, and I’ve noticed there are more of them than ever, which provides great material, but I’m getting tired of old people yelling at me because I can’t read their minds. Today, I got yelledat because apparently I didn’t get that “Black Coffee” means small iced with extra cream and sugar. I guess I’ve gotta work on that. I’ve found that laughing at these assholes works like a charm, as does being overly nice to them. Both approaches fry their circuits and leave then speechless, which is alway nice after 5 continuous mintues of verbal abuse.

An Ode To Finnegan’s

Home can be complicated, it can be where you live, it can be where you sleep, it can be where you feel most comfortable. I’m incredibly blessed to not only have a home, but to have a home away from home, away from home. Finnegan’s is where I went for my 21st birthday, and ever since I’ve felt at home there. Finnegan’s is such a big part of my life, so many noteworthy things have happened here; my friend Tim realized his girlfriend was the worst when she drove an hour and a half down to the bar because Tim didn’t respond to a text fast enough, it’s where I realized that I really like bluegrass music, it’s where I feel the most comfortable outside the creative prison I call my house, it’s where I discovered the second-best burger in town.

Finnegan’s is not your average dive bar, it’s 50% Dick’s Last Resort, 25% 1960’s watering hole, and 25% hipster hangout. If you can’t tell, I love this place, it’s where I feel relaxed, and that’s really important to me because there are so few places I can let my guard down and bullshit with the best of them. I have this annoying habit of trying to get out of my own head by listening to other people’s conversations, and the conversations I’ve overheard are worthy of their own podcast.

I have this really bad habit of losing faith in my writing ability when my posts don’t get viewed, and Fin’s, as my friends and I call it, is where I go to decompress and hide from the world. Fin’s is my Narnia: I can hide from the world here, I really need to do that sometimes.

Some people are afraid to come to Finnegan’s. Those same people probably wear life jackets in the pool. Fin’s may be a little rough around the edges, but that’s what I like about it, I’ll never have to worry about it being crowded, or the prices going up, or if they’ll run out of my favorite beer. Fin’s is consistent, it’s the Curren$y of bars: you know exactly what you’re going to get, and sometimes it’s better.

The people that come to Finnegan’s are a special breed, I’ve been offered cocaine, I’ve seen off-duty cops gossip like school girls, I’ve seen parents bitch about their kids, I’ve seen a 17-year old with a fake ID literally thrown out of the bar. I feel more confident talking to people at Fin’s than I do anywhere else, and that concerns me, I should be able to talk to people everywhere, but nobody’s perfect. I don’t know if I should be concerned that my creative juices flow best at a bar, or that the bartender has my drink waiting for me when she sees me, but I do know that this place is important to me, and is partly responsible for the man I am today.

How To Get A Job In Marketing

Getting a job is tough. You spend so much time making sure your resume is polished and your LinkedIn profile is set up, only to have all that work ignored. I’m dealing with that part myself right now, so I figured I’d try and help people who are in a similar situation.

Take Advantage of Networking Opportunities

If you live in a well-populated area, or even close to one, look out for job fairs. These are good places to make connections, and put a face to your name. Try not to be too eager, but be persistant, and make sure you bring multiple copies of your resume to hand out.

If you’re just looking for something short-term and flexible, try your local temp agency, they rely on getting people jobs quickly, so if you’re in a pinch, and can make an appointment with a temp agency, do it. Even if you’re looking for something more permanent, temp agencies can help you, some jobs are temp-to permanent, so if you do well, you could find yourself in a decent position.

If you’ve got some decent sales abilities, you can try looking up companies you want to work for, and send them an email. Usually, this doesn’t work, but I’ve heard a few success stories, so you never know. Try writing your email like you would a sales letter or any other piece of copy, except think of yourself as the product. Highlight your abilities and ways you can benefit the company, while not sounding like a robot.

If you’ve got an entrepreneurial attitude, and some confidence in your abilities, you can try freelancing on sites like Upwork and Fivver. These sites have entry-level work that you can do from your home. Some posters offer low pay for unreasonable amounts of work, so make sure you clearly understand what your client expects of you before you accept the offer.

Non-profits are always looking for help and, contrary to their name, some of them pay pretty well. If you see a non-profit that supports a cause you care about, reach out to them and see if you can help them. It might only be a small project, but you’ll get your foot in the door, gain some work experience, and support a good cause all at once.

Use Social Media

Social media has changed the way we do things, from how we share videos, to how we communicate with each other. This makes it a perfect place to look for advice, networking, and eventually, a job.

A lesser-known place to network is Reddit, a collection of message boards based on a common interest. The r/marketing and r/advertising boards are filled with people in the industry, and are usually happy to guide students and graduates, and job postings are made once a month, so you can expand your search.

Facebook can help you get a job too. Besides being a place where uneducated morons vomit out their opinions. Facebook is home to tons of different groups, and those groups can be very helpful in finding a job, learning more about a certain niche, or even just networking with people. I’m part of a couple copywriting groups, solely to have my copy torn apart and improved by random strangers on the Internet, and it’s helped me immensely.

LinkedIn is an incredibly useful tool that I had written off for a very long time, but now that I’ve graduated and really need to find a decent job, I’m starting to realize how important it is. LinkedIn is social media for your career, so don’t put anything stupid up there, pick a profile picture that makes you look professional and hireable, dress to impress, and for God’s sake, smile. After you apply to a company, check out their LinkedIn page, and follow them. This lets them know you’re serious about working with them, and is a nice look into the type of content they share and the feedback it gets. You can also add your friends and acquaintances to your network, you never know who might know who, so it’s good to cast as wide of a net as you can.

Assorted Helpful Tips

Now, there are a few more things you can do to spice up your resume, and show you’ve got what it takes. There are also some sketchy companies put there looking to prey on your desperation and inexperience, so I’ll tell you a little about how to avoid getting taken advantage of.

First thing’s first, if you’re reading this post, you more than likely have your own blog. That right there is your first resume builder. Take your blog, and apply your knowledge to it and make it grow. The longer you do it, and the more traffic you get, the more value you’ll show to potential employers. You can also use your blog as a testing platform and see which types of content work, and which to avoid.

If your job doesnt have a dedicated marketing role, take some initiative and write up an outline of what you would do, and take it to your boss. They might see some potential in you, and it’ll quickly add work to your resume.

If you’re not sure if you know enough to be successful at your first “real” job, you can alway learn more by getting certifications from Hubspot and Google. These can be useful, and it’s another thing to add to your resume. The ones I recommend are Hubspot’s Content Marketing, Inbound and Outbound Marketing, and GoogleAds. These should prepare you for what you’ll most likely be dealing with.

There are a lot of misleading job postings filed under “marketing”, so make sure to always research the company before you apply, and if you see a posting that doesn’t look right, check Glassdoor and see what employees say about the company. Most of these companies use phrases like “residential marketing” or “field marketing” or “in-home marketing”. Don’t be fooled: they’re usually door-to-door sales gigs that burn through people constantly. I recently fell for a well-disguised posting for an Advertising Account Coordinator that turned out to be a bogus sales job selling cut-rate phone plans. Always do your research.

Lastly, think outside the box and do some spec work for fun. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but it should challenge you creatively. I started learning Premier Pro by making really terrible music videos using YouTube footage that I cut together. Whatever it is, make sure you find a way to enjoy it, and find a way to learn from it. I like to save my early attempts so I can see how far I’ve come.

So, that’s everything I know about finding a marketing job. I hope it helped someone start their career. Did I miss anything? Leave a comment, I’d love to hear from you.

Top 10 Albums of the 2010’s

Everywhere I go, I see lists of the Top Ten Albums of the Decade, and it got me thinking about how musically great this decade was. Since I’m not a trained musician, and I don’t have any musical education besides one class in college on “The Art of Listening to Music” all of these are based off personal preference.

 

10. 2014 Forest Hills Drive- J.Cole (2014)

In the #10 spot, J.Cole. 2014 Forest Hills Drive is the album that cemented J.Cole as a top-tier rapper worthy of Jay-Z’s cosign. J.Cole went platinum with no features on this album, a huge deal at the time. Some of my favorite J.Cole songs are on Forest Hills Drive, so I might be biased towards it.

J.Cole is incredibly good at telling stories, on “Wet Dreamz” he talks about how nervous he was losing his virginity, a heartfelt and vulnerable experience for anyone to share, let alone a rapper. That’s the thing about him, he is very good at being relatable, you probably felt the same way he did going to that girl’s house after school, you probably felt you could’ve helped your parents more, you’ve probably felt hopeless at some point and didn’t think it would end.

Not only does Forest Hills Drive have great lyrical content, the beats J.Cole picked are incredible too, especially on “Fire Squad”, “No Role Models”, and “Love Yours”. My favorite moment on the album comes on “No Role Models” in a sample of lovable doofus George W Bush butchering a common saying.

Songs to Check Out: Fire Squad, Love Yours, Apparently, No Role Models, Tale of 2 Citiez

9. I don’t like shit, I don’t go outside-Earl Sweatshirt (2015)

Earl Sweatshirt is a master of bite-sized content that makes you feel full, and i dont like shit, i dont go outside is definitely bite-sized, but feels like a 3-course meal. I dont like shit is perfect for those cold winter days where you wake up hungover and realize you have to go outside and shovel snow. It’s both lyrically dense, and sonically pleasing, which is a nice surprise for an album that’s less than half an hour long.

Earl has grown up quite a bit since the days of Doris, jacking off to Asher Roth eating apple sauce, and his lyrical content has grown with him, this album is filled with one-liners that take a second to comprehend, you can tell that Earl has studied at the MF DOOM School of Internal Rhyme. This isn’t an album for everyone, there’s a lot of depressing shit here, Earl seems to be baring his soul on songs like Faucet and Grief, but he does it in such a way that makes you nod your head along with him. Earl ends the album off on a high-note with “Wool” a middle-finger to everyone who doesn’t like him, with Vince Staples shooting off aggressive gun lines and Remona Park shoutouts.

I listen to this on my way to work every once in a while, its short runtime makes it perfect for the commute, and by the time I get there, I’m fired up by the “Fuck you” confidence of Vince and Earl.

Songs to Check Out: Grief, Grown-Ups, Faucet, D.N.A, Wool

4:44- Jay-Z (2017)

Jay-Z is the best rapper alive. Full stop. That being said, he only put out one album worth talking about this decade, and I think it’s one of his best. If it wasn’t a Tidal Exclusive, more kids born before Reasonable Doubt came out would recognize that Jay is the GOAT. 4:44 is produced front-to-back by legendary producer No I.D, and switches Jay’s usually bombastic style to something more low-key and personal. This is a rare look into Jay’s life at the time, he was just called out by his wife in an incredibly public way, and feels the need to apologize to her. The title track 4:44 is one of those songs that I feel uncomfortable listening to, it feels too personal and intimate for me to be listening to while I vacuum my house in a bathrobe.

Jay-Z is the richest man in rap, and he uses the knowledge he’s gained over his career to try and educate the next generation on The Story of OJ, Legacy, and Moonlight. The Story of OJ might be my favorite Jay-Z song ever, it’s got an immaculate instrumental, it’s got Jay going full dad-rap, and it’s got the best line on the album: ” OJ like ‘I’m not black, I’m OJ’……Oookay.” You can practically hear the eye roll there, and it’s a great insight into the theme of the song. There are so many high-points in this album, it’s hard to just pick a few to write about. “Marcy Me” has Jay reminiscent of the Marcy Projects where he grew up, “Moonlight” is basically Old Man Jay shaking his head at the new generation of rappers, “Smile” features his mother, who comes out as a lesbian, “Bam” is a brass-heavy banger with Damian Marley, “Family Feud” is the family reunion of Jay and Bey, every song on 4:44 is an event, and by the end, I was shocked by how great it was.

There aren’t many ways to hear 4:44, unless you have Apple Music or Tidal, or have the patience to sit through 6 minute intros before getting to the song on YouTube. This caused me to actually purchase a physical copy, which you should definitely do if you’re Jay-Z fan.

Songs to Check Out: The Story of OJ, Bam, Moonlight, Marcy Me

7. Avantdale Bowling Club- Avantdale Bowling Club (2018)

This might sound weird, but ABC is a jazz rap album from New Zealand. It’s worth a listen. This isn’t just a rap album, it’s free jazz with rap verses. The live band makes this album sound more rich, and is what initially caught my ear. You could listen to the instrumental version of ABC and still enjoy it, I keep it on in the background while I work, the jazzy trumpets and cymbals make my work day a little more tolerable.

There is a lot to unpack here, you might need to pull up the lyrics to fully understand the songs, but it’s worth it, front-man Tom Scott pours his heart out all over this album, and with the incredible trumpets and saxophones and drums in the background, you can hear the pain in his voice. Songs like Old Dogs, and F(r)iends use the brass section to give the song an extra punch that they wouldn’t feel the same without.

I’ve done a lot of thinking about ABC, and I’m torn between thinking whether it’s an autobiography, or a collection of short stories with the same characters. One the one hand: all of the songs flow together so well, and the subject matter is highly personal, but it also tells multiple stories and life lessons learned over a lifetime. On the other hand though, it’s warning from Tom not to live like him: consumed by creating perfection, and empty when you can’t find that spark. Tom also tell stories of his friends who’ve progressed from weed to meth, and some of them die from it. This is what F(r)iends is about, the title applies the people in the song, both friends and fiends. I’ve dealt with this before on a smaller scale, the people you hung out with in high school maintain the same bad habits that made them “cool” in the first place, never growing up, and switching to harder drugs until they’re a shell of their former selves.  Water Medley is an ode to water, the cure to hangovers, the cure to creative blocks, the key to life. 

This album’s about an hour long, but only 8 songs, which is nice because you have time to properly enjoy the music without having to be intently focused on understanding the lyrics. It’s a perfect Fall album, and makes driving at night feel like you’re in an old detective movie.

Songs to Check Out: Old Dogs, Pocket Lint, F(r)iends, Water Medley

6. To Pimp a Butterfly-Kendrick Lamar (2015)

Yea, I said it, Kendrick Lamar isn’t #1. This might seem like a hot take for those of you who idolize Kendrick, and while I love this album and what he was trying to do with it, there are albums I like more. Now that that’s out of the way, To Pimp a Butterfly is incredible, from the ridiculous flex on the cover, to the ensemble of musicians assembled, to the lyrical content. This is an album about black excellence, and how music has been influenced by it.

At first, I wasn’t into the jazzy instrumentals, but as my tastes develop, I appreciate them more and more. There are few “bangers” on here, but there are songs that make you think, and I think we need that type of music even more. There is a lot of anger in this album, anger at at society, anger at the community, and anger for Kendrick himself. The Blacker the Berry is an example of anger at society and community, with Kendrick declaring that he is the biggest hypocrite of 2015,while describing the ways that black people are mistreated in America, but ending the song by pointing out the hypocrisy of black-on-black crime.

This album is deep, and you might not catch onto everything the first time around. I certainly didn’t. Songs like “How Much a Dolla Cost” had an instrumental that I couldn’t appreciate, so I didn’t give it a proper listen until long after the album came out, which is a shame because not only was it one of Obama’s favorite songs, it has one of the most shocking moments on an already-eventful album: the revelation that the homeless man asking Kendrick for a dollar was God. I had to run it back a few times to properly appreciate the story Kendrick was telling, and I’m glad I did.

Songs to Check Out: Alright, The Blacker the Berry, U, i, How Much a Dolla Cost, Hood Politics

5. At.Long.Last.A$AP- A$AP Rocky (2015)

A$AP Rocky surprised the hell out of me with this one. I’m a fan of the his New York twist on Houston Screw music, so that’s what I went into At.Long.Last.A$AP looking for. Boy, was I in for a treat. The opening rant from a pastor evolved into a slowed down soul sample on Holy Ghost, I was shocked, it sounded like something Jimi Hendrix would do if he was alive today, I couldn’t believe this came from the guy who liked to fuck because he had a fuckin’ problem.

The psychedelic vibe continues with L$D, where Rocky switches things up and sings, something I didn’t know he had in him, with a trippy music video that looks like Rocky dropped a tab or two before thinking of it. I like that Rocky is switching up his style a bit here, it’s refreshing to see him sound good on beats that he’d probably never touch in 2011.  Kanye West makes an appearance on “Jukebox Joints” and while his verse isn’t the best, I like the production he put on it, he definitely knows how to flip a sample and make something gold with it.  There is a lot of genre-bending on this album, but my overall favorite song is Everyday with Rod Stewart. This was my first introduction to Rod Stewart, and I loved how the old style and the new styles meshed together, with a heavenly Miguel outro to tie it all together. On M’s Lil Wayne comes out of nowhere to absolutely annihilate his verse, much to my surprise, and gave me a new respect for Wayne I hadn’t had before, so if you’re not a big Wayne guy, check that one out, you’ll be surprised.

A.L.L.A is filled with diverse sounds, and is worth a listen regardless if you like Rocky or not, I’m sure you’ll find a sound you like. If you like confident bangers, you’ll like LPFJ2, Electric Body, and Excuse Me, if you like socially-conscious boom-bap, you’ll like Max B, Wavybone and Canal St., and if you like experimental stuff, you’ll like L$D,  Dreams, Everyday, and Pharsyde.

Songs to Check Out: M’s, Everyday, Max B, LPFJ2, L$D, Jukebox Joints, Holy Ghost

4. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy-Kanye West (2010)

I, like most people, think Kanye West is an asshole. That being said, Dark Twisted Fantasy is one of my favorite rap albums ever, and if it weren’t for the last 3 songs, Dark Twisted Fantasy would be #1. Dark Twisted Fantasy starts out with a barely-recognizable Nicki Minaj with what barely passes as a British accent ordering you to zip it and listen to Kanye’s magnum opus. Whatever your feelings toward Kanye, he was extremely gifted at putting songs together, and he demonstrates his gift here. All of the songs on this album are immaculate, maximalist anthems that will exist long after Kanye has his eventual mental breakdown. This album was supposed to be his masterpiece, his legacy, and while he accomplished that on this album, his legacy will always be tarnished because of his antics.

Musically, this is Kanye West at his best. Tracks like Runaway, Devil in a New Dress, All of the Lights, and Gorgeous are among the best and most recognizable of his career, and the rest of the album isn’t far behind. Runaway was actually the song that got me into Kanye, I’d heard of him before as the guy who made beats for Jay-Z, but I’d never given his solo work a chance. Those 4 opening piano notes drew me in, and as soon as the drums came in, I was hooked. Immediately after finishing this 9-minute long toast to assholes, douchebags, and scumbags, I took a minute to reflect on what I’d just heard. After composing myself a little, and getting over the fact that I’d liked a Kanye song, I went and listened to the whole album.

Every single artist on Dark Twisted Fantasy brings their A-Game, with career-defining verses from Nicki Minaj and Cyhi the Prynce. The posse cut “So Appalled” is the best posse cut I’ve ever heard, with Jay-Z, Pusha-T, Cyhi, and Raekwon all competing for the best verse on the album. (Jay-Z won, hands down.) This feels like an album for the ages, all of these songs, with an exception of the last 3, are classics, no matter your feelings toward Kanye.

Songs to Check Out: Dark Fantasy, Runaway, So Appalled, Gorgeous, Devil in a New Dress, Monster

3. Swimming-Mac Miller (2018)

Swimming means a lot to me, and although it came out barely a year ago, I can’t say I’ve gotten bored with it, and I play it almost every day at work. It’s the last album Mac put out, and it’s bittersweet to listen to because he was such a gifted musician, and he had come so far from the frat-rap days of Donald Trump, that I will always be curious where he would take his sound next.

Swimming is light, airy, and subtle. Most of the instrumentals aren’t bass forward, there aren’t any obvious bangers, with the J.Cole-produced Hurt Feelings coming the closest, but it is a heartfelt album full of Mac’s most hopeful and personal songs. Mac does a lot of singing on this album, which is a bit of a change from his last few projects, and what he lacks in technical ability, he makes up with raw emotion and effort, with a touch of auto-tune at times. His rapping abilities, however, are better than they’ve ever been, almost lazily floating over the understated chimes of Conversation Pt.1 and the clean Steve Lacy chords on Jet Fuel. Mac clears up any questions about his relationship with popstar Ariana Grande on a few songs, namely Dunno and Perfecto, where he addresses that she helped put him back together when he was broken and down, and that he has no harsh feelings toward her, and wishes her the best. This shows a maturity in Mac that is yet another sign of his growth and recovery. 2009 is my favorite song on Swimming, it’s Mac’s look back at the things he’s done and the life he’s lead, and while he sounds like he regrets some of the things he’s done, he understands that he can only learn from his mistakes. The strings in the intro remind me of a Disney movie for some reason, and the  quiet piano notes make this already intimate song feel even more so.

Everyone has a different interpretation of this album, but I think that this album is when Mac realized he can fight off depression and drug abuse and be sober and happy. He’s been fighting for so long that when he finally gets an upper hand, he relishes it and keeps going. During his heavy drug period, Mac was drowning in sorrow and fear and all sorts of negativity, and didn’t think he could fight it off, but now he’s grown up enough and been through enough that he has confidence in his ability to be fine without the safety net of being high all the time. It’s sad that he died shortly after this came out, but like the inevitable ending of everything, so it goes.

Songs to Check Out: 2009, Hurt Feelings, Dunno, Self-Care, Small Worlds, Conversation Pt.1  

2. Malibu-Anderson .Paak (2016)

Malibu had the #1 spot for a very long time, only recently beaten, but it’s still one of my favorite albums of all time, and deserves to be heard by everyone who even remotely likes R&B. Anderson .Paak is a musical Swiss Army knife: he sings, he raps, he plays the drums, he produces, he dances, the amount of talent that resides in one person is astounding. I first discovered Anderson .Paak on Dr. Dre’s Compton, where he stole the show on Animals and Deep Water. When I first listened to Malibu, I couldn’t help but smile, the summery feeling of this album is undeniable, and it has this funky soul to it that just boosts your mood, and that’s awesome.

My favorite songs on Malibu change regularly, but as of now, The Waters, Celebrate, and The Dreamer are my go-to songs. The Waters is a Madlib-produced soul banger where Anderson displays his rap skills and declares himself “the First Church of Boom Baptists” with an incredible soul sample as a hook. Celebrate is a funky groove with an incredible bassline that you’ll feel yourself subconsciously jamming along to while you drive down the road with the windows down. Celebrate has simple, but important, message: life might suck, but you’ve got to celebrate the good parts while you still can. Celebrate leads perfectly into The Dreamer, which I absolutely love. It starts off where Celebrate ends: with a clip of an old surfer talking about enjoying the old styles, as well as the new, fitting Anderson’s style perfectly. The addition of Talib Kweli and optimistic children’s choir makes this song an inspirational anthem for anyone who has ever been told they couldn’t do something, or that their dreams would never come true.

Songs to Check Out: The Waters, Put Me Thru, Celebrate, The Dreamer

1. GO:OD AM- Mac Miller (2015)

GO:OD AM became my favorite album 2 years ago, so any claims of being a bandwagon fan can stop right here. GO:OD AM is Mac Miller’s best work, and will be his classic record. It’s a comeback record, and dear God did Mac come back. Coming from the “Good times are killing me, please help” phase of Faces to the ‘Ok, I need to get my shit together” phase of GO:OD AM, Mac matured beyond anything I’d thought capable.

When I first heard the opener “Doors” I knew this would be different, and that I should definitely pay attention. Next up is “Brand Name” the second single, and my current morning alarm. Brand Name is the point where Mac wakes up and realizes how fake everything around him is, and how he needs to get his act together. Morbidly enough, Mac also predicts his death here with the line “to all the people who sell me drugs, don’t cut it with that bullshit, I’m not tryna join the 27 Club” which hits a little harder after someone mixed his drugs with that bullshit and killed him.

My favorite song on GO:OD AM is the two-part Perfect Circle/Godspeed, near the middle of the album. Not only is this the best song on the album, I think it’s the best song Mac has ever made. The first part “Perfect Circle” is a chest-thumping flex over an amazing bass line from Mississippi Mud” and piano chords, with an eery chorus in the background. Perfect Circle is everything I love about Mac Miller: introspection, great beats, and piano chords. “Godspeed” is a whole different beast, it’s one of the few songs that I have to turn off when it comes on because it doesn’t feel like it was made for me, but for the people in Mac’s life who’ve been worried about him. “Godspeed” starts with a voicemail from Mac’s brother around the holidays, after Mac hasn’t been around for awhile. Mac’s brother is heard wishing the best for him, and the voicemail complements the song material. Godspeed is a musical apology from someone who has trouble finding any other way to say what’s on his mind, and I relate to that.

This album means a lot to me, and I hope that I’ve convinced at least one person to check it out, you won’t regret it.

Songs to Check Out: Brand Name, Break the Law, Weekend, Perfect Circle/Godspeed, 100 Grandkids