The first memory I have is listening to “Born to Run” on one of the first trips up to Maine, and to this day I still love it. I’ve always had a soft spot for classic rock, it’s what my parents played in the house, it’s the first genre I delved into when I started to get interested in music, and some of it’s still in my rotation today, but I like to ease off for a while and get that nostalgic feeling that comes with it. I was that weird kid in middle school who thought that today’s music sucked, and that 60’s and 70’s music was the best there was. I was kind of a pretentious little shit back then.
Toward the end of middle school up into high school, I started listening to some more contemporary music, things like Metallica, Disturbed, Avenged Sevenfold, and Linkin Park. These artists spoke to me more than the artists my parents listened to, and I felt like they understood what it was like to be an sad, angry suburban kid in the 21st century. I don’t really listen to most of the albums I was obsessed with back then, I revisted them recently, and a vast majority of them suck, but they still meant the world to me, and those feelings I had when I was 13 make up for it.
Toward the end of my sophomore year of high school, I was looking on YouTube for something new, and I stumbled on an Eminem video. This was my introduction to rap. I was blown away by The Eminem Show and the Slim Shady LP, but my parents hated it, which made me like them even more. As I listened to more and more Eminem, my YouTube suggestions lead me to discover artists like Ice Cube and Cypress Hill. I didn’t even smoke weed yet, but I still loved Cypress Hill. I remember seeing tickets go up for a Cypress Hill show nearby, but when I thought about how my parents would react when they heard their music, I reconsidered going, which was probably for the best, since I don’t think a nerdy 14-year old white kid from a small farm town would fit in with the weed-smoking 90’s rap fan.
I really don’t want to admit this, but when I first started smoking weed, I was obsessed with the Kottonmouth Kings. I was 16, and convinced that they were better than Eminem and Dr.Dre. I’d play Long Live the Kings and Rollin’ Stoned for my friends, but they were still into hardcore and metal, so while it wasn’t really their thing, I have to give them immense credit for putting up with it and soldiering through.
My music tastes started to really evolve when my friends and I started partying. Nobody wants to here “A Little Piece of Heaven” at a party, it scares the girls away. As we met more people, we listened to their music too. One of the first people to expand my rap knowledge was our friend/friendly neighborhood weed guy Tom, who introduced me to some of the most important artists in my life, people like Mac Miller, Logic, J.Cole, and Kendrick Lamar. He also introduced me to a lot of garbage that I can’t stand to this day. I related to these people, mostly Mac and Logic, because at the time I was partying a lot, looking forward to college, to getting out of my town and making something of myself, and I looked up to these people a few years older than me doing exactly that.
As I began college, I was still listening to all of the music I’d always listened to, but as I went to frat parties and hung out with douchebags, I started getting into people like Jay-Z and Kanye West. I was blown away by the production, I still am. As college proved to be a really tough environment, I started using music to cope with the fact that sometimes I couldn’t get out of bed or do anything else. Specifically, Watching Movies With the Sound Off was my soundtrack, and it’s still one of my favorite albums, but hearing certain songs like “I’m Not Real” and “The Star Room” brings back memories of smoking joints by myself at 2am, thinking about how bad my life was getting.
I was stuck in a funk for a long time, leaving college because I was failing classes because I was either too depressed to get out of bed to go to class, or because I was too hungover to do my homework because booze temporarily made me feel like a person. This lead to me coming back to that sleepy farm town I’d worked so hard to get away from. I started working at Dunks, and with that, started having time to kill, so I filled it by listening to albums. Now, at this time I was working 10 hour days 6 days a week, so I had a lot of time to listen to new music. This period of time is when I discovered a wealth of new music that I adore to this day.
The first album I heard was Kanye West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, and it blew me away. I’d listened to Kanye in college, but it was usually just the older album and the hits, so when I heard “Runaway” for the first time, I was blown away. I’d never heard so many good songs on one album before, back to back to back, and I finally understood why people put up with Kanye’s shit.
During the Dunks Period, I started to branch out my tastes, which lead me to discover Anderson. Paak. I was blown away, it was like the music I used to listen to as a kid got a makeover, and became fresh and relevant. Malibu was my entrance to soul music, albeit in a modern sense. As I dove into soul music, I started listening to jazz and big band music, and started to value live instrumentation in all forms of music, especially rap. I discovered Avantdale Bowling Club, a project by New Zealand rapper Tom Scott, and I was blown away. It was everything I’d been looking for in an album: it had great rapping, it had live instrumentation, it had a message about coming home and growing up that spoke to me on a material level, and it was a cohesive piece of art. Hell, I’m probably going to go play that record right now, it’s one of my favorite in my collection.
As time went on, I started to get bored with listening to the same ol’ music all the time, so I looked for something new to scratch that itch. I found myself listening to a lot of indie music, Speedy Ortiz, Portugal the Man, Bright Eyes, Beach House, Gorillaz, The Internet, Tame Impala,and many more. This new influx of sounds and ideas really hooked me, and I still love all of the music I discovered back then, and I’m super looking forward to hearing the new Bright Eyes album.
Recently, I’ve gotten more into jazz, specifically modal jazz, from people like Miles Davis, John Coltrane, and Duke Ellington. I like the creativity and musicality involved, no structure, no limits, just artistic expression. It does make me feel hella old and lame when I put on Frank Sinatra songs in the car with my friends, but fuck them, they can walk if it bothers them that much.
I like to think that the music I’ve listened to shaped me in a way, made me a better, more rounded person. I’m still immensely curious, I’ll listen to just about anything, except for EDM, because I’m not a 20-year old frat kid on Molly, but anything else, I’ll probably give it a listen. I’ve been collecting records, not only because they definitely sound better, but they also serve as a sort of time capsule for me so when I get older I can look back at these records and remember what it was like to discover them, and how different life was back then.