My Musical Journey

As I’ve said before, I think music is a wonderful thing that influences us and helps make us who we are. My musical journey started when I was young, and hopefully won’t stop until I’m dead.

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.

The 10 Greatest Rap Flexes Of The 2010’s

This post has been sitting in my drafts for way too long, so I figured it’s about time I finish it. Every time I hear a ridiculous rap flex, I write it down, because I’m weird like that. Here are my favorites, over-analyzed for your enjoyment.

10) I’m a lord motherfucker, better greet him if you see him- A$AP Rocky

Rocky has never been modest or humble, but let’s face it, he can get away with it. He’s consistently changed his sound, which is something I always love to see, while not compromising his artistic integrity and the attitude that made him successful. I’m actually playing this record as I’m writing this, because I think At.Long.Last.A$AP is his best work, and the song this line is from, LPFJ2, is one of the most confident songs I’ve ever heard. From the booming bass to the sirens, this song is meant to get your attention, and lets the listener know that Rocky isn’t just that weird dude from Harlem who loves UGK.

9) I guess the neighbors think I’m sellin’ dope. Motherfucker I am.- J. Cole

This whole song is a flex, but when I heard the story behind it, and saw the security camera footage, it took on a whole new meaning for me. When J.Cole was making this album, he was staying in a wealthy community not used to rappers, so when Cole and his collaborators came by in fancy cars, smoking weed and making noise in the late hours of the night, his neighbors assumed the worst and called the cops. After watching a SWAT team kick-door J.Cole’s house, I felt a little angry at these racist honkies who couldn’t be bothered to Google their neighbor before assuming he sold drugs. I love that J.Cole used this moment as a teaching experience, and as a sign of his success, rather than an excuse to hate white people. He’s not selling dope, he’s making dope music. There’s no need to worry, unless you’re afraid of great music, in which case you should turn on that Rebecca Black album and shut the fuck up.

8) The only rapper who sold more dope than me is Eazy E- Pusha T

Now, I’m not in the DEA, so I have no way to know if this claim is true, but the way Pusha T delivers this line, you really have no choice but to believe him. Pusha T’s entire discography is basically him bragging about his flourishing cocaine business, so I’d like to believe he knows a thing or two about it. I’m not super into the whole NWA catalog, but I’ve heard enough to know that Eazy E was a cold motherfucker who sold some dope. I’d have to see the total weight breakdown to know for sure, but I think that the top 3 cocaine concierges would have to be Pusha T, Eazy E, and Jay-Z. It’s funny how they all have a single letter at the end of their name, but that’s besides the point.

7) I just updated my old deal, I told Def Jam no less than 20 mil, and they cut that shit- Logic

How the fuck did Def Jam look at Logic’s last 2 albums and be like “Yup, this is something I’d pay 20 million dollars for.” I used to be a fan, and he still gets me excited sometimes, but Logic needs to slow down for awhile. This line was hard as fuck, and as a fan, I like seeing Logic succeed, but if he’s going to use the money Def Jam gave him to make more albums that sound like first drafts, I’m going to have to sit back and wait for something more polished to come from Logic.

6) All I wanted was 100 million and a bad bitch, now I want 200 and Minaj in my palace- Rick Ross

Have you seen Rick Ross’s house? It’s like something out of Scarface, which is probably why he bought it. It’s the largest single-family house in Georgia, and the biggest house I’ve ever seen on Google Earth. I don’t doubt that Rick Ross has a hundred million dollars; he owns a fast-food restaurant, a record label, a champagne brand, and probably a few other businesses, but I’m not sure how he’s gonna get Nicki Minaj in his palace. Maybe in 5 years when her career bottoms out. Rick Ross is the king of saying stupid shit that somehow sounds badass. Maybe it’s his voice, maybe it’s that rapper charisma, maybe he’s actually a badass. The world may never know.

5) I AM a God, so hurry up with my damn massage- Kanye West

What can I say about Kanye West that he hasn’t said himself? This man really listed God as a feature on his song “I am a God” If there really is a God, it’s not Kanye West, but the sheer audacity that he has is commendable.  Even better, he called the album this is on “Yeezus” That’s just the cherry on top of the batshit crazy saga that we call Kanye’s career.  The fact that people still put up with his shit is a testament to how amazing this man’s music used to be. I just hope that “Born Again Christian” Kanye looks back at this time of his life and realizes how crazy it was.

4) I believe there’s a God above me, I’m just the God of everything else- Pusha T

This is Pusha’s second appearance on this list, because it’s such a great line. The fact that Push can back up his claims with bars solidifies this claim for me, don’t forget: this is the guy who broke Drake’s confidence with the best diss song I’ve heard in years. The delivery of this line also makes this a killer, Push is almost sneering at us mere mortals as he looks down on his rap kingdom. Think about the level of confidence it takes to declare yourself a God, while acknowledging there’s still a higher power above you, shit’s incredible.

3) I did it all without a Jay feature- Mac Miller

From a 1.0 Pitchfork score to a Grammy-nominated jack-of-all-trades, Mac Miller deserves the top-3 spot. Not only did he have the first #1 independent album of the last 30 years, not only did he play piano, bass, drums, guitar, sing, rap, and produce, Mac Miller inspired many legendary artists to hone their craft. Usually a humble, quiet person, Here We Go (the song this line comes from) is a triumphant, braggadocios anthem celebrating his success during a dark time in his life. He did all of this by himself, without using more mainstream artists to gain popularity.  The fact that Jay makes an appearance in this list makes this line even better; he doesn’t even need his cosign to be great.

2) Obama say whattado- Kendrick Lamar

Kendrick Lamar is such an important part of rap. He’s the first Pulitzer Prize winner who raps, he’s the first rapper to show up on the Presidential Playlist, and he’s definitely the first rapper with an album cover taken at the White House.  He’s this generation’s Tupac, hopefully without the violent end. To Pimp a Butterfly is such an important album, so Kendrick shouting out the first black president in a song about black empowerment is perfect. I can totally see Kendrick and Barack hanging out in some luxurious event with a bunch of Rhodes Scholars, talking about philosophy and politics, and celebrating all their medals and awards together.

1) No such thing as an ugly billionare, I’m cute- Jay-Z

This is the best one. The rap flex 30 years in the making. Jay-Z is rap’s first billionaire, and as the most confident person ever, Jay deserves the top spot. Now, no disrespect to Jay, but he looks like Mr. Potatohead came to life and started selling crack. Nas had some less-than-nice things to say about his appearance, but Jay’s also married to Beyonce, and Nas is still paying child support to the “Milkshake” lady, so who really has the last laugh?  Jay has enough money and success to be able to spout ridiculous shit and get away with it, so the fact that he still comes with amazing lines like this makes me happy.