Under The Influence

We are all influenced by the things we hear and see and do. There’s no avoiding it, but it definitely changes you, and that’s okay. I’ve been getting super into modal jazz, and I’ve noticed myself using 50’s slang that I’ve heard in the music. I think it’s a part of growth; you expand your horizons, and adapt the things you like. If they stick, they become part of who you are, if they don’t, they fade away.

I’m not really keyed into the whole “woke” thing, so if I’m guilty of cultural appropriation, my bad, but I’m just blindly struggling through life, so I’m not really thinking too much about it. I think that your influences make you who you are, or at least who you want to be.

I’ve got to give credit to all the people who’ve influenced me, my parents, my friends, and all of the musicians who have sent me on musical K-holes that have introduced me to the things I hold dearest. Without all of my stoner friends, I wouldn’t have gotten into rap, and I wouldn’t have delved into the samples for more music, and I would probably still be listening to Disturbed and punching walls and shit.

I’ve also got to give it up to weed and whiskey, that combo has made me a lot more open-minded and gotten me to try things I never would’ve dreamed of doing sober, like listening to talk radio, or eating a bird’s nest (not a real one, a one made of potatoes and veggies and shit.)

To wrap it up, try things, you might like them, or if you don’t, you might get a funny story out of it, so it’s a win-win.

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.

Safety Blankets

The world is a terrible, cold, unfeeling place. The only thing that makes me feel better are the “safety blankets” that I’ve developed over the years; those things that make me feel comfortable and safe.

Right now, music, whiskey, reefer, and bad T.V are my safety blankets. If I have the right dosage of all 4 of those things, I’ll be alright, and that’s so important to me.

I haven’t been sleeping well. I’ll either go to sleep at 11pm and wake up at 12pm, or I’ll be up until 3 or 4am, and wake up at 3 or 4pm. I’ve been trying to fall asleep sober, but it just doesn’t work. How does anyone sleep sober? It’s fucking impossible. I’ve tried everything I can think of; tea before bed, turning off all my devices and reading before bed, listening to jazz, going to bed early (this one’s the worst fucking piece of advice I’ve gotten so far), I’ve taken melatonin, Zzzquil, Ambien, you name it, I’ve probably tried it.

Wouldn’t you know it, whiskey and weed put you to sleep like nothing else. As I’m writing this, I’ve got a glass of Evan Williams and an edible in my system, so I’m hopefully going to get some sleep tonight. I’ve cut back on my usage though, because it got out of hand for awhile, and every once in awhile I still overdo it, but for the most part I’ve gotten a grip. Reefer is like a sleep cheat-code: no matter what time it is, a few hits off a joint, or a couple bong hits and I’ll be able to drift off into that sweet, sweet restful abyss. I hope there isn’t ever a time when it stops working, I’d be really screwed.

I don’t only need my safety blanket to sleep, I need it to talk to people too. I don’t like it, but I’ve gotten so awkward and anxious around people, so it’s in both our best interests that I have a couple drinks in me. Neither of us is going to enjoy the interaction if I’m sober. I used to be good with people. I used to be the guy my friends would send to talk to people because they couldn’t. I don’t know what happened to me. Maybe it was working at Dunks and dealing with the worst of humanity all day. Maybe it’s because I was always awkward, but had enough self-confidence to muscle through the awkward. Who knows.

Music is the safety blanket that is least harmful to me. I probably wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for the music I listen to, it’s kept me going in the times I’ve been drowning and can’t see the good in anything. Music is one of the few things that actually makes me feel things, which is super uncomfortable because it makes me think I’m dead inside. If I’m ever having one of those days, I have a playlist that’s specifically meant to break me out of it with all of the songs that make me smile and laugh. Music is the biggest help, it’s one of the few things that makes me happy when I’m sober, and that is so important to me. If I can figure out which album I’m in the mood for, I can determine how I’m feeling and begin to process that emotion. Everyone has there coping mechanisms, I’ve spent the last few years developing ones that won’t kill me, so I guess that’s progress.

Music Is The New Religion

I’ve always noticed a connection between music and religion; they both try and explain the world around us, they both inspire us to be better, they both try to take us out of our heads. Kanye West literally featured God on Yeezus, solidifying my theory that he might actually need to go therapy and stop jerking his ego off so much.

Music is undoubtably art, but is religion? To me, art is anything that can make you feel something, and religion was called “the opiate of the masses.” Does that make religion art?

Those pastors at superchurches in Texas whip their crowds into a frenzy, and help them feel better about themselves, albeit for a fee. Are they not artists? Now, some of them might be con-artists, but I think the majority are just skilled public speakers who want to make a difference.

Let’s get back to music for a second. I’ve been on Twitter long enough to see some wild things, but the craziest of them all has to be “music Twitter”: where people debate who’s the best, who’s the worst, who makes them feel what emotions where, etc. This is where I started to realize the power these artists have, some of these people say that so-and-so’s music kept them alive, or helped them quit drugs, or acted as a safety blanket after a traumatic event. Isn’t that what religion does?

There are even some people who worship artists. I saw one person talk about Frank Ocean like he was a God amongst men, and attacked anyone who said any different. Is that any different than arguing about Bible interpretations or the Old vs. New Testament?

Almost everyone listens to music, I don’t know anyone who doesn’t, and truthfully, I don’t think I’d trust someone who isn’t moved by anything in any genre. Even Charles Manson liked music. It helps people see the world from different perspectives, which is something the world desperately needs right now. It teaches lessons to people who won’t listen to anyone else. It entertains us and turns the volume down when we have a bad day.

Music has helped me immensely, when I have a really awful day, I don’t want to watch TV, I don’t want to overeat, I just want to sit back and listen to my records and tune the rest of the world out.

10 Things We Should Leave Behind in 2020

1) Begging for new music on Twitter

This is something I’m seeing more and more, and I think it’s so entitled and stupid to go to artist’s Twitter pages, and demand they drop new music whenever they want it. What happened to patience? What makes a person think that just because they’re a fan, they get to decide when an artist puts something out? Even when they do release new music, artist’s are inundated with people asking for even more. How greedy can you be?

2) Fake clickbait Headlines

Ok, I totally get why these are used, but c’mon, be a little creative with them. I know my titles aren’t the best sometimes, but if I ever have a post called “10 Celebrity Fails, You Won’t BELIEVE Number 6!!”, fucking shoot me. These all use the same stupid formula, and the only people it works on are the type of people who care what celebrities are doing on vacation.

3) TMZ Comments

If you haven’t heard of TMZ, you’re lucky, it’s a terrible, toxic wasteland of humanity. The comments section is even worse. I’ve never seen so many racist comments in one place, and I go on Reddit every day. If you don’t believe me, just search “Obama TMZ” and see the bottom-barrel of society.

4) Opinion News Shows

Let’s make the news “news” again. No more Tucker Carlson, no more Rachel Maddow, no more Fox and Friends. I want people with journalistic integrity on the news again, not some mouthpiece that spews their opinion as fact. Opinion news has only grown since Trump was elected, and I don’t see it going away as long as he’s around. It’s just too easy to get viewers by parroting their opinions back to people who feel strongly about things they know nothing about.

5) Meme Rap

Ok, Lil Nas X can stay, but that’s because I’m fascinated by his marketing strategy. The rest of them have to go though, Lil Pump doesn’t contribute anything new to music, Lil Windex is only funny for about 5 minutes before he gets on my nerves, and Rich Brian has pivoted to a more serious style, which is good because he actually makes decent music sometimes.

6) YouTube Pranks

How the fuck are these still around? What type of legal team does someone like Vitaly have? How can he just go around fucking with people and not get sued? Maybe he’s staging all these pranks, but I don’t think he can afford to pay actors enough to get punched in the face on YouTube. Also, those channels where they go into “the hood” and start messing with alleged gang members who usually carry firearms. One of these such channels actually got shot by pretending to be a zombie, so I’m hoping we see less of them.

7) Donald Trump

My feelings about Donald Trump can be summed up by the YG song titled “Fuck Donald Trump”

8) Outrage Trolls

These are the people who comment edgy shit to piss people off. These people live off of the negative attention, and it’s been going on long enough that people should understand that by now. Eventually, these people grow up or give up, so it’s just a matter of ignoring them and waiting it out.

9) Clout Chasers

Clout is a word that I’d never heard of until 2019, so it’s only fair we leave it there. Clout is a stupid new word for popularity, and people usually gain clout by doing stupid things and filming them, hoping they’ll go viral and become influencers. One such person threw a chair off a 10th story balcony, sending it crashing into the street. Aside from how stupid it is to film yourself committing a crime, it’s even stupider to think that this will be your big break in life. Get a real job, asshole.

10) Social Media

This one isn’t going away anytime soon, so I’ll have to just suck it up. Social media is way too important for business to get rid of, so until we find another way to reach large amounts of people for free, social media isn’t going away. It’s a shame, really, how quickly it’s effected us. We care so much about what other people are doing, that we forget that most of it is bullshit that’s made strictly to make you feel inferior.

Frank Sinatra Invented Swag

Frank Sinatra was the shit. If you haven’t heard his music, stop reading this for a second, go to YouTube and search for “My Way”, or click this link if you’re lazy. Frank Sinatra is the embodiment of American excellence, he was a hard-working, hard-drinking, hard-loving showman with a voice that sounds like polished mahogany.  Frank Sinatra was the first real “rockstar”, fuck Elvis. Did Elvis light JFK’s cigarettes for him? No, he was too busy being dead. Did Elvis have an incredible batch of Jack Daniels named after him? No, he was too busy acting in shitty movies and banging underage girls and practicing karate.

Frank Sinatra came from humble beginnings, his parents were Italian immigrants who came over to America to provide their children a better life, and thank God they did. During the Great Depression, when every other child was dressing in tattered rags and dirty shoes, Frank was donning expensive suits. His parents wanted him to be the best-dressed kid in the neighborhood, so they gave him what little money they had to insure he never felt inferior. Those are good parents.

Now, there is some speculation that Frank had some mob ties, I say “So what?” If you’re an Italian immigrant in the 1900’s, and you grew up in a tightly connected community, and you care about the people around you, you’re bound to have a few less-than-savory friends. Just another reason to respect Ol’ Blue Eyes, as he was called for obvious reasons. This man was so suave that he actually got arrested for seducing a woman in New Jersey. Think about that for a second: it actually was a crime to be as smooth as Frank Sinatra. Talk about the real Smooth Criminal. Your grandmother probably had a crush on Frankie, she probably bought his records and learned every word.

Moving past Frank Sinatra the man, let’s talk about Frank Sinatra the singer. The first concept album EVER was by Frank Sinatra. 8 songs about love. The Voice of Frank Sinatra probably was playing in the background as your grandparents were getting jiggy with it after the picture show. Over the course of his 50 year career, Frank Sinatra’s 59 studio albums dominated pop charts, and defined what was cool at the time. His music inspired so many people, from artists like Amy Winehouse and Logic, to actors like Robin Williams and George Clooney.

Long story short: if you don’t like Frank Sinatra, I don’t like you.

Image result for frank sinatra

Even his mugshot is dapper as fuck.

The Amazing Power of Music

I read an article recently about the psychological effects of music, and how it affects your mood, and it occured to me how important music really is.

I listen to a lot of really, really depressing music, and I think that it’s starting to affect how I think. Part of me, deep down, loves it. I love sitting in my room listening to “u” and drinking whiskey in the dark. Now, seeing that written down, it seems kind of fucked up.

Maybe if I listen to “Happy” a million times a day, or start my mornings with “The Dreamer”, eventually I won’t be so angry at the world. I’m going to try that; only listening to upbeat, positive music for a month or two, and see if it does anything for me.

I don’t know why sad people love sad music so much. On paper, it doesn’t sound like it should help, but it does. I’m sure there’s some music psychologist who can show me case studies and peer-reviewed papers, but I’m not a scientist, I don’t know if I’d understand all that technical jargon and obscure psychology terms.

“Music is the new religion.” I read that in a Pitchfork interview, and it makes me think. I’ve definitely learned more about being a decent, well-rounded person from music than I have from church. Jay-Z taught me that financial freedom is our only hope, and that a loss ain’t a loss, it’s a lesson. Kendrick Lamar taught me that it’s okay to be afraid, it’s okay to think you don’t deserve what you’ve been given. Mac Miller taught me that it’s okay to feel things, and it’s okay to need help. What’s Jesus taught me?