I still remember the very first album that I bought with my own money. Sometime in the year 2000 or 2001 I was living in Manassas, Virginia with my mother and baby sister. After an abrupt uprooting from my home and natural habitat of Cleveland, Ohio I was very uncomfortable, and for good reason.
A ten year old black kid from the Midwest in the gifted program at a predominantly white elementary school in the pretentious suburbs of Norrhern Virginia. Talk about culture shock. As charismatic and energetic as I am (I’ve always been this way, here’s photo evidence)
I was indeed very lonely and out of place. I couldn’t express myself in class without looks of misunderstanding. I went from being loud and well liked to very quiet, docile and mild. My only outlets were drawing, writing, and gym class. Gym class being the only place I could be social with the other black kids.
Regardless , I consistently made good grades. As a result of this, my allowance grew and thanks to my mother’s new nursing position at the hospital I practically got whatever I wanted. My mother is very financially savvy so she opened a bank account for me, in my name. I had my own card, checking and savings. Whenever I wanted something I bought It with my card because I earned it! Which was pretty cool.
During this tenure, my mother suggested that I purchase a CD player because of how much I loved music. We would dance around the house to Classic old records. Teena Marie, Rick James, Boyz II Men, Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, etc. All while my sister crawled around giggling. Plus, I was on BET And MTV watching videos every chance I got.
We went to the store and I got my “Sony waterproof, anti-skip” CD player and 20 AA batteries. I had some studio quality Sony headphones that my Dad had left me but no CD’s that interested me. My Mom had a bunch of old music that I had already listened to (Motown, Uptown, MCA. Those mirror discs with the black writing.) and my Dad left me Tupac’s “Me Against the World” which I had listened to front to back, 100 + times.
Standing in the Rap isle of the now extinct F.Y.E music store, a young black associate walked up to me. He handed me Nelly’s “Country Grammar” and told me that it was the hottest album of the year. #1 on the charts with 4 hit records on it. My mother, who was no more than 27 or 28 at the time, saw the track listing and was also a fan, allowed me to purchase the album regardless of the parental advisory sticker because “Your granny curses more than most rappers, anyway.”
She had a very valid point.
We got back to our two bedroom apartment and I sprinted up the stairs. I had already read all the directions and started unwrapping my things and tossing paper and packaging left and right. I put that CD in and it changed my life. I listened to that album through and through, front to back, every chance I got.
In was enthralled. After each song I was excited for the next. Every time I heard it it was like the first time hearing it all over again. The melodies and lyrics, pounding bass and intense percussion. I cut my homework time in half just so I could get back to my CD player. If I wasn’t sleep or spending time with my family, I was listening to Nelly. Riding in the car? Nelly. Walking to the bus stop? Nelly. Chess club after school? Nelly. Even on the school bus in the morning, I was in the front, alone listening to Nelly.
I didn’t have to worry about anyone taking my CD Player because one, I was the “black kid” they knew better than to fuck with me. Two, I beat up the fat ass white bully my first week of school.
I was in gym one day, shooting baskets and rapping the song “E.I.” Out loud. One of my gym friends, Marcus, was like “Oh man, I love that album! I have that, Big Tymers, Ja Rule, P.Diddy…”
He continued to run off name after name. Now between this, the silver chain and all the basketball jerseys, I thought this nigga was rich. When I asked him how he had all this music he uttered words that changed my life…
“You got a computer and the internet? Ok cool. So there’s this thing called Napster, right……”
Fast forward 15 years and I don’t own a CD player nor any CD’s anymore. Everything I have is digital. 126 gigabytes on my iPhone, a MacBook and Auxiliary cord in my car. With Apple Music and Spinrilla I can listen to any song that I can fucking think of without even having to type it in.
In this day and age, people are spoiled by the Internet and don’t appreciate new music at all. It’s too fast, too available, too consistent. People don’t give music a chance to mature, no opportunity to develop. Future’s “Purple Reign” has been in circulation all of a week and people are already calling it “trash” because it didn’t capture them upon first listen.
That’s not fair to the artist who but blood, sweat, tears, emotion and intoxication into their work. Music is entirely too complex to be ingested in a day or two. I think that artists in this era deserve much more credit than those before them. If your music isn’t amazing upon first listen, then it’s “trash” or “weak as fuck” and because music is so available, the consumer will just go listen to something else. Competition is through the roof!
We live in a time where streams and YouTube views count more for album sales. Selling 375,000 first week is an accomplishment. Masterpieces and critically acclaimed works are taking MONTHS to go Platinum. Musicians have it tough.
Kendrick Lamar dropped “To Pimp a Butterfly” which is indubitably album of the year to me, and people shunned it because it didn’t sound like what they thought it would. That album is Fucking amazing!
In addition to the Internet causing music to be too available, these people in the Internet communities are trying to hard to be different or difficult that they repel anything that the masses enjoy. Or they project their own issues unto the art. Or, they’re out of touch with the culture and are fabricating their very existence. Throw in the fact that people are foolish followers and can’t form their own opinions, and you have a disaster. I didn’t know how much cool shit was disliked until I got Twitter.
Kendrick Lamar has greatest of all time potential, but is called a Hotep. J.Cole goes platinum with no features and sells out the garden, but is “Boring”. Wale drops a classic album and one of the most cohesive bodies of work that I’ve heard SINCE “Good Kid, MAAD City” and he’s called “too emotional”. Future has given us over a hundred songs in the last year and a half and he’s overrated. Kanye, Jay-Z, Lil Wayne are all “washed.”
Are you kidding me? Do you niggas like anything?
There’s going to come a time where we’re all too old to enjoy music. There’s going to come a time where we are out of touch with the culture and have no ideas what’s going on, thus forcing us into a box of the things that we grew up on.
Opposed to beings so quick to form a rushed opinion on music, take your time. Get off the phone or computer and listen to some music in the world. Listen to the music in the environment it was meant to be absorbed in. Appreciate what we have and the onslaught of amazing music that’s available to us because I can assure you that it won’t always be like this.
Last night I saw a nigga say that “This Tracklist looks trash.”
A Tracklist. Not one chord has touched this man’s ear and the album is already trash. He should be ashamed.
I’ll conclude with a quote. Even with the abundance of music, only the real shit is going to last. All the bullshit is here today and gone tomorrow.
Until next wave..
Luck favors the prepared, Fortune favors the bold.
– International Malcolm, the King.