Music: The Time Machine #TBT
Music, in it's infinite wisdom, has an ultimate talent: it is a time machine. It has this incredible ability, no matter what the genre, to transport you to a specific moment. The other night I was running back some “throwback” r&b and hip hop jams. Many of them have stories that I've never shared with anyone (except for those that shared those sacred moments and my husband, The Engin33r). There are many tracks that, for whatever memory they trigger, have a particular impact on our soul. Here's a few tracks that have a way of bringing me back, way back, back into time......
BlackStreet - “Don't Leave Me”
So this track is definitely not Black Street's best single in my opinion, but it sticks out in my mind. Back in 96 I had a small clique of “chiks”. I didn't have too many female friends before that. I was the “tomboy” sister of two older sports and hip-hop addicted brothers (me and my sister didn't have much in common except musical performance). This track reminds me of the first female clique that I had back in the day. This was our “roller rink” track, we'd do our roller skating 2-step, and yes....we were in fact “the ish”. I remember talking about BlackStreet with 2 of my 4-friend clique, we'd also talk about how “Makaveli” was the dopest new album. During that time, my parents had moved us to the suburbs. The radio stations played mostly garbage, the Top 40 pop was the only current music other than country but nothing other than that. The only “real music” I got was from my parents or my older brothers, so to meet people my age (and in my neighborhood) that were listening to anything other than Gin Blossoms/Jewel/Hootie and the Blowfish/Smashing Pumpkins was challenging. “Don't Leave Me” was our 2-step slow skate jam, and til this day I can play that song and drift off into slow-skate heaven. Yeah, I'm killin that ish!
Aaliyah - “One
in a million / 4 Page Letter”
(and subsequently any other Aaliyah
I was always much of an outcast. I was the “tomboy” sister from a 2 boy/2 girl family, my sister's passion was musical theater and my passion was hip hop and sports. Even participating in sports, I was the least girly of all the tomboys in the sports groups. I remember getting made fun of because I never wore make-up, because I didn't shave my arms (yeah, apparently arm hair is a frowned-upon thing in the human race), and because I wore sporty clothes (even though I was a soccer player/softball player). I remember specifically, the day that I first saw Aaliyah's “One In A Million” video, my life changed instantaneously. Aaliyah brought a tomboy style with such a feminine feel. It was like nothing before. She managed to combine the tomboy “chill, laid back vibe” and combined it with the feminine “I like this one boy” innocent style that seemed to fit my personality so perfectly. I felt like she was my older twin sister. My doppelganger, before I knew what that phrase even meant. She managed to be your best friend, and the girl you were in love with all at the same time, which felt like everything my personality embodied.
Bone Thugs n Harmony - “Crossroads”
This track was one of the first hip hop tracks I remember hearing in a public forum. Prior to this, I heard hip hop on select radio stations or on my brother's boombox/stereo. I remember back in 1996, I went with a few friends to the local fair. We hopped on one of those generic “spin you in a circle” ride (maybe called the Himalayan or something like that). It was me and two of my friend's, both females, crammed in the seat. And then that special moment.....The dude running the speakers drops Bone Thug's “Crossroads”. We erupted with joy! This was literally the FIRST time we ever heard someone play a hip hop track in public in our town. I can, til this day, recall the look on my friend's face as I turned to slowly look at her. Two “tomboys”, listening to hip hop in public, in suburbia USA. It was like nothing ever before.
Da 5 Footaz - “The Heist”
This track goes hard. I remember the first time I bumped the “Set It Off” soundtrack, I was sitting in the driveway in my parent's house, in my Pop's Honda Civic, bumping this track through my walkman cd player with the tapedeck aux input. Me and my cousin Mike used to pop this track on and pretend like we were some cold-blooded G's. We would put a pen or stick or something else resembling a gun posted up in our waistband. Like we were about to rob somebody. I felt empowered by the women on the track, they were as hard-body as any other dude in the game. You listened to the track and you didn't hear “females”, you hear some hard mc's that might pop you right in the nose if you flinched. Anytime now I need to feel pumped up a little bit, I put that track on. “This is a raid, everybody lay down but hey. Now give up the cash, don't make us have to blast”.
Digable Planets - “The Rebirth of Slick (Cool Like That)”
I always balanced the duality of hip hop. My oldest brother brought a lot of the “conscious” hip hop, straight outta G-ville aka Gainesville (Univ of Florida area). The first album I remember him bringing back was the Digable Planets “A New Refutation of Time and Space”. This ish was dope for so many reasons, but most obviously that it brought a jazz-type vibe over “hip hop” beats. And on top of all the obvious, it brought a dope female mc to the male dominated world of hip hop em'c'ing. Ladybug Mecca brought a unique female voice to the male-dominated hip hop world. She was classy and eloquent while still bringing the element of “laid back and chill”. She was my own version of me chilling with my older brothers. She was a dope ass chik on her own merit, but every cool chik knows its much better to kick back and vibe with your brothers than be by yourself.
Method Man -
“Big Dogs (ft. Redman)”/”Judgement Day”
& DMX “Slippin”
There's a 10 year age difference between me and my brother Don, the younger of my two brothers. After he got out of the NAVY he moved back home with his wife and kids. He moved only 5 minutes down the road from my parents house, so I spent a lot of my time over his house. He started helping coach my soccer team, so a couple nights a week he would drive me out to the soccer field. I didn't play at the fields closest to my house, so we had a 25 minute drive each way to the field. Looking back, the best part was always the drive I had with my bro to the field and back home. We would cruise in his Nissan, sometimes we would chat but most times we would have the stereo blasting and rapping along. Right around that time we were bumping DMX's “It's Dark and Hell Is Hot” and Method Man's “Tical 2000: Judgement Day”. Anytime I hear either of these albums, I think of cruising down the road at night, windows down, speakers blasting, rapping with my big bro.
2Pac - “Changes”
This track both empowers and crushes my soul simultaneously. It's difficult to explain. My cousin Michael W Smith, the most amazing human being I've had the pleasure to know, loved the track and the artist 2Pac. At the age of 18, my cousin and best friend was diagnosed with leukemia. This was a moment that has shaped my life, and listening this song transports me to several different moments.
I remember getting the phone call; I was sitting in the bleachers at my high school, kicking it with a couple friends from my team, waiting for our soccer game to start. My mom called me, and told me the news: my cousin didn't have mono, he had leukemia. You see we had just got from a family trip to Busch Gardens (a Florida theme park), and after the day of riding roller coasters he felt like he was getting sick. I froze, and I didn't tell anyone around me for at least an hour or two. Mike was not just a friend, he was not just a cousin. He was a companion, he was my best friend. We were the youngest of our families, and there was an unspoken understanding between us about life that no other human beings will ever understand. Despite undergoing a perfect match for a bone marrow transplant, after almost a year of battling, he returned to our maker.
Mike was a big 2 Pac fan, and he especially loved 2 Pac's “Changes”. This song brings me back to a very specific memory a few days before he passed away. My cousins, my brother, Mike and I had all been hanging out at my aunt and uncle’s house. We had found out a couple weeks before that his bone marrow transplant did not work, and he did not have much time left. We took that opportunity to spend every possible moment with him. This particular night, we had been watching funny videos and listening to music. He was tired so he had gone to lay down on the bed where I was hanging out with him, and my brother and cousins were at the computer picking out the next song to play. 2 Pac's “Changes” comes on, and Mike immediately perked up and yelled into the living room “Oh hell yeah, turn that up, that's my jam!”
He put all his energy into singing along, and even though all his medication was slowing him down, he managed to truck through. Despite all the pain and sadness that he was dealing with, he managed to find a moment of pure happiness. This is why I have always been drawn to music; no matter where you are or what you're going through, no matter the pain you're feeling, all you need to do is put on the right music, close your eyes, and you can immediately transported to a place of happiness.
Whenever I play this song, at first I remember a moment of sadness, and many times I tear up. But then I close my eyes, and I think of that moment of pure happiness...and I remember all the other moments of happiness that Mike and I shared, and suddenly the pain is irrelevant.
Happy #TBT everyone! If you see one of the throwbacks up above that you like, don't forget to share and --> #TBT
[Listen] MiKHAL - Live at The Chapel of Sacred Mirrors (12/21/13 Downtempo Mix)
Check out the mix of the day from MiKHAL. This Downtempo mix was performed live on 12/21/13, aka the Winter Solstice, at The Chapel of Sacred Mirrors. Check the link here to listen to MiKHAL's dope mix (headphones on/subs up)!
Today's Mix of the Day brought to you c/o our new Electronica contributor Brian Baer, follow him at soundcloud.com/brian-baer!
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