Brown Sugar

“Hip Hop was as young, naive, confused, sometimes innocent, and sometimes as mischievous, as I was. And as I grew up, Hip Hop grew with me. And along the way, it took all of our baggage and our dreams. I felt Hip Hop, and Hip Hop felt me. And I know everyone who loves the music feels the same way I do.

For many people, Hip Hop was that first friend. The first to talk to us, the first to understand. Hip hop has always been that kind of friend to me. And like any relationship, I watched it grow. I watched it change.

Ever thought you’d see the day Hip Hop grow up? The Red Kool-Aid parties in the Bronx, to champagne toasts. The union of Hip Hop to the mainstream was a hard thing to imagine. Hip Hop was always this personal, regional thing that belonged to just me…I knew I was gonna have to share. And that was hard to get used to.

Just when you think you know everything about Hip Hop it finds a way to surprise you and remind you why you fell in love with it in the first place.

So what’s the difference between rap and Hip Hop? It’s simple. Like saying you love somebody & being in love with somebody. Rap is only a word.

I always thought, that one day, I’d outgrow my relationship with Hip Hop. I never thought it was a fad, like many. But I never thought it could grow and mature. I thought it would be an adolescent memory I’d look back on, like a crush of the captain of the football team. But I realize we have more than that. Much more. We have a history, a friendship. We’d listen to each other, we laugh together. We finish each other’s lyrics. I don’t have to pretend with Hip Hop. And Hip Hop doesn’t have to pretend with me. My feelings have never been more clear. And I know they will never go away.

To Hip Hop: I used to love you. I still do. Always will.”

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She and Him.

she and him logo 2

I’ve decided that writing about music wasn’t enough. So I’ve taken a short break from writing on here in order to launch another project that is near and dear to my heart:

She and Him: A podcast for people who love talking about how music changes their lives.

Find your headphones, plug them in, and listen to episode 1.

It would mean the world to me if you could (genuinely) like us on Facebook.

Tweet at me or Sally P with any feedback, comments or questions. We’d love to hear from you.

Special thanks to my co-host, Salvador Pacheco.

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(A collection of things that don’t quite fit anywhere.)

i’ve been a mess. i’ve been having trouble writing. so i’ll let this collection of things speak for me.

***

My blue bucket of gold
Friend, why don’t you love me?…
Tell me you want me in your life
Or raise your red flag
Just when I want you in my life

Surfjan Stevens, “Blue Bucket Of Gold”

***

“[her] mind blackens. The blackness is not a thought, but if it could be pressed into a thought, if a chemical from a dropper could be dripped onto it causing its color and essence to become visible, it would take the shape of this sentence: Why does no one want me?”
― Steve Martin, Shopgirl

***

everything that i’ve done , or haven’t done, has lead to this moment, and this moment is mine, and mine alone to enjoy.

***

What’s the point of singing songs
If they’ll never even hear you?

Surfjan Stevens, “Eugene”

***

my mind is racing in a million different directions. i just have to pick one.

***

Should I tear my eyes out now?
Everything I see returns to you somehow
Should I tear my heart out now?
Everything I feel returns to you somehow

Surfjan Stevens, “The Only Thing”

***

I had a feeling once that you and I
Could tell each other everything for two months
But even with our oath, with truth on our side
When you turn away from me, it’s not right

My revolution thoughts, you little lies of desire
I wanna trace ’em to the source and the wire
But it’s not useful now since we both made up our minds
You gonna watch out for yourself so will I

I think you’re Contra
I think that you lie
Don’t call me Contra
‘Til you’ve tried

Vampire Weekend, Contra

***

the distance keeps me close to you. i want more when you leave me with less.

***

Long handwritten note, deep in your pocket
Words, how little they mean, when you’re a little too late

I stood right by the tracks, your face in a locket
Good girls, hopeful they’ll be and long they will wait

In dreams, I meet you in warm conversation
We both wake in lonely beds in different cities
And time, is taking its sweet time erasing you

Taylor Swift, “Sad, Beautiful, Tragic”

***

“Only then does he realize what he has done to Mirabelle, how wanting a square inch of her and not all of her has damaged them both, and how he cannot justify his actions except that, well, it was life.”

Steve Martin, Shopgirl

***

so this is sadness. and this is what it feels like.

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The First Dance

If I were able to choose and only get one thing right during my wedding, I would have to choose the music. If I only had to choose one moment, I’d choose the one where we’d dance our first dance. That’s the one song that really matters to me…our song. That moment would be so beautiful that once you left our wedding, the one image that would be stuck in your mind: the image of us, dancing to our song, in front of friends and family.

It was easy to choose our first dance song. Every time it plays, I remember the first time I saw him. And how my first words to him was a stupid remark about his name, and how it sounded backwards. At that moment, I think it was playing in the background. Or maybe it was playing in my head. I can’t quite remember.

So, I’d like to share with you, our song.

Enjoy.


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Flaws and All / No Letting Go

And I don’t say I love you ’cause the way I feel is greater.”
The Roots


What is love?

If you asked me 10 years ago, I would say that it was a feeling… The greatest, most wonderful feeling I have ever known. It made me feel whole, and full. And I wanted and expected to feel that every single day for the rest of my life.

I’m a train wreck in the morning.

If you asked me last year, I would say that it is an action, but I didn’t really understand what that meant.

I’m a bitch in the afternoon.

He tells me that I am loved and tells me that I am beautiful, every single day. He has treated me perfectly. So why did I feel so empty? Why did I want more? Why did I want validation that I was beautiful, from more than just my fiance? Why did I still want to know that I was desired by others, even though I was happy with someone that promised me the rest of his life?

Every now and then without warning
I can be really mean towards you

Slowly, I realized that I wanted to feel that freshness of being newly “loved” and I wanted that feeling to last forever. And I found out that it wouldn’t. It couldn’t. I tried my best to fill the emptiness, and was unsuccessful.

I don’t know why you love me
And that’s why I love you
You catch me when I fall
Accept me flaws and all
And that’s why I love you

I started to re-read books, watch movies, read quotes, unknowingly trying to search for an answer.  Recently, I stumbled upon a passage about fake love in Chuck Klosterman’s, “Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs”:

“We all convince ourselves of things like this…about any fictionalized portrayals of romance that happen to hit us in the right place, at the right time…

Coldplay manufactures fake love. ‘For you I bleed myself dry,’ How am I going to compete with that shit?…he’s just pouring fabricated emotions over four gloomy guitar chords, and it ends up sounding like love…it’s a perfect illustration of why almost everyone I know is either overtly or covertly unhappy. Coldplay songs deliver an amorphous, irrefutable interpretation of how being in love is supposed to feel, and people find themselves wanting that feeling for real.

The main problem with mass media is that it makes it impossible to fall in love with any acumen of normalcy. There is no ‘normal,’ because everybody is being twisted by the same sources simultaneously. You can’t compare your relationship with the playful couple who lives next door, because they’re probably modeling themselves after Chandler Bing and Monica Geller… Every comparison becomes impractical… I want fake love. But that’s all I want, and that’s why I can’t have it.”

The world started to spin differently. I wanted more than the fake love I thought I deserved.

***

If I had to put everything I feel for you, and how you make me feel, and everything I would do for you, and all the sweet little things you do for me, and summarize it in one word, I don’t think I could. And I don’t think I would want to. “Love” would be the closest thing, but it feels too far. I don’t know what love is, but would you still stay with me, knowing that I don’t know what it is? Or maybe it’s more than love…Maybe there wasn’t a word or a definition for it.

What is love?

If you asked me today, I couldn’t tell you what it means. And I am okay with that.

***

(Happy birthday.)

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Ashanti: Baby

Library time again. Here are my pickups:

  1. Ashanti – Ashanti
  2. Game of thrones Season 3 –  Soundtrack
  3. High fidelity – Soundtrack
  4. Lykke Li – I Never Learn
  5. Saturday Night fever – Soundtrack.

Still on that soundtrack kick, so I borrowed the High Fidelity, Saturday Night Fever, and the Game of Thrones soundtrack.

I am absolutely LOVING Saturday Night Fever. If I had it my way, I would want to have been old enough to experience disco while it fizzled in and out of existence.

To recreate the experience, my best friend and I would blast my parent’s disco cds in my boom box in my basement, turn off the lights, and turn on the cheap “disco light” and dance. I also had (have) an obsession with lava lamps. My hippie heart would’ve loved to experience all of this first hand.

Now, where did I put that disco light?

***

Nothing takes me back to Freshman year of high school faster than Ashanti’s self-titled album. I thought that I only liked this album because of the wave of nostalgia that hits when I listen to it – and believe me, it is why I like this album a lot – but there are a TON of really great songs on here. Right after I got out of the library, I popped this in, volume on 23 and belted each word on the cd.

The back-to-back duo of the sexy, “Scared” and “Rescue” were my favorites on the album…though they were much more sexually advanced than I wanted to admit to myself at the time:

“It’s like we got to get over this hump ma,” Irv Gotti says at the end of the track.

I thought, “what is this ‘hump’ he is talking about? Was it a metaphor for his problems? I think he’ll get through it. Sounds like he will.”

“Until we get over this hump, it’s going to be fucked up!”

I really hope that my future daughter is just as uneducated about sexual lingo as I was at that age. If I knew what that kind of stuff meant at the time, I would just be too curious. But who knows, maybe I’d turn out the same as I am now.

During freshman year, I started dating my Very. First. Boyfriend. I wrote him handwritten notes that I would pass to him between class periods or give to his friends to give to him.

Often, I would just write song lyrics of love songs currently on the radio. My very first note filled with song lyrics were lyrics from Ashanti’s “Baby”.

I got this jones forming in my bones (from a man)
who indeed took over my soul, (understand)
I couldn’t breathe if he ever said (he would leave),
get on my knees till they bloody red, (baby please)
see I don’t know if you get it yet, (just don’t know)
He’s like the lighter to my cigarette,
(“I don’t smoke!i added),
I never knew another human life
(didn’t know) can have the power to take over mine,
So baby baby.
Baby, baby, baby, baby, baby,(baby I love you) baby.

I don’t know, or remember, what any of his notes said. Did he even write me? If he did, I think I burned them all after it was all over. It’s what I usually do. Just like the opening words to Star’s “My Ex Lover is Dead”:

“When there’s nothing left to burn, set yourself on fire”.

That’s what losing the very first love felt like.

I’m lying. That’s what it fucking felt like every single time. But the first time is the most memorable because you have no idea that there was pain that deep.

Like Ashanti’s song, “Baby”, the Love was simple. the Love was shallow. The Love was Lust. We had absolutely nothing in common, except that we were attracted to each other.

Just kidding. I was attracted to him because he was attracted to me. I was a lonely girl who felt like she didn’t have any friends and couldn’t ever fit in. Any form of attention from the opposite sex was Love. And at the time, that’s what it was.

After I had poured out my heart into each of the hundreds of handwritten song lyrics and notes, I’d ask him to:

“Write me back!”

A long silence. Then, he’d look at me, and simply state:

“….I don’t have anything to say.”

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Mixtape One for Sally P.

“A good compilation tape, like breaking up, is hard to do. You’ve got to kick off with a corker, to hold the attention (I started with ‘Got To Get You Off My Mind’, but then realised that she might not get any further than track one, side one if I delivered what she wanted straight away, so I buried it in the middle of side two), and then you’ve got to up it a notch, and you can’t have white music and black music together, unless the white music sounds like black music, and you can’t have two tracks by the same artist side by side, unless you’ve done the whole thing in pairs, and … oh there are loads of rules.” 

― Nick Hornby, High Fidelity

Since late December, I’ve been asking some friends, “What are your top 5 songs?”, with Nick Hornby’s “High Fidelity” in mind:

“All my life I have been waiting for this moment, and when it comes I can hardly believe it: I feel unprepared, caught short.

‘What are your top five records of all time?’ She says….”

Some people answer back quite quickly. Most people hesitate.

“Top 5 songs, right now? Or overall?”

“Top 5 songs or albums?”

“Five? What about three?”

Similarly, in the book, the protagonist starts fumbling around, and starts asking for context, starts to name some records, and the interviewer starts to list some of his blabberings as his top five.

“NO!” This time I make my attempt to diguise the panic. “I didn’t say it was in my top five! I just said it was one of my favorites!! It might turn out to be number six or seven!”

I’m making a bit of a fool of myself, but I can’t help it: this is too important, and I’ve waitied for it too long. But where have they gone, all these records I’ve had in my head for years…”

It makes sense to be apprehensive… it takes a lot of bravery to give someone else your top five favorite songs. A lot of bravery. First of all, you have to decide, how true are you going to be? Do you give them your 5 actual favorites, or do you pick 5 tracks that you want people to associate you with…as in, you want them to think you’re fucking cool, so you pick obscure, and great tracks that they probably have not heard yet? Or, are you truly brave enough to be truly honest, and you have to reveal that on that top five you have embarrassing shit on there like Selena Gomez’s “The Heart Wants What it Wants”, Nick Jonas’s “Jealous”, and other radio hits that don’t describe who you are (no, really, this isn’t who I am!). But man, the judgement. The judgement…as one who wholeheartedly loves music, this is one of the most painful things to experience. If they find you like that shallow shit that anyone can find on the radio, you have lost your credibility to suggest anything good to anyone, ever.

Anyway, I digress…

Bravely, he gave me his top five (It only ended up being 4…Please don’t kill me for showing this. I really enjoyed your picks! ):

  1. Only One – Kanye West
  2. No Role Modelz – J.Cole
  3. “Anything by Willow Smith”
  4. Break from Toronto – Partynextdoor

I went to work.

***

With any mix tape made for someone, there is always a different challenge. And boy, this one was a challenge.

First of all, everything I’ve heard him listen to has ranged in the alternative hip hop genre, which I am not an expert in at all. My fear? Creating a mix that is completely irrelevant to his taste of music…I can see the mix sitting under his bed, gathering dust, never to be touched. I suppose my biggest fear is to spend hours trying to find tracks, arrange them so that they flow well, finally burn it to a disc, then gift it to your friend thinking that they are going to fucking love it. In reality, they don’t get past track 1 because, you were wrong about what they liked, and about their musical comfort zone. Or, they’ve already heard this shit, and they’re hitting the FWD button, yelling “NEXT!!!!” at every track.

Adding to the challenge…it’s intimidating to suggest a mix to someone who you look up to, and inspires you, musically and artistically. The music he finds all the time is completely intimidating. It always feels like he is twelve-and-a-half-steps ahead of me in terms of finding great music (which I’ve always been insanely jealous of. ). He finds and collects musical diamonds like no one else; His pockets are deep, and he is always rich with new, beautiful tunes. So, it feels like suggesting tracks to him to listen to is akin to telling Miles Davis or John Coltrane, “Hey, check it out this amazing track. Listen to it, it’ll inspire you.” When he’s probably already heard it, probably already played it, probably already dismissed it. (God, I hope he likes this mix…)

Throughout this mixtape process, I’ve stared at my computer trying to figure out what the HELL he hasn’t heard ever before…Many times throughout this process, I said to myself,

“I’ll just tell him I forgot to make him a mix when I see him. Fuck this.”

It took a lot of courage on my part to even make a mixtape with the songs on it. But, I finally settled on some songs.

***

I’ll be completely honest – his original top 4 that he gave me did not really help me to figure out what to put on this mixtape. This took a long time to figure out. More than anything, I realized that building the playlist would be based off of our history together.

First off, the tracks that I knew I wanted to have on the mixtape:

  1. Soulman – Ben L’Oncle Soul
  2. Save Room – John Legend
  3. 1977 – Ana Tijoux
  4. Elephant – Tame Impala

Soulman – Ben L’Oncle Soul
I picked Soulman by Ben L’once because I remember when we first met, we listened to John Legend’s “Once Again” pretty heavily. I remember my favorite track was “Stereo”. When I asked him what his favorite one was, he told me his was “Slow Dance”. Confused, I asked him why…At the time, I overlooked it so much that didn’t even realize that song was on the album.

“It’s old school, soulful.”

Admittedly, I have a very terrible memory. I can never remember simple things: what I’ve said I’d do during work meetings, the list of things I had to do when I get home, or even the score of the ping pong game that I’m playing….But I’ve had this crazy ability to easily I remember which of my friends did or did not like a song and when it happened. This was no different. I always remembered that sometime during our first quarter of college in 2006, he said he liked Slowdance, and I never forgot that, and never will.

Every time I listened to the whole “Once Again” album, I always thought of him during that song. So, because “Soulman” reminded me of “Slow Dance”, it was an easy pick.

1977 – Ana Tijoux

I picked this song because it definitely felt like it would be something he’s probably never heard before, but something that he would love. World music has always been something I’ve wanted to hear more of, but it’s difficult to be exposed to. Lots of people don’t get that even though I’m a total music nerd, listening to new things is work. It’s fucking hard to force yourself to listen to things you’ve never heard before. Why waste your time with something new and potentially shitty, when you can listen to something that you KNOW you like? It takes a lot of energy, and most of the times, it can be painful because most things aren’t worth listening to. But when you do find something that pushes you out of your comfort zone that you love…that…makes it so worth the time you’ve spent forcing yourself to listen to shitty track, after track, album after album…

“1977” was one of my gems that I found while watching an episode of “Breaking Bad”.

I thought, it was perfect, and he should have it too.

Elephant – Tame Impala

I also recall Sally P tweeting (or facebooking? Or instagraming? social media is confusing…) that he really liked the Black Keys…which surprised me, because I would never peg him for a guy that would like the Black Keys. I only knew that he liked Hip Hop.

The long, dragging sounds in Tame Impala’s “Elephant” reminded me a lot of the Black Keys, but I was still apprehensive. I took this song on and off, and on and off again from the mixtape. I finally stuck to my guns, and just left it on there. Bang, bang, motherfucker. Like it or not, it’s on the playlist.

Save Room – John Legend

Finally, Save Room. John Legend. Once Again.This was a no-brainer.

This will always remind me of freshman year, and sitting next to him in 2006, Mr. Skov’s math 098 class, my very first college class ever. He knows why I added this one onto the playlist. And that would always be something I could never really write about, but something he and I would always understand.

***

The rest of the songs I picked would help the rest of the mixtape flow:

  1. Line of Fire – Junip
  2. Islands – Young the Giant
  3. Woman – Rhye

These three songs have been staples when it has come to creating mixtapes this year as these were my favorite discoveries of last year, and can be great fillers between songs.

I love the sound of “Line of Fire” (another Breaking Bad find)…The way it ends makes it easy to mix in with other songs. Also, it’s an all around beautiful song. Why not?

“Islands” is my favorite Young the Giant song. Whenever I listen to this song, I always imagine myself on a deserted island at night, waves crashing on the shore, the jellyfish slowly glowing on the sand as I walk by. It’s a haunting song, with a beautiful, simple sound. More and more sound enters throughout the song, and builds to a climax:

I could…..! I could never hold you…..

Another great song to help to add to the flow om a mixtape. Hope you like this one.

Finally, “Woman” by Rhye: The melody of this song makes you feel a bit anxious, and you aren’t sure what will happen next…But you know that it’s building up to something great… It sounds like it’s ending, but what’s next? What is it? What’s going to happen?

A perfect end song, because it foreshadows that there is more to come, but this mixtape has come to an end.

***

The final product.

  1. Line of Fire – Junip
  2. Islands – Young the Giant
  3. Elephant – Tame Impala
  4. 1977 – Ana Tijoux
  5. Soulman – Ben L’Oncle Soul
  6. Save Room – John Legend
  7. Woman – Rhye
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