Tuesday, April 21st 2020:
Another day in the books in quarantine. Today just a lot of the same. Work, eat my sad meals, more work, go for a walk/run, talk to loved ones on the phone, eat a sad dinner, watch some TV, go to bed. Yep. That about sums it up. Exciting huh? We even had an earthquake last night. I was in bed talking on the phone when it happened. It wasn’t very strong but strong enough to make me sit up and “pause”. You see here in southern California we are used to earthquakes. When they happen, we usually just stop what we are doing and wait. We wait to see if the shaking gets worse. If it does then we quickly get to some cover. Most quakes are small and it is not worth getting scared or running to cover for. So that is what I did, I just paused and waited. I could feel the rolling motion under me as the energy of the quake passed through the city. It almost feels like if you are on a boat in still water and then a ripple of water passes under your boat, then another and with each passing it gets weaker. That is what quakes feel like here in LA when they are small. If they are big, then we just head for cover and hold on tight cause who knows how long it might last. I have lived through many earthquakes. Some are very scary. Others are just…meh.
Today I wanted to blog about something I call “The Soundtrack Of My Life”. In other words music I grew up with. Now I know there is a lot to probably talk about here but for the sake of this blog, let’s just focus on some particular years. Before I get into that, let me give some context here. I grew up in a family where music was something that I had the freedom to choose what I wanted to listen too. My father and mother did not try to force me or make me listen to a certain type of music. They listened to their own music and I didn’t really have a say when or how loud they did that. My dad was a huge Rolling Stones fan. I knew the words to some Rolling Stones songs well before I learned about the words to any songs that I liked as a young teen. My dad also listened to some Mexican music that I didn’t really understand but I did get the culture part of it and I knew this was important to him and my family. My mother listened to all kinds of different types of music. I think this is where I got this particular trait from. Now bear with me on this, but when my mom would drive she would listen to songs from Tina Turner, or Rod Stewart. She would hum and sing along softly as she drove. When she would clean or sometimes cook at home, she would listen to Linda Ronstadt or the Phantom of the Opera soundtrack by Andrew Lloyd Webber. But Linda Ronstadt was probably my mothers favorite artist. She listened to her music so much that until this day when ever I hear a Linda Ronstadt song it takes me back to my mother and I get happy with tears. But one artist my parents both listened to together without fail…Elvis Presley. And this is where I will start with the explaining of the “Soundtrack Of My Life”. Any Elvis song, no matter what version of Elvis it was, takes me back to some years in my childhood. Music does this to me. Music is like a gateway to a time of the past. A certain song might come on and if it touches some part of my soundtrack then I immediately get taken back to that era. The memories come back, the feelings, and a lot of other emotions come back so easily. All this from just hearing a song. Especially a song by Elvis Presley. My roots of what music I like today and when I was growing up comes from my parents love of Elvis and the Rolling Stones. My sister also had an impact on my soundtrack but I will dive more into that later in a different blog. For now let’s focus on my high school years (1992 to 1995) and what was most important to me during those years, and that was music.
Lucky. Yes I was lucky, very lucky. Why you ask? Well at a very young age when I first heard RUN DMC and LL COOL J, I knew that hip hop was going to be the right music for me. Yes I was a kid in the 80s so I knew all about Madonna and Prince, but I can’t talk about those artists now and what they mean to me because by the time I got to high school, they were not as big or important as they were in the 80s. I didn’t follow certain artists either just because they were popular. I followed them because the message they had to say. Something about what the artist said pulled me into their art form. And I would also study with my ears the sonics and sounds of these songs and by far hip hop was nothing like I never heard before. It just sounded so raw, so pure. I went from loving Run DMC and LL COOL J to then loving Big Daddy Kane, EPMD and Public Enemy. Bestie Boys, NWA, DJ Quick and others were teaching me in junior high on what my identity would be as a young man. Girls, friends, the neighborhood and growing up in the world back then was taught and seen differently through the eyes of rappers. Especially groups like NWA. Something about what they had to say was important. I didn’t grow up in a bad neighborhood or anything but at school the gangs were there and the tough mentality that boys had to have I was quickly learning from the hip hop music I loved. It didn’t make me violent or want to be a gangster, in fact it motivated me and drove me to be better. It gave me focus. Much like when you are working and you listen to music, it gives you focus or a certain calm and peace. Hip hop did this for me. Then my high school years came. First up was 1992. Wow. What a year for hip hop fans. We had no idea that the greatest years of hip hop music was about to be given to us on a silver platter. The golden years they call it. So many artists and hit songs came from this era that it still is relevant today! I love that so much. First up in the soundtrack of my life in 1992 is what I consider the greatest hip hop album ever made. Yes you read that right, and I will debate that with any fan any day. That album is none other than “The Chronic” by Dr Dre. Coming off his breakup with NWA, I was already a massive Dr Dre fan. He inspired me to be a DJ. He was very much what I would consider the 90s purest DJ and producer we ever had. The tracks on the album were nothing like I have ever heard. This album was being made during the time of the LA riots. Even as a young man I knew gang violence was bad, I even had a cousin I love dearly who was in a gang and I had respect for the gangsters I knew but I didn’t want to be one. But after the LA riots, the gang scene was bad and as much as the gangs tried to have peace, there didn’t seem to be a way. Also west coast hip hop was just about dead. We didn’t have any major artists at the time making any hits and it was a very dark time for hip hop. Then this album dropped and it was like a celebration, like a coming out of the ashes of the riots and all the bad publicity that LA had going on at that time with police beating of Rodney King and such. This album came out and united us all, browns, blacks and whites. All the west coast got behind Dr Dre and not only supported him but loved the music knowing that this was music that the world had never heard, and he was one of ours! And why was it so special? Snoop Dog. Snoop Dog was on many of the tracks and this dude could rap/flow like we had never heard before. And he was rapping about where he was from and how other hoods were cool with him and also that he was from Long Beach and we never heard anyone say they were from LBC. We thought it was just all about South Central and Compton and Watts. LBC was now getting shouted out and the talent that followed Snoop was incredible. With him and Dre rapping on these tracks were just nothing but heat! I would listen to it on the way to school, in between classes, before soccer practice, after practice, in my room at home, on the weekends, lunch time with friends…all the time. Sometimes I would listen from the intro all the way to the last track or sometimes I would just listen to “Let Me Ride” which was my favorite track. But even to today when ever I hear a song from that album, it takes me back to 1992. It’s like a time machine, or what I like to call the soundtrack of my life. But thats not the only album I was listening to that year. Another one is “The Pharcyde – Bizarre Ride II”. Especially the track “Passin’ me by”. For reals you know how hot that track was! HOLY HELL! And finally for 1992 another album I listened to a lot was by “Pete Rock and CL Smooth – Mecca And The Soul Brother”. Pete Rock was another favorite DJ of mine. He had an ear for sounds that solidified what I considered east coast hip hop at that time in 1992. My favorite track was “They Reminisce Over You”. The flow by CL Smooth is unmatched. He raps about growing up and his parents and family and the loss of a close friend. And that flow is amazing. CL had bars upon bars and his delivery was perfect. Very soulful. Also the beats and horns are mastered perfectly by Pete Rock. Nothing like nobody had ever heard. Remember they didn’t have computers and fancy studio hardware to make this music. It was all just samples and 808 drum machines. It’s like visiting a junk yard and building a Lamborghini out of all those junk parts. Just a master piece of music. And that is hip hop at its best back in 1992.
Okay this is a good start to explaining “The Soundtrack Of My Life”. Tomorrow I will blog about 1993. Then the next day 1994 and then end this week with 1995. This is going to be fun. With each blog I will leave you with some quotes from some of my favorite songs from the albums I just talked about. Enjoy.
Dr Dre – Let Me Ride “So on, and so-on, why don’t you let me roll on, i remember back in the days when I used to have to get my stroll on” At the very heart of this song, Dre is rapping about his journey in his career and that everyone should just “let him ride” after he left NWA. It’s a beautiful song. One of Dre’s masterpieces.
Pharcyde – Passin’ Me By “My dear, my dear, my dear, you do not know me but I know you very well Now let me tell you about the feelings I have for you When I try, or make some sort of attempt, I symp, Damn I wish I wasn’t such a wimp”. Here, Fatlip (the rapper on this lyric) said earlier in the song how he was so lowkey about his feelings for this girl he likes and this rhyme he is saying, in the perspective, of him writing a letter to her because he can’t get the courage to talk to her and express these feelings he has for her face to face. As any young man can relate to, I know I could back then to this rhyme. I was a bit shy back in 1992 and there were some girls I liked that I was just to shy or like Fatlip says here, I was just to much of a wimp to talk to them. Beautiful poetry right?
Pete Rock and CL Smooth – They Reminisce Over You “Use your condom, take sips of the brew…when they reminisce over you, for real” The entire track CL Smooth is rapping about the lack of a father and his uncle becoming his role model. But what really shaped the song was simply about Death. The death and loss of a friend of CL’s was a man named Troy “Trouble T Roy” Dixon. Dixon was a backup dancer for Heavy D and the Boyz. Heavy D was from the Mount Vernon area in NYC, same area CL Smooth was from. Dixon was a friend to a lot of artists and one night while on tour, Dixon was joking around backstage with some other artists and by accident he fell off a raised exit ramp outside the venue in Indianapolis. He passed away that night and his death was senseless and touched many lives of his friends and of course his family. He seemed to have a bright future ahead of him and he was loved by many. CL and Dixon were close friends but early in their friendship they were not friends. In fact they got in a fight one time over a girl. And early in the song, CL raps about it with the line “T to the R the O-Y, how did you and I meet? In front of Big Lou’s, fighting in the street/But only you saw what took many time to see/I dedicate this to you for believing in me.” After Dixon passed, years went by and then when CL wrote this song, many of his friends and people who knew Dixon in the music industry knew right away what CL was rapping about. It is a heart felt song, one mans dedication to a friend he lost and when I first heard this and learned why, I had a whole level of respect for CL and Pete Rock. Loosing someone close to you like a family member is tough, and this song helped me out in many ways when my grandmother passed away.
If I ever get a chance to meet these artists, I wouldn’t ask for a picture, or an autograph. I would simply thank them. Thank them for their music and let them know how much it impacted my life back in 1992.