SNDTRK: Volume 1

For the first of many...

I chose to share a few songs from my childhood that sparked my love for music. Yes, I know it's Monday and not Friday (I took a much-need vacation this weekend) but I want to get this one on the books.

What's Golden

Jurassic 5

If you read the introduction to SNDTRK, you know that hearing What's Golden for the first time was the catalyst for all the music I listened to thereafter.

Although I had an eclectic taste at a young age, my preference was hip-hop. I became a junkie, listening to all manner of rhythm and poetry I could get my hands on. Jurassic 5 was far and away my favorite group and my father knew this.

For those that remember, The Rolling Stones performed at Wallace Wade Stadium in October 2005. At the time, I had no idea what a Rolling Stone was but every single one of my friends did and you bet they weren't missing that show. I felt like an outcast. All of them were going to see one of their favorite bands and I couldn't participate.

Meanwhile, my 15th birthday was a week later. Jurassic 5 was on tour ahead of their new album Feedback. The show was on a Thursday, a school night, all the way in Winston-Salem. It hadn't even crossed my mind to go due to those circumstances.

My dad pulled me out of school early that day. I assumed it was for one of your typical "pick your favorite lunch spot" birthday surprises. I sat in the passenger seat confused as we got further away from Durham. When I saw signs for Winston-Salem, the next logical jump was, "Oh, we're doing dinner with Uncle Vincent's family." An hour later, we pulled into the parking lot of the Wake Forest auditorium and all sense of reality dissolved. There was a student waiting to escort us to the venue and show us to our upper balcony "VIP" seats.

I had a ridiculously out of control afro in high school. It was a pain to maintain but grabbed serious attention wherever I went. This served me well during the concert when a spotlight landed on my dad and me for the whole venue to see. All the emcees put their hands up in recognition of the throwback hairstyle. I can think of few times when I was more at peace than that concert.

In that unforgettable moment with my father on my 15th rotation around the sun, "holdin' onto what's golden" became my guiding light.


MF Doom

I don't remember the first time I heard an MF DOOM song but I can't think of a day since when I haven't listened to one. The Supervillain is mandatory hip-hop for anyone that calls themselves a true fan of the genre. His ability to stitch together complex, unique rhymes with entirely self-produced instrumentals (exceptions for collaborative projects) is unrivaled.

I'll save my 100-page dissertation on the merits of DOOM's music for another (inevitable) post at a later date.

For those unfamiliar with Daniel Dumile's origin story, it is not unlike those of other infamous supervillains; tragedy and misunderstanding lead to vengeance. In a previous life, Dumile performed as Zev Love X in the group KMD alongside his brother DJ Subroc. After his brother was killed in a car accident and KMD's record was dropped from the label, DOOM retreated to obscurity before being reborn as the villainous emcee MF DOOM.

Operation: Doomsday, his first release under this new persona, is an all-time classic. On the opening track, Doomsday, MF DOOM spits a hook that causes me to tear up every time I hear it:

"On Doomsday!, ever since the womb ‘til I'm back where my brother went, that's what my tomb'll say, right above my government Dumile, either unmarked or engraved, hey, who's to say?"

This homage to his brother speaks to everything that follows in his career. Later in the album, on the song "?", DOOM elaborates on his relationship to his deceased partner-in-rhyme.

"By candlelight my hand will write these rhymes 'til I'm burnt out
Mostly from experience, shit that I learned about
Topics and views, generally concerned about
With different ways to come up and earn clout
I take a look at my life and pace the trails
From Tablik and savage females with fake nails to face veils
You out your frame but still bagging 'em too
You know I know, these hoes
be asking me if I'm you
Like my twin brother, we did everything together
From hundred
raka'at salats to coppin' butter leathers
Remember when you went and got the dark blue Ballys
I had all the different color Cazals and Gazelles
The "SUBROC" three-finger ring with the ruby in the "O" ock
Truly the illest dynamic duo on the whole block
I keep a flick of you with the machete sword in your hand
Everything is going according to plan man"

The last line serves as a reassurance to Subroc and a warning to all those who oppose DOOM on his quest to "seek revenge on the one who forced me to hide behind this mask." His story is a quintessential antihero narrative, using his powers for both good and evil. Instead of just rappin' the rap, DOOM walked the walk, sending imposters to perform at his shows and always wearing his infamous Metal Face to conceal his emotional scars. He continues to be an enigmatic figure in music all these years later and it all started from this great tragedy that fuels his incredible desire to bring poetic justice to the industry.

Jump Around

House of Pain

Deep in the family archives, there is a home video of me jumping on couches to this and Kris Kross. It is my dancing cornerstone.

I've never been a good dancer. Not once have I bothered to learn any of those ridiculous hip-pop dance routines. Instead, I learned to wave my hands, twist my hips and bounce on my toes just enough to pass as not totally incompetent. Call me a purist but "get out your seat and jump around" is as easy a call-to-action as you can ask for. I don't have to wobble, twerk, crank dat, shuffle, whip or nae nae. Just jump. A simple life.

Each Friday, SNDTRK will hit this site and your inbox, providing you with three songs.

The origin of the songs each week will range from music that has inspired me, invigorated me, or just songs that bump ranging from fresh cuts to old classics. In doing this series, I hope to share the connections I have to music and in turn, make a connection to you.

You can find the full playlist here.