January 27, 2013 2 comments
Probably one of my favorite things about this collective of bloggers is we span nationwide, we even cross countries, SHOUTOUT TO MY BREDRIN IN JAMAICA. There’s a web of us who have met, but some of us remain perfect “strangers.” Still, we’ve got this goofy site that brings us all together and has allowed for some serious bonds & FrIeNdShIps to develop. Enough of the sweet talk. The idea for this theme did not come from me printing out every writer on the site’s facebook picture and gluing it onto a map. It actually came from Spotify. Sometimes I randomly find myself perusing the apps and today I came across GeoTunes. After clicking on the playlist inspired by Chicago, I knew we could all come up with something representative of a place we have called home at one point in life.
I was born and raised in La Grange, a sweet suburb of good ole Chicago. Trying to decide which song best depicted the way I feel about where I’m from was not an easy task. There’s Kanye, who no question makes me think of high school and coming home throughout my college years. Wilco, who made some heartbreaking tunes about the city. And then there’s the amazingly inaccurate,“The Night Chicago Died,” a fictional tale about a mobster battle written by some British blokes that mentions an “East Side” of Chicago (hehehe).
But, when I think of my fondest memories of growing up so close to the city of Chicago there has been one constant throughout my entire life. Cubs games at Wrigley Field in the summer time, which I prefer to call, “My Happy Place.” My aunt worked at Wrigley when I was little so becoming a Cubs fan was a no brainer (despite my dad’s allegiance to the White Sox). We used to go to the field on days when the Cubs were playing on the road and run around like it was our playground. My family keeps some very rare security footage of me swinging a bat at my younger brother in the outfield. My high school and college summers were dominated by attending Cubs games at any chance we could get. If I didn’t get to at least 1 game a season something felt off in my life, and boy do I have stories from those games.
So rather than go the obvious route and present you with the equal parts infectious and douchey victory song, “Go Cubs Go” by Steve Goodman, I chose to present a lesser known track by the same man that really hits close to my heart. “A Dying Cubs Fans Last Request,” embodies the sad yet ever hopeful spirit of being a fan of the loveable losers. We’re notorious for having more fun at the games than actually paying attention to the score but you know, can we live? The song is pretty straight forward, a man is dying and he wants his funeral to be at Wrigley Field–beautiful concept.
If you’re ever in Chicago, plan your visit for the summer, that way you can understand the city in the way I like it best.
Hampton Roads, Virginia There really is only one song for me that sums up my hometown, and that is from Gene and Terrence Thornton. When I was in high school if you didn’t know about this song you were so far out of touch, as the Clipse were part of a wave of prominent Virginia artists putting on for their hometown. With artists such as Timbaland, Pharrell, Missy Elliott, Trey Songz, and Chris Brown all hailing from the Commonwealth, there certainly was no dearth of talent. I just feel that the sort of grim, melancholy view that Malice portrays in “Virginia” best represents some of the same views I hold from my hometown. Nah asked for a picture of my hometown to go along with the post, and I wasn’t sure of what to put up. Should I put up a picture of the Norfolk Strip? James River Bridge? MacArthur Mall? Jersey Park? Chic-a-Sea? I was so undecided I just decided to go with a Google Search, for what we’re most famous for: ham. A lot of you don’t know that your Virginia Ham that you enjoy comes from Smithfield, Virginia which is where I went to high school and graduated. Our economy is very much tied to the pork/food industry, and while I respect that I had to spread my wings and leave the state. And the rest is history.
*This post is not endorsed by Paula Deen.
Pictured above: Pacific Beach, San Diego. I walk here every day. I’m never moving away. I hate rappers who put obligatory “California songs” on their albums, like Masta Killa did recently. Rappers mention Crips, Bloods, Mexicans, 2pac, and sunshine over a P-Funk sample and they swear they did the West Coast proud. It takes more than that. I want to believe you’ve eaten a California burrito with extra guacamole while complaining about how fucking cold it is on a 55-degree day. That’s why I trust in the Compton-born TQ. I bet he’s gone through his fair share of taco shop drive-thrus at 3am, washing down his carne asada nachos with some cool, sweet horchata. I don’t know what happened to TQ after They Never Saw Me Coming. I damn sure didn’t see him leaving. But I’ll always love him for “Westside,” though. Westside till I diiiiiiiieeeeee.
Salzburg, Austria “Fettes Brot” translates to “rich bread” so…. Knowing all the words to this is only slightly less cool than understanding the German parts of “Inglorious Bastards.” Members Björn, Boris & Martin have been kicking rhymes since ’92 – they’re Deutschland’s Beastie Boys. I guess everyone’s writing songs about or from their hometown, is that the thing? So these dudes aren’t Austrian, but “Emanuella” was all over Austrian radio, and I just didn’t have the heart to write about Falco. “What do you know about love? You don’t know anything about love” they sing. “Now you sit outside on the steps outside her house you little gangster, casually you smoke cigarettes, and throw stones at her window” they continue (more or less). This song is the German “Maneater” and ain’t nothing wrong with that.
I searched far and wide to find a song that would fit my hometown of Harbour View, which is a dusty little harbour-side town smack between a Cement company and a polluted harbour located right on the southern tip of Jamaica.
If it sounds oppressive, it isn’t.
Between the dusty sunsets, distant rumbling of industrial machines, and ever present view of the Caribbean Sea it provided fertile ground for an imagination and enough adventure to give a little grit to my childhood.
More importantly, Growing up in Harbour View instilled in me at a very early age the value of teamwork. Us residents were all friendly enough in our day to day encounters, but when the local football team played a home match, we became a family. Acquaintances, neighbours who barely spoke and almost recognizable faces packed themselves shoulder to shoulder in a space designed for less than half the attendance every match day. Shouts of encouragement and support roared throughout the tiny stadium as all members of the community united and became the 12th player off the pitch. Through all the victories and upsets, we left with our spirits high from the larger sense of camraderie that each football match instilled.
To communicate this feeling, I went with dancehall king Vybz Kartel’s “Can’t Move We.” It’s on a reggae one drop “riddim” which provides the deejay the opportunity to showcase his more contemplative side. He eschews the raw lyricism and suggestive content he is most often associated with to deliver a measured attack on his critics while simultaneously highlighting his resolve to overcome alongside his team. The sing along hook of “dem can’t move WE” is a rallying battle cry that reminds of those football matches in Harbour View and the grand feeling of community and teamwork they left me with.
I’m a life-long resident of Greenville, SC (sans the four years I spent at college), and it has morphed from a sleepy southern city perfectly positioned half-way between Atlanta and Charlotte to the third largest Urban area in South Carolina. It has a beautifully designed downtown (pictured above) and since it’s nestled at the bottom of the Foothills we can travel 10 minutes and get this: When I was tasked with choosing a song/artist to represent my hometown/homestate, I had a few selections: Edwin McCain, Toro Y Moi (whose song “Cola” is a colloquial term for Columbia, SC),
Darius RuckerHootie & The Blowfish… all artists from this area. But when I think about what represents “South Carolina” as a whole I knew exactly the song : “Carolina Girls.” I’ve said for years that South Carolina has the best weather, women and racism throughout the realm. And, if you are lucky enough to snag you a Southern Belle, you’ll be a better man for it. The gentillesse a G.R.I.T.S. possesses is second to none. What’s also special about “Carolina Girls” by General Johnson and The Chairmen of the Board is that it is one of the finest examples of “Carolina Beach Music.” Most people outside of the Carolinas aren’t familiar with this feel-good regional music genre, which is the official sponsor of our state dance: The Carolina Shag.
Learn how to Shag and you’ll lock down every purty girl at a wedding. I’m so sincere, bruh. If you’re experiencing a dreary, cold Friday like I am down here in South Cakalack, toss on some Beach Music (The Tams, The Trammps, General Johnson, The Four Tops, Little Willie John) and be transported to a sandy beach with beer in hand. Cheers, y’all.
Little known fact: Though I grew up in and proudly rep Delaware to the fullest, I was actually born in the capital of Florida, Tallahassee. Not only was I born there, but I also attended college in Tally at the height of T-Pain’s career. In 2007, the self-proclaimed ‘Tallahassee Hero’ dropped his second, and most successful album to date, Epiphany. “Tallahassee Love” served as the album’s intro and largely mimicked Dr. Dre and Tupac’s classic, “California Love.” Though clocking in at only 2 minutes and four seconds in length, “Tallahassee Love” is a song I still play frequently because the hook, sang by J-Lyriq, accurately describes how I feel about the city. “I’ve been there, and I‘ve been back / but something here, always brings me back. So when I’m here, I get that Tallahassee love.” Since graduating from school I’ve lived in a slew of different cities and hardly get a chance to go back to the Tally. When I do, though, I always feel comfortable there. It’s like going to a distant relative’s house. You might not talk to that person frequently, but you know you’re always welcome because there’s love there. I appreciate the 8-5-0 because I know no matter how old I get, when I come back, I’ll always get that same “Tallahassee Love.”
LITTLE KNOWN FACT 2: The chain around T-Pain’s neck on the album cover for Epiphany is an iced-out version of the old and new Florida State Capitol buildings, which if you’re driving up Apalachee Parkway toward Monroe Street, looks exactly like T-Pain’s chain. How’s that for Tallahassee love?
Music from my hometown of Boston is sadly stereotyped. If you ask someone to name a band from Boston, odds are you’d get one of two answers: Aerosmith would be the most popular, with the Dropkick Murphys a close second. If you’re digging somewhat deeper, you might get a few New Kids on the Block mentions or a New Edition here and there, but for the most part, Boston is categorized as an inebriated northern wasteland of Irish pseudo-toughs and douchebags. To break away from this, let me dig a little back into the Bostonian archives of hip-hop, characterized by heavy boom-bap DJ Premier beats and dazzling displays of emceeing technical wizardry. (Let’s forget Marky Mark and the ubiquitous House of Pain. Please.)
Akrobatik, a long-time featured radio host on Boston hip-hop station JAMN, hasn’t recorded prolifically, but his 2003 record “Balance” is a direct callback to the days when hard snares and lyricism meant more than a hook or slamming bass. “Remind My Soul”, the most popular track from that album, deals with the plight that African-Americans face in freeing themselves from societal bonds of oppression. It sounds heavy, but the simple beat behind it keeps it from weighing too heavy on your mind.
Boston: the roads make no sense, people are generally assholes, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
“The first state,” “The small wonder,” “A place to be somebody;” my home state, Delaware, has a knack for touting magnanimous labels like the afore-quoted with little to no irony. That perilous delusion is what helps us get though the vapid workdays and fleeting weekends, (last call is 12:45 in most Delaware bars… Yeah) so it’s easy to think that culture might not be something of a cornerstone in the Blue Hen state. And, for the most part, there really isn’t much, but when one comes across a group like Mean Lady, all of that small town self-loathing seems to be jarred into perspective.
I first saw the Newark outfit — headed by vocalist Katie Dill and multi-instrumentalist Samuel Nobles — in the basement of a campus house at the University of Delaware some four years ago. Even in their most infantile and raw, there was a bright optimism to them that makes all indie-pop outfits so endearing (they were also most likely getting paid in Keystone light, so measure the lofty nostalgia accordingly.) “Bop Bop”, released late last year as a single between “Far Away” isn’t music that exemplifies Delaware, but that’s mostly because there’s really nothing to exemplify. Instead, Mean Lady plays up the psuedo-cuteness of their aesthetic (re: “psuedo” for “deceptively”) by way of what Pitchfork’s Ian Cohen called “a pleasingly synthetic bed of drum machines and prancing keyboards…” With a distribution deal via Fat Possum and back catalog full of under-recognized gems, there’s nearly no ceiling for this band. They’re one of the more promising acts we’ve had going since… Uh… Ryan Phillippe and Aubrey Plaza.
I had to. There’s a lot of artists from Chicago and a lot of songs written about Chicago. Kanye, Wilco, Common <3... I haven't lived there since high school so when I think Chicago, I think about growing up. I was strongly considering going with Fall Out Boy's "Sugar were going down" because I LOVE that song and they are from Chicago. That song is high school. But, when I purely think Chicago, I think Sufjan's Illinoise album and specifically, “Chicago.” Those first few signature notes – everyone knows them. I wish I could remember the moment I first heard this song. Truthfully, I can’t remember a time when I didn’t know and love this song. I wish I had a specific memory to offer, but this song was always there. On my mix CDs driving to school, in my headphones traveling home, and now, with me always in Spotify. Growing up. Making mistakes. Escaping. Leaving. Returning. Loving. It’s all there in this song. My growing up is punctuated by moments of music that connected with me, that meant something to me, that I could relate to. “Chicago” with it’s simple lyrics and flourishing instruments is that for me. I will always love Chicago. And I will always listen to it every time I’m home. I imagine it’s like that for Californians with Phantom Planet’s “California” yes? no? Marc, just admit it.
So I’ve lived in a lot of places and identify with music from a lot of those places. My life as a traveler – Southern California, Seattle, Virginia. High school, though, had to be my most musically formative years. Washington DC was my home for about half my life. Ben Gibbard’s two bands made music that made sense at the time. Especially the Postal Service, one of the first electronically influenced bands I really got into.
“The District Sleeps Alone Tonight” is not about living in the nation’s capital, but just visiting. Yet it poignantly connects me with my city, especially now that I no longer roam those streets daily. Now, I only pass through on visits to DC and cities all over the country.
I still feel that I am the visitor wherever I go. Nothing feels permanent in my life yet. I am just visiting, college for four years, where to next? The wonder of not yet knowing is just that, wonderful.