We all have our obsessions, driven by our subconscious to behave in ways beyond our control. They may change with time, but they're always there in one form or another. Behavioural patterns which end up filling the void of human existence. Blah blah blah. For instance, my habit to prattle on endlessly about something without ever arriving at a point. Or, conversely, to grow impatient with a line of thought before a coherent argument has taken shape, moving on to the next before the previous has reached maturation. Abortive thinking is simply harmful for society, but I have yet to see a demonstration taking place on my forehead. Although this could perhaps explain the chronic browcne (not to be confused with bacne or chimples) which plagues deep-thinking, yet chronically scatter-brained types; pores clogged by the psychological footprint of dangerous-thought protesters as they chant their mantras of conformity.
Now, I'm not implying that only the high IQ members of society have blemishes, because morons are just as sweaty and greasy as the rest of us. I've seen them: pit stains and the smell of pizza permeating every pore but never a sign of said pizza.
I guess my point is, I've noticed that everyone needs something to structure their daily existence around -- a sort of schematic for dealing with the travails of life: cigarettes, alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, music, or religion. Prescription painkillers, philosophy, blind hatred, and video games also figure somewhere in the mix, often in combination with the aforementioned concerns.
Painkillers and alcohol are a bad scene, though. As are philosophy and religion. Like oil and water; enlightenment and the rigours of a static belief system simply do not mesh.
I'm no different. But I've forsaken religion (I tried, I really did...went to church every Sunday for the first eighteen years of my life, but it never took; I was always distracted by the flies and chronic bad breath of my fellow parishioners...a word which has always bore far too close a resemblance to prisoners for my liking), and sex was out of the question; I was quite petrified by girls and their female wiles, and not in an accessibly virile way. Of course, due to my religious upbringing, I assumed sex, along with drinking, and most other commonly accepted means of merrymaking, were simply tools of the devil, devised to divert my attention from the embrace of the holy spirit.
So, I turned to music. When I wasn't reading, of course. Friends? I didn't need no steenking friends.
It all started with my parents' 8-track player, specifically my father's Buddy Holly tape. But the 8-track player broke.
Then, circa 1986, I received a rather diminutive red boom, rather, tinny metallic snap box for my birthday. One three inch speaker, the usual push buttons all in a row on top, volume and tuning dials on the side. I unwrapped it at the Dairy Queen in Grand Bay on a crisp November's day. Within, there was a gas-station cassette full of semi-obscure stuff from the late fifties and early sixties. Danny and the Juniors, Little Richard, the Shirelles. Ok, not exactly obscure, but I was nine, give me a break.
The thing about this sad little box, however, was the record
button; it was a magical day when I realized I could tape songs off the radio by simply holding it up to one of the stereo speakers. In retrospect, I chose a rather bleak period in popular music to cut my teeth, but I still had my favorites: The Cars, Rod Stewart, Huey Lewis and the News (a choice which would dog me for years to come; sample joke: "Hey man, who's your favorite singer?" "Huey Lewis" "Well, who's your favorite band?" "uh...the News"), the Traveling Wilburys, and George Harrison.
Random fact, "I've Got My Mind Set On You" was my favorite song of 1987.
Music was always there at the push of a button, or the spin of a dial. On demand, no let downs, no insults, no questions about the pedigree of my t-shirt or jeans. It's not that we were poor. My parents simply didn't put much emphasis on keeping up appearances, and for this I thank them. But kids are assholes.
Nonetheless, from the red boom box I moved on to a walkman; not a an actual Sony Walkman, but a twenty dollar knock-off that would randomly speed up and slow down after a few months' use. In fact, I got said walkman by accident. My mother had purchased it under the false pretense of an internal speaker.
Headphones were a godsend, and of course I ended up embracing a form of music that was the antithesis of my parents' tastes. That familiar refrain, "It's not even music." I got kicked out of class for beatboxing nearly everyday when I was in third grade. Being disruptive was the official term. Of course, "beatboxing" may be a tad revisionist of me.
The Beastie Boys had blown everything open with Licensed to Ill (to a middle-class Caucasian audience, anyways) and while I wasn't allowed to own said album, one of my friends had it. We would listen to it for hours, rewinding parts that had curse words, or what sounded like curse words, convinced that "The New Style" contained the line "I've got franks and fucking
beans" rather than the actual "I've got franks, and pork
and beans." Swearing was really fucking cool.
Aside from the Beasties, there was DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince, long before he was a TV and movie star. I ate that shit up. Thought it was hilarious. But my primary concern was always Jeff's escapades on the wheels of steel; a brilliant DJ. Great drum loops, jazzy samples, and inventive scratching techniques; he was allegedly one of the first DJs to transform, like Voltron.
But Jeff and the Prince were squeaky clean.
Still, my mother would always be hovering about. Inquiring as to what I was listening to. "Oh, that rap crap". So I'd try and keep the volume down so she wouldn't hear the tell-tale infinite loops of hi-hat emanating from my headphones.
I took a fair amount of shit from my family for my fondness of hip hop. I suppose they had no reference point for it. I was a country boy surrounded by George Jones fans, and this was long before Eminem. But I kept at it, despite the gulf between my experience and those of an increasingly disproportionate number of the protagonists of my favorite songs. The flow of the words is what caught my ear.
My main source for keeping up on the trends of the rap game came by way of the monstrous satellite dish in our back yard. Namely, BET. You see, on BET they aired "Rap City" everyday for two hours between five and seven. It was glorious. Through this medium I discovered 3rd Bass, the Wu-Tang Clan, Das Efx, Pete Rock and CL Smooth, EPMD, Gang Starr, Digital Underground; stuff that wasn't getting airtime on any local radio station.
All through high school I was consumed with hip hop. On my prom night, dateless, I sat in the car of my friend's mom listening to Enter the Wu-Tang, getting set for an evening of brooding mopery, rain and camera flash.
The Wu became my obsession. There was nothing like it at the time, and there's been so much already said about that debut album that I'd be wasting my breath by trying to add something new to the mix. So I won't. But while most kids my age were dreaming of being a guitar hero, I wanted to a DJ. Never happened.
Around 1996, hip hop started to suck. Big time. I still blame it on Puff Diddy, or whatever the fuck he goes by these days. Boring mainstream pop samples coupled with mushmouth lyrics concerned with little more than material ephemera. Great for the clubs, but no time fo the mind.
At this point I became tired of hiphop, and began to look elsewhere for satisfaction. This is where punk rock became my going concern. And also where I'll leave you for now.