I didn’t grow up with the luxury of having someone near and dear to me who could properly school me on hip-hop. Sure, my older brother, Tim, had great music taste and introduced me to stuff like The Chronic in 1993, which confused the hell out of my 8-year-old self. “What is chronic?” I can remember asking him, only to receive a shrugged-shoulders response and probably a lil’ punch in the arm. But when I heard the music, the beats, the mostly indecipherable (to a kid, at least) lyrics, I was hooked. You could say that Dre introduced me to hip-hop, along with the help of Digital Underground’s “The Humpty Dance”. Yeah, I was a confused child.
But the ensuing years brought a slight falling out of favor with the genre, though I held it close to my heart by way of an obsession with Zack De La Rocha’s fiery rhymes leading Rage Against the Machine. Still, that was the closest thing to “rap” I was listening to, along with Beck’s more nimble cuts. For the most part, it was all guitar-driven alternative rock with a single here and there working itself into my brain. I also had a stint where all I listened to was Weird Al Yankovic. Again, like I said, I had very little musical direction outside of the few alt-rock stations and a then-actually-OK MTV.
My teenage years flew by, driven by a blend of sad-sack shit like blink-182 and a typical-white-boy fascination with 2Pac. I thought dude was basically a deity and while I still love some of his music, my stannery ain’t even close to where it was a decade ago. I went through phases with music from Mos Def, Talib Kweli, C-N-N, Nas, Eminem, and others, though that was mostly based on my love for the And1 Basketball tapes. I dipped into the emo garbage that plagued the airwaves for a few years, all the while trying to find and establish my taste in music. I felt a pressure to do that, too, which only made matters worse. You want to talk about having guilty pleasures? No one knew that I secretly like a Britney Spears cut here or there and didn’t actually mind boy bands. If you did, you were probably my best friend … and you’re probably not reading this.
But I digress.
College presented the same predicament: What the f*ck do I actually like? Does it matter? Or should I just listen to what I want? Of course, the only answer to those questions are: Shut up, kid, you’re 18 and it’s OK that you like horseshit for music sometimes. Then something changed when I stumbled across OkayPlayer and Last.FM, where people (mostly) reasonably discussed (and argued) about music both old and new. I began finding artists I heard in passing or read about in magazine, slightly intimidated and overwhelmed by how much I missed.