Due to the honor code and the flexibility that we all have with testing, I find myself taking a lot of exams in the comfort of my dorm room. Something about the silence of my dorm room and me and just the problems I find unsettling, as if the silence is taunting me, daring me to get something wrong. Because of this, I always have to listen to music when I’m taking tests or the silence gets in my head and it adversely affects my testing.
The type of music that I listen to is always pretty consistent, I don’t like to mess with any of my mojo beforehand so I don’t really listen to too many new songs and I don’t listen to anything that will cause me to become uncentered or on an emotional tilt. Usually this consists of some light EDM or rap, something with a good beat, but not something that I’m going to get distracted by trying to analyze or pick out the lyrics from.
If my focus is really high and I don’t need any music to break the silence, I might turn on some alpha brain wave music, my secret weapon. There are no lyrics to this type of music, no real beat, but there is rhythm and I think it helps. How much of this is actually placebo and how much of it actually helps me, I have no idea, but I find it stimulating to the point where I can take my tests. I also don’t know whether or not listening to this “music” actually helps me better than my traditional music choices, but I’m willing to try anything new that’ll make me do better. Point is, and I don’t know about everyone else, but I need something to break up the silence when I’m taking tests, and I will be doing that a lot come this finals season.
Today, during the visit of one of my roommates high school friends, we broke out some old school rap. We were all bumping some Biggie and Tupac just thinking about the progression that rap music has undergone. Back in the day, rap was primarily a way to vent about certain political events, think Tupac and the Black Panthers for example. Then during the early 2000’s rap music changed and went primarily to talking about women, money and cars. What I find particularly interesting is the resurgence of political discussion in rap music that we are seeing today. From practically everything written and rapped by Kendrick lamar to Narcotics by Denzel Curry to Fu*k Da World by Ace Hood, there are striking political discussions contained within these songs. Although I’m not educated enough to comment as to why this resurgence has come along, nor am I in a position to speak about the life experiences of these rappers who compose these songs, I find their messages nonetheless intriguing and challenging to the status quo we have in america.
The amazing fact is that this trend is not just a couple rappers who just happen to have really good flow, and good life stories but extends to rappers that I consider create more of “party tunes”. To me, this is almost to say that this trend is not something that is a fad, but something that is much more tangible and concrete. I would also like to consider the political environment of late as a contributing factor to the change in rap music. Perhaps it has been the increasing instances of riots nationwide or how divisive this political cycle is that is fueling the hate, anger and sorrow that is contained within the rhymes and flow of recent rap music. Of course there are songs that are not political in nature, but the frequency with which they are appearing is unnaturally high. My question is how closely do the recent events affect the content of rap music? Of course the obvious answer would be a lot, but these same events that may or may not have been prompting the shift in rap music have been happening for a long time. I don’t know.
In my hall’s most recent flicker ball victory in this year’s playoffs, I began thinking of how music and noise in general affects the play and outcome of the game. Our “walk up” song for every game has been Womanizer by Britney Spears. For the guys, its just something that we always do and something that’s a little bit funny to get us pumped up for the game. To the other teams that we play, its almost a challenge and something that deserves respect strictly because it’s so contrapositive to the environment that surrounds it. During warm ups, the music will shift to one or two EDM songs and then finally progress to rap music. The first song serves to ‘break the ice’ between our mornings and game time and allows us to transition into getting ready for the game. By opening kickoff we’ll play intimidating music, usually in the form of rap.
I think that music follows the current mood of our team and players. When we first show up for the game, we’re a little sluggish and need something to liven us up, during warm ups we need something to elevate our energy and keep us there, and during the game it’s time to affect the energy levels of the other team through intimidating music. I can’t imagine warming up without music and I couldn’t imagine playing a game without it, either. It would definitely throw the whole mood off and definitely heavily influence the outcome of the game. Maybe for our flicker ball team, our choice in music is the key to our victories, or at the very least a heavy influential component.
Tributes to Dead Musicians
In my process of writing this blog post over the past two weeks, I spent a lot of the time listening to various music videos on Youtube. On one of those nights where its too late and you’ve watched too many videos and you seemingly stop caring, I stumbled upon a comment that got me thinking about the use of sampling in songs. The comment went something along the lines of “This new type of music is a corruption of the great musicians that made this in the first place 15-20 years ago…I can’t believe today’s youths listen to junk like this”. That got me thinking: was this true? On one hand, I could see how it could be against the tribute of certain artists by appropriating it in a context that wasn’t its own, but on the other I saw this as a way of keeping the music alive and memorable, and even spreading the admiration for the song to future generations. Was it in fact another tribute, an enhancement of a previous one, or the exact opposite and a mutilation of an artist’s memory?
For me, I think that its an entirely new tribute to a dead artist. I do not see a sample as detracting anything from the original material. The whole tribute is recreated within a whole new group of people and enthusiasts, and prompts the question: how can the tribute be the same one within two different contexts? The groups are separated by age and usually have little prolonged contact, and thus would have different interpretations just simply based on this. Also, this process of splitting or morphing the meanings also means that the memory of the dead artist is carried on as long as their music keeps being sampled in new music, regardless of whether or not their original tribute survived.
Reading Brian’s post about how he misses Houston music and appreciates listening to it in the locker room before games, I couldn’t help but think about the music from my own hometown, Chicago. As you may or may not know, Chicago is the murder capital of the world with more combined murders than New York and Los Angeles this past summer. The history surrounding those figures is one of CPD’s biggest blunders, in my opinion, and this increased violence has lead to a new genre of music, Drill music. My private catholic high school sponsors around 300 kids from Chicago’s South side so this type of music took a spot in our school culture. By no means would I say its the dominant music genre at our school, but whenever i went out with my black friends, at least one chief keef song would come up. Today, I Heard a chief keef song come up namely “I hate being sober” and it brought me back to my days of rolling through the whitest suburbs in america blasting this type of music with my black friends.
Of rolling up to our bush league pickup hockey games in Kenilworth and beating our cross town rivals.
Of metra train rides into the city on St.Patty’s day
Little moments that are so intertwined to chicago and my history that music brings me back to. On one hand I wish I heard more of chicago rap, but on another I know that hearing more of it would make me miss my city even more.
Stop overplaying Chance the Rapper
As I sit in the back of my friends Jeep as I write this blog post, I can’t help but think about people’s music choices. It seems to me like there are just certain songs that people always play, that everyone always knows, and that people either really do like or just pretend to like them cause everyone else does. I myself am a fan of the rap genre, and for the majority of the car rides I’ve taken with friends, this seems to be the genre of choice. Tonight’s car ride was Chance the Rapper (of course), and Russ. Both well-known rappers, but not mainstream rappers. They both seem to have an edginess that attracts people, but I’ve never been able to pinpoint it. Maybe it’s the ability to understand all of Chance’s lyrics as opposed to say Panda by Designer where you can understand maybe a tenth of what he’s saying? Maybe its Chance’s ability to kinda say F it when it comes to traditional rap structure and add his own flare to it? Perhaps it’s a combination mixed with the fact that he’s not a mainstream rapper that makes him so appealing to people. Don’t get me wrong, I love Chance and since he’s from Chicago I love him even more, but his music has been played for me so many times that I just can’t enjoy listening to his newest album on my own now. Chance is good, but he’s not God.
If you really like Chance, mix it up for once. Stop playing colouring book and “No Problems”, just because you think it’s the best song in the album. Throw in some Acid Rap or some songs not written by him but that he’s featured in. Throw in some old stuff that’s from before his exposure. Actually just stop playing “No Problems”. Better yet, stop playing Chance completely and give me time to appreciate his work again. It’ll be better for me, and who knows maybe you’ll come to see the wisdom in letting songs retain their excitement rather than playing the song nonstop for a couple of months and then never being able to listen to it ever again.
Continuing my blog post from last week, albeit on a slightly different note, this week I wanted to talk about the effect of music on a seemingly benign routine experience. As I was sitting this weekend typing my paper, I wanted to investigate the effects of music on the ‘flow’ state of mind. For those of you who don’t know what flow is, flow is a state of mind where all your energy is diverted to one task, but the results feel effortless. It’s my favorite mood to write a paper in and the same state that athletes describe as “in the zone”. Writing a paper or doing anything really without being in flow is like beating your head against a wall trying to crank it out. When you’re in flow everything just seems to fit and fit right into place. For this reason, getting into a flow before I write a paper is my number one priority before I write anything long.
In order to do this, I use music. I find that I need music that amps me up to get me excited enough to motivate myself to not procrastinate the paper any longer. Usually this is not the most artistically talented music, I won’t be listening to Kendrick trying to get myself amped, Ill be listening to a more aggressive type of music. This could either be EDM, rap, or any mix that gets me initially amped to start. Today, it was “Gotta Lotta” by 2 Chainz. By no stretch of imagination would I consider this song to be of the same caliber as some of the stuff we listen to in class or some other rappers, but for me its enough to get my foot tapping or my head bumping and help push me into flow. Music turns writing a paper into a jam sesh or a discovery episode where I can find new music and enjoy myself. For me, this makes writing, even about topics such as religion, that I find unenjoyable downright fun and breaks the silence that makes me think “Why am I doing this right now? I’ll do this later”.
Music, for me, has always been one of those things to fill long car rides or to listen to with friends. Beyond that, I wouldn’t call myself a very musical person. The only exposure I’ve ever had with music was fifth grade music class where we all had to learn how to play the recorder and come up with our own little tunes. Looking back, it’s something that I wished I got into, maybe just enough to read sheet music or understand the difference between countertenor and bass. With that being said, I do find myself enjoying music a lot. It was a way to calm down as I drove to school last year or to get rowdy as I left.
However, the most meaningful experience I have had with music was down in South America. I lived in Ecuador for two months the summer of my junior year and used music as a way to connect with people. As a “gringo” living in an indigenous community 60 miles away from the Amazon jungle, I found it very difficult to connect with a culture and people very different than my own. During the day we would wake up to me playing chance the rapper as I rolled out of bed and “taxi” by Pitbull as we went about our day. We would work in the bakery during the day and dance with the kids at night. We’d walk down the mountain with our piece-of-junk iPhone speakers playing the music and a train of kids would follow us. They’d be laughing and dancing and it’s really helped shape me into the person that I am today. Without music, it probably would never have happened, or at least not to the degree that it did. Although my Spanish was good, it wasn’t fluent and I generally missed out on all the cultural innuendos and inside jokes they shared. Music helped even the playing field and make me feel more connected to the people. Looking back on the experience, I miss it like crazy and it was definitely one of the top experiences of my life. More than the place, I miss the people and the friendships I made. Without the music, helping to create the connections that I formed there, my experience would have been vastly different and lacking something crucial and human.