I’m not 100% sure how to approach this post seeing as I’ve been feeling quite numb for a while now, so I do apologize if it’s all over the place. But music has been the one thing to keep me going, so I may honestly be making this post more for me than anyone else. But I hope that it’s able to give you all something to take your mind off of what’s going on in the world, even if just for the few minutes that it took to read this. Please, no matter how discouraged you feel, do not let go of your creative outlets. Paint, make music, do what you can to feel a sense of comfort, because I promise, it will inspire others as well.
Collectively, the country isn’t doing too hot. I think we can all agree on that. But every now and then when I find myself getting a bit bored (this is a HUGE understatement), I remember that there are some amazing new album releases out. Although not the first person I would normally check out, I got to run through Lil Uzi Vert’s new album (featuring the amazing @1cousinvinny’s production on Baby Pluto-super proud of this guy as he is one of the kindest people I have ever met) to give me something to analyze. But even crazier is the fact that we FINALLY got Jay Electronica’s new release! I did not mind having a few hours to really sit down with that. Even in my state of depression, hearing the production in “The Blinding” got me hype as hell. For every disaster that has occurred in the US, people have found different ways to cope. For quite a bit of us, music has been one of those ways. It’s given people a common ground and a chance to escape the troubles of the outside world. It gives us a bit of hope, and a way to not feel so alone, which is especially important as we’re facing social isolation.
Hip-hop started as a way for people to cope with issues such as social injustice, income inequality, and racism, so there’s no surprise that people listen to it and feel a sense of comfort. While a lot of it has been rooted in misfortune and frustration, it has provided people with the opportunity to dream of better times or even critique the current ones. Mos Def, for instance, wrote “Katrina Klap” which was later renamed “Dollar Day” to discuss how improperly George W. Bush handled Hurricane Katrina. He even got arrested after pulling up to perform the song on a truck in front of the MTV Video Music Awards. This gave people a sense of comfort as they recognized that those with a bit of power were, in fact, trying to make a difference and challenge the improper care for those whose lives were destroyed. In fact, “Dollar Day”, along with KRS-One’s “Disaster Kit” and Jay-Z and Ne-Yo’s “Minority Report” were all used by the Truman Project to outline proper measures that should be taken during an emergency, specifically a hurricane, to avoid history repeating itself. Furthermore, lots of New Orleans artists took to the mic for cries of help and mourning while popular artists such as Public Enemy, Lil Wayne, and Jay-Z also partook, creating a whole sub-genre that solely dealt with this national disaster.
One of the most unforgettable days in the history of the United States was September 11th, 2001. Everyone remembers where they were and what they were feeling, even if they weren’t quite old enough to comprehend it. I remember watching a television feature on VH1 about the history of Saturday Night Live throughout the 2000s, with an emphasis on the episodes surrounding 9/11. The cast members and writers explained that despite being in a shock, they felt a responsibility to continue the show because people needed them now more than ever. I think that can really be extended to music. It’s a huge pressure to be the small bit of relief during a national crisis, but it also shows just how important the arts are. September 11th shook the nation to the core, but it also ended up being the release date for two extremely important albums. On that very day, Jay-Z released The Blueprint, serving as yet another number one album in his discography. As a native to New York, he used a lot of the proceeds from that album to benefit victims from the tragic incident, but also let their memories live on in his music for years to come, especially in The Blueprint 2. In his “9/11 Freestyle”, Hov even reflected on the release date of the album, explaining how it didn’t prevent him from achieving success. In 2002, Cam’Ron, who had a notorious beef with Jay-Z, even collaborated with him to help those who were still hurting on the uplifting track “Welcome to New York City”. “Run This Town” even became a resilient anthem for people to sing their hearts out to as Jay gave New Yorkers the strength to reminisce over what happened that day and how it affected the whole city. Yet another New Yorker, Fabolous entered the game with his LP Ghetto Fabolous. Even as a newcomer, Fabolous was able to provide hip-hop fans with a distraction as they engrossed themselves in his music. Those releases became timeless, not only because of how good they were but also because of their ability to help people through trying times. Other artists such as Immortal Technique, Das Racist, Eminem, Ab-Soul, Jadakiss, and Talib Kweli also used their rhymes to share their thoughts on the matter, with Immortal Technique taking a Mos Def-like stance and using his music to critique the Bush administration and even highlight potential conspiracies. However, I was personally related the most to Das Racist’s experience. In their member Heems’ “Patriot Act”, he shared how 9/11 changed his life as a Middle-Eastern living in the US, something that most Middle-Eastern and South Asian people could relate to as they endured racist attacks. Even with all of the different perspectives and experiences following the horrific events of 9/11, everyone was able to come together through the common ground of hip-hop to grieve with one another, but also to celebrate life together.
The beautiful thing about music is that when I think back to really horrible years, I can still recollect some incredible albums that had a positive impact on me no matter how tough things got. 2016 is definitely my prime example. I’m not going to focus on it too much because I’ve already ranted quite a bit about it on Trump’s Downfall, but I truly believe that 2016 was the start of me seeing the United States in quite an unfavorable light. As I mentioned in my other post, seeing Trump get elected was a very hard time for me, and the elections leading up to it were just as nerve-wracking. I wasn’t quite sure what was happening and I was nervous about our future. And lo and behold at around 3 AM the day after the elections, it was quite clear who our new president was. I did dive into it a bit more on the other post so I’ll try not to repeat myself too much, but A Tribe Called Quest’s We Got It From Here…Thank You 4 Your Service was my savior. As I was walking to class in a cloudy funk, I remembered that the iconic group had released their first album in 18 years and that unfortunately, it was Phife’s last one. But that album not only helped to carry on his legacy after his passing, but it also helped to give some peace and comfort after a very crazy election. “We the People” reminded me that as a country we would unite to face all adversaries and that together we would face the hatred. Solange’s A Seat at the Table, Mac Miller’s The Divine Feminine, Ab-Soul’s Do What Thou Wilt, and Anderson .Paak’s Malibu were the four other albums that helped make that year so much more bearable, and that’s not to discredit any of the other incredible releases because there were a shit ton of them. I just seemed to have emotional attachments to a lot of those songs. “Cranes In the Sky” even to this day pulls at my heartstrings because of envisioning myself in that position, and the melodies from both “The Bird” and “The Season|Carry Me” can still bring me to tears. The opening piano from Mac Miller’s “Congratulations” and Mac’s chorus on “D.R.U.G.S” from Ab-Soul’s album haunts me, especially as I reminisce on his death. But then Solange’s “Mad” empowers me, and reminds me that I have every right to be angry. Anderson’s “The Dreamer” reminds me to feel optimistic, even when things get to be discouraging. Mac’s “My Favorite Part” helps me fall in love, with others and myself. NxWorries’ “Lyk Dis” and Rihanna’s “Needed Me” reiterate that even in a time where a sexual predator and misogynist are president, my sexuality is mine, and mine alone, and that there is no shame in embracing it. Kaytranada’s “You’re the One” and “Together”, Ri-Ri’s “Work” and Drake’s “Controlla” keep me dancing, even when my heart needs a bit of extra motivation to match my footwork. Frank Ocean’s Blonde, ironically enough Kanye’s Life of Pablo, and ScHoolboy Q’s Blank Face LP remind me to not let anyone silence me and to unapologetically always be me. And Beyonce’s “Formation” and Rapsody’s verse on Ab-Soul’s “The Law” remind me that I am a goddess, and I am not to be fucked with. Those songs helped give that dreadful year another purpose, and another meaning in my life.
As I briefly touched on it earlier, music also does an amazing job to help us mourn our favorite artists. Mac Miller’s sudden death, for instance, hurt. A lot. But I remember the collective reaction to his single “Good News” right before his estate released his posthumous album Circles. I remember the hurt and sadness everyone shared over Twitter the second the song started, and how one simple word brought everyone to tears. I remember watching Anthony Fantano, a music blogger who had been attacked quite a bit after criticizing some of Mac Miller’s music, break down into tears while listening to the song, causing me to do the same. We were all able to mourn him together. And for the longest time, it was too hard for me to listen to his music. But I remembered just how much it meant to me. Even around J Dilla’s birthday and death anniversary, it is very difficult to listen to his music. “Don’t Cry” is especially difficult, because it feels as though he is personally comforting his listeners. Even acknowledging Phife’s legacy in the most recent Tribe album felt like his going away party, and Anderson’s .Paak and Q-Tip’s “Cheers” was the final goodbye for him and Mac Miller. I never got super heavy into Pop Smoke or XXXTentacion, but I understand why their music sales and streaming went up after their deaths. Even with the Tupacs, Biggies, Nipseys, Big Puns, and Nate Doggs, I get it. We start to see their art in a new light, and we use it to carry on their retention. We’re able to mourn them together, as fans and listeners and admirers, but we’re also able to celebrate everything that they accomplished.
The hardest part of the Quarantine for me is having to be alone with my thoughts. If you know me, you know to what extent I overthink things. It’s to a point of self-destruction, and after losing all of my work and having nothing to do, I’m hoping to learn how to find comfort in myself. But I know that even if I can’t, I at least have my music to keep me company. My downstairs neighbors can probably hear me yelling at my Google Home every five minutes to change the song until I’m content, and then have to hear me sing my heart out when I’ve found the perfect chorus, but it brings me calmness. Writing this post brings me contentment. Even without knowing how I’m going to pay my bills or how long I’ll be without work, I remember that there are so many albums that I put aside because I didn’t have the time or attention span for them. There are millions of songs that I’ve never heard and so much to learn about them. Give in to your creativity, especially if you haven’t had the time to before. Take solace in the things you love, because right now you deserve to take care of yourself.
Before I end this post, I’d like to highlight a few of my friends and how music is helping them during these times. A lot of artists, freelancers, and workers in the entertainment industry much like myself are getting hit hard. So please, check out their pages and their endeavors, listen to their music, find your new favorite song, and tell them what you like about their creative flow. And if you’re an artist with something cool going on that would like to be featured somehow, please reach out. As always, a Spotify playlist will be embedded below with all of the songs that I’ve mentioned, including tracks by the artists mentioned below. All of my social media is listed below so follow me on Instagram if you want to see what face masks I’m doing or what cheap wine I’m drinking or what other ridiculous ways I’m keeping myself busy. Make sure to subscribe to the blog because with everything going on I’m going to be getting some fire posts out since I have nothing else going on.
“It’s important to remain calm and open minded during times like these. Creating and releasing content is a great way to take your mind off the panic the media wants you to have and refocuses on the calm that could’ve already been there but was blocked by everything going on in the world.
Ironically enough, this feels like the closest we’ve ever been to world peace. Seeing big companies helping their workers and creatives all across the world helping each other out is beautiful. I love bringing people happiness through music and that’s why I’m happy to be releasing remixes at this time to get people out of bed and dancing! I feel like I’m doing my part to keep the positive energy flowing.”–Kam Dela. @kam_dela
“Music is not bound by time and space really. Even though we as humans at this time are. It allows for a sense of expansiveness in the midst of social distancing and for those who make music also offers some normalcy. The best side hustle to cultivate in these times is yourself. Use YouTube or read a book to learn a new skill or hone one that needs sharpening. On the other side you will still have yourself—- so always work to grow that seed of self. FaceTime friends, have a long conversation, write a letter—- cultivate community too. Another thing that will survive on the other end of this.”–Anthony Martinez-Briggs aka US of IllDoots. @illdoots
“I’ve been writing a myriad of content. It’s a great time to read, listen, and watch to gain inspiration. I’m drawing energy and ideas from everywhere and with the internet and a tiny home library I don’t feel like I’m locked inside. The best way to support M11SON is to stream my ‘Compromised’ album.”–Mason. @M11SON
“It’s important to strike a healthy balance between the somber and the uplifting musical choices. I think most people in times of isolation want to match that feeling with a sad song. It’s understandable. However, you can’t stay there long. You have to dive into the joyous and hopeful songs in order to maintain the necessary optimism. Now’s the time to dance in front of the mirror, sing loudly, and bang on pots n pans.”–DJ Craig Dash. @craigdash
“Being in quarantine mode is common for creatives. Being that I do more than just produce, it helps me to jump between production, writing, or editing visuals. Lately I’ve been working from home creating art that I feel will help influence culture. It’s so much bullshit going on in the media, that sometimes it helps to disconnect and create.”–Jim Beanz. @jimbeanzoffical
“I already quarantine with music and art so not much has changed as far as consumption. But damn if it doesn’t provide relief, hope, and escapism. And a ton more.”–Chris Matteis. @dreadsolo
“Being able to create something from nothing keeps me going daily. I can be frustrated about normal life shit then out of nowhere that spark comes and I forget about everything. I’m cooking up right now and just about forgot what I was gonna say. That power music has right there is what keeps me motivated at all times.”–Cousin Vinny. @1cousinvinny