Jill Scott’s “A Long Walk” was one of the last music videos I remember watching before college. I listened to it tonight while going through my CD collection and was surprised that I could still pinpoint the moments when I purchased or received almost all of them. I associated the songs with different periods of my life, as if they might comprise specific parts of a soundtrack in the movie version.
She calls me from the cold
Just when I was low, feeling short of stable.
— Fuel’s “Shimmer”
The summer before college was filled with a lot of diversions, like that kayaking trip to the Pine Barons, a trip to Atlantic City, multiple trips to Six Flags Great Adventure, phone calls from a certain girl that appeared to make at least one of my parents uncomfortable, and no phone calls from another one that made me uncomfortable. The radio was tuned to G 106.3 in many of these instances.
Like Ma Bell,
I got the ill communication.
— Beastie Boys and Tribe Called Quest’s “Get It Together”
The first week of college was definitely interesting. We were freshmen; people could identify us because we walked as a pack on nights out. My roommate and I ended up watching Now and Then: From Frosh to Seniors, and it’s surprising how many harmonies there would be with our own college experiences. In an attempt at an ice breaker, AC brought a musically inclined board game with her. In a week, she would be dubbed The Singer, after being inducted into a campus a capella group. Our college identities had yet to form.
People divided into two teams, and in each round, a card was drawn. The object of the game was for each team to go back and forth coming up with songs containing the word on that card.
“I have to put the smack down,” rapped one of my new neighbors for the word “down.” He and DZ would soon induct me into the world of hip hop, and with the help of high speed Internet connections in the dorm, I had my fill of a variety of new musical styles.
I asked you to go to the Green Day concert.
You said you never heard of them.
How cool is that?
— Weezer’s “El Scorcho”
I’m not sure if it was LB, but someone forced a group of us to attend a CSA dance during the first few weeks of sophomore year. I remember dancing with a freshman, but pretty soon, breakers from Absolute Zero showed up every guy there. For the next couple months, my roommate and I started going to Absolute Zero’s practices and picked up a few moves. Much to DZ’s dismay, it was also my introduction to the world of underground hip hop. CAKE and STP visited campus, but I wouldn’t get to see Weezer in concert until the following summer.
Do you think you could
Answer all the questions of the world
In just one word?
I think you could.
— Dispatch’s “Elias”
The summer in Palo Alto was quite different from any previous experience I had, and not just because it was my first time living in California. FA watched the movie Underground on a near daily basis, and I quickly became addicted to its soundtrack. Azosan got the new Red Hot Chilli Peppers album, which would play in between multiple viewings of scenes from Don’t Be a Menace and Pulp Fiction. My officemate had great taste in music, and by the summer’s end, many of the songs from her playlist were among my favorites.
This opportunity comes once in a lifetime.
— Eminem’s “Lose Yourself”
It was my last semester of college, and I was concerned that my propensity to procrastinate would hurt me in graduate school. Those students appeared so serious, and I felt I needed to get more serious to keep up in the year that would follow. While others developed senioritis, I went in the other direction. Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” would play in constant loop to keep me on point. In between problem sets, I learned a bit about professional basketball through my roommate, who introduced me to the Spurs and some of the other basketball teams. I learned quickly not to like the Lakers.
Friends must have thought I was turning into too much of a nerd (or they just needed someone with a car), so they forced me to go to a Syracuse/Pitt basketball game. The trip was worth it, and despite the work I had, I lost myself in the moment. Carmelo Anthony, Syracuse’s star player, would lead the team to a victory in that game and eventually in the NCAA championship.
If Mary drop my baby girl tonight,
I will name her Rock and Roll.
— The Roots and Cody Chesnutt’s “The Seed 2.0”
It turns out that graduate school wasn’t filled with the serious students I thought it would. First year students shared a common room, and that, along with softball, helped me make a lot of friends in the department.
I still remember dragging some friends to a free hip hop concert in SF. The night ended with one of my friends, who was roughly half my size, claiming she could carry me. I’m still not sure whether it was a good idea to have let her.
I was five and he was six.
We rode on horses made of sticks.
— Nancy Sinatra
My second year in graduate school was when I first started making friends outside the department. It crystallized in a group viewing of Kill Bill Vol. 1, a movie with a particularly impressive soundtrack. The event was hosted by NI, my favorite Yakuza.
I listened to more music while living in Manville than at any other point in grad school. This was facilitated by RM, a musically inclined friend whose papasan was also quite comfortable.
— ??’s “??????”
Whatever songs I end up associating with this summer, I hope they reflect how much fun I’ve had.