OPINION: Because of my phone, my iPod is obsolete, but it still works. It represents a look into my musical tastes from a version of myself from almost 15 years ago.
Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.
I recently took some time to declutter my “office” area. I put “office” in quotes because my space is really just a tiny carved-out corner of my children’s playroom. This is where I record podcasts and write and pay taxes and all of the things that require me to be stationary. Sure, sometimes I do these things while dodging various types of balls being thrown around — I somehow didn’t manage to dodge the ping pong ball that socked me in the eye — but it’s my space, and I love it. Since it’s so small, though, I often have to toss things out and go through little boxes and such to get rid of things, so I don’t feel so cramped.
Such was the case when I found a small box full of stuff I didn’t need that I’d stuck on the shelf near my desk. It’s apparently been sitting here for eons since upon opening the box, I determined I could literally toss out everything in it. That is, everything but the iPod and charging cable I found at the bottom of it. As soon as I saw it I got excited and prayed that if I plugged it up to charge it would work, and WON’T HE DO IT? He sure will; my prayers were answered. The iPod lit up, and though I had to wait forever to be able to actually use it, all of my old playlists populated and it felt like I was sitting back in 2008 and 2009, viewing my listening habits and joyfully seeing how consistent some of those habits are still today.
For instance, it’s no secret that I’m a fan of Ray J, which I understand is confusing to many, but I’ve been 10-toes down since day one — OK, probably not day one, but you get the point. And right there, in the “R” section is a whole Ray J playlist that includes each of his albums up to that point, with songs still sounding as pristine and melodious as possible. There are also tons of albums here, both released and “unreleased” that I totally forgot about, like Bishop Lamont’s “The Reformation” and Janelle Monae’s early stuff from 2007 when she was releasing “suites” of music.
What I love most about what I found, though, was the tremendous number of sample sets I had from hip-hop albums I loved. Years and years ago, hip-hop websites and blogs used to drop downloadable sample sets from landmark albums all of time. And by sample set, I mean the mp3s of the original songs used to create albums. For instance, I had all of the A Tribe Called Quest sample sets for each album, De La Soul sample sets, Common, NWA, Ice Cube, etc. I used to love listening to the sound beds used to produce landmark albums in the canon of hip-hop. I’d also apparently included playlists that included songs I’d downloaded from different sites, which also indicates some of the websites I’d frequent like Attorney St. and Soul-Sides, among others. I have several external hard drives with thousands of rare albums on them; it seems like some of my favorites made it to my iPod.
And last, but certainly not least, I found a bunch of old files that represent Damon Young, Liz Burr and my first attempt at a podcast for Very Smart Brothas. We’d recorded several episodes; some we posted and the drafts of the others are sitting right here on this iPod, reminding me of the early days of VSB — we got up and running in March 2008. Back in those early days, the three of us would sit on these episodes and jabber aimlessly with purpose about all manner of Black things. It’s exciting to hear this pre-success version of us 20-something folks trying to figure out … something.
It’s fun taking a walk down memory lane, seeing what I was listening to over a decade ago and how some of that music is still with me in an active, present way. If you find an old iPod lying around, hopefully, it can do the same for you.
Panama Jackson is a columnist at theGrio. He writes very Black things and drinks very brown liquors, and is pretty fly for a light guy. His biggest accomplishment to date coincides with his Blackest accomplishment to date in that he received a phone call from Oprah Winfrey after she read one of his pieces (biggest), but he didn’t answer the phone because the caller ID said “Unknown” (Blackest).
Make sure you check out the Dear Culture podcast every Thursday on theGrio’s Black Podcast Network, where I’ll be hosting some of the Blackest conversations known to humankind. You might not leave the convo with an afro, but you’ll definitely be looking for your Afro Sheen! Listen to Dear Culture on TheGrio’s app; download it here.
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