WARNING: PARENTAL DISCRETION ADVISED!
This isn’t 1998 where I used to play DMX’s It’s Dark and Hell is Hot on low volume so my parents wouldn’t hear all the cussing — I’ve been consuming hip-hop for a very long time, and if you’re easily offended, I’ve refrain from playing the YouTube videos in this post.
But now that that’s out of the way, please enjoy!
One thing you’ll rarely see me without is my iPod (well, except that one time I forgot to pack it if or a week-long stay in Vegas). I grew up with music as a core part of my life with my Dad loving his soul and reggae, and investing in solid stereo systems to listen to it all. I dabbled in piano, viola and choir, and tried my hand at rap for a good while.
Music keeps me going. Music keeps me sane. And I find that the more we explore our musical tastes, the more patterns emerge, and the more our collections speak to who we are. Our tastes will always evolve, but there will always be foundational cues that draw us to one song over another.
In today’s post, I wanted to give you a little insight into what music has stuck with me the most, and maybe give some points where we can relate to each other.
I hope you enjoy it!
#10 — Justin Timberlake — Don’t Hold the Wall (395 plays)
The 20/20 Experience is to Futuresex/Lovesounds what The Dark Knight Rises is to The Dark Knight — it’s good, but it’s lacking. There was a whole heap of expectation leading up to it, and when it came out there was a collective “eh” that could be heard the world ’round.
But it can grow on you, and that’s precisely what “Don’t Hold the Wall” did to me.
While not strictly a party song, Justin still manages to make a song about getting your ass on the dance floor sexy and club-worthy, with its popping percussion and thumping bass.
It’s a perfect blend between Timbaland wanting to make you shake what your mama gave you and JT wanting to get you to take off whatever’s covering it.
#9 — 田中公平 / 浜口史郎 — 3つの塔 [Kohei Tanaka — “Tower of Three” from the Original Soundtrack for One Piece Movie 3] (407 plays)
If you expected to see this list without one anime-related entry, you don’t know Case.
One Piece is hands down one of the best manga that Japan has ever offered (it might be the best-selling manga it’s ever had, but sources differ between One Piece and Dragon Ball as the one that reigns supreme). Over 700 issues and 600 22-minutes episodes deep, it’s the story of teenage pirate Luffy D. Monkey and the crew he assembles in his quest to become the Pirate King. They undergo a ton of adventures and challenges to work their way there, and the series is still ongoing — they’ve a ways to go yet!
Why should you care about One Piece?
The Japanese have excelled at storytelling for centuries. Where we water down messages and themes for our younger audiences, the Japanese are all about story purity, doing everything possible to deliver the best story that they can — otherwise, in a highly competitive manga industry, they’re simply not going to sell!
One Piece is one of those stories that actually gets you to care about the characters. Unexpected deaths, epic battles, difficult choices, sociopolitical issues and emotional turmoil — Eiichiro Oda spares no expense at making sure you know that no one is invincible, and if they want to succeed, they’d better be willing to work their ass off to do it!
Think of it like Game of Thrones, though Oda isn’t nearly as much of a jerk as George R. R. Martin. I haven’t wanted to hurt Oda yet! (Martin, I’ll find out where you live. Red Wedding my ass.)
The anime was only made better by getting Kohei Tanaka to compose its music — the track you hear above is the music used to recap events at the beginning of each episode and get you pumped for what’s ahead. Check One Piece out. It’s worth the investment!
#8 — Kendrick Lamar — Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe (419 plays)
Whenever I’m feeling worn out, this is a song that can get me moving again. Track 2 on Kendrick’s 2012 good kid, m.A.A.d. city release, this song is a hand to the face to anyone trying to bring down what Kendrick’s trying to accomplish. I said it before it came out, I said it when it came out and I’m saying it now — gkmc was one of the best albums that 2012 had to offer, and if you haven’t given it a listen, do so immediately. You’ll hear the expertly woven tale of how Kendrick got to where he is now, and when you respect that, you respect why this song is wholly appropriate.
#7 — J. Cole — Power Trip (featuring Miguel) (421 plays)
I remember when this just got released and I instantly fell in love with the smoothness of the song for a while.
“Got me open all night / All I’m singing is love songs.”
Some songs are simply hypnotic to me, and while this would eventually be released on a sub-par album (which ended up being okay — J. Cole decided to release Born Sinner the same day that Kanye West did Yeezus, an album that just confused the hell out of everybody), I think it’ll still get some play in the Palmer household in the near future.
#6 — Rich Kidd — Beautiful Day (429 plays)
SHOUT-OUT TO SAUGA CITY!!!
The Toronto music scene is horribly underrated. Kardinal Offishall’s been in the rap game for years and didn’t get international acclaim ’til he jumped the border to work for Akon; Drake lost the wheelchair-bound persona and fled south of the border long ago to become Drizzy and somehow convince the world that he’s a badass — but there’s so much talent that’s still here.
Back in the early 2000s, I used to draw. A lot. The stuff I was working on caught a rapper’s eye — Junia-T — who was then working in a collective of 8 called 3-5 Playa in a basement over on Ridgeway Drive in Mississauga’s west end. (I even did some cover art for one of their mixtapes once upon a time!)
Years would pass and one of the producers Junia would work with was Rich Kidd, hailing from the same part of town. The man has a ridiculously prodigious body of work, but one of my favourites is his more recent “Beautiful Day”, where he’s down in California recording, but thinking on his days growing up in Mississauga — my hometown.
Every city has its ode that honours it — this one’s one of the closest that Mississauga’s ever gotten.
#5 — Chris Brown — Fine China (454 plays)
I’ll admit — I got Chris Browned on this one. To quote myself:
Chris Browned (phrase) — to hear a song on the radio and enjoy it, only to discover that it’s by Chris Brown.
Also see: Love the music, hate the artist; Bobby Brown; R. Kelly
I heard this for the first time when playing a game of Race for the Galaxy with Sarah in our den and loved how it flowed. My eyes bugged out when I looked at the Shazam result, but it was too late — the damage had already been done.
I’d been Chris Browned.
And on a side note — how does a dude who used to krump have such a stiff-ass fight scene???
#4 — Kingdom Hearts Birth By Sleep: Fate of the Unknown (as performed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra) (479 plays)
I grew up in a Mississaugan home with two working parents in the 80s and 90s, so video games and TV played a huge role in my upbringing — it recently shocked me when a friend and I were recalling stage music from Mega Man I – V from memory. So when I saw that the London Philharmonic Orchestra had performed a series of video game tunes, I was on it.
While much of it was from an era past my gamer days, one caught my attention — what turned out to be the background music for the final hidden scene in Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep!
One day, I’d love to make an animated film, and if I ever do, this is what the music for one of the battle scene will sound like!
#3 — Kendrick Lamar — Poe Man Dreams (His Vice) (featuring GLC) (532 plays)
Before good kid, m.A.A.d. city, Kendrick Lamar made another attempt to tell the tale of life in Compton with Section.80.
A solid album in its own right, Section.80 covers topics on everything from living a life of crime, the dangers of prostitution, the ills of promiscuity and its effects on relationships — there’s so much it covers, but doesn’t have the narrative packaging you find in gkmc.
But it’s still a great album.
“Poe Mans Dreams” may be the most positive song on the album, with an ethereal beat that puts the listener in the right frame of mind to understand the dreams Kendrick outlines from the vantage point of poverty. All anyone in that situation wants is the ability to “smoke good, eat good, live good”, and while Kendrick realizes that most of his people can’t do so now, he does what he does so that they eventually can.
After removing the song’s layers, it’s inspiring to see the degree of one man’s hustle to make it.
#2 — Jamiroquai — World That He Wants (733 plays)
I’ve loved Jamiroquai’s work ever since I stumbled across the “Virtual Insanity” video in 1997. But the Jamiroquai I knew was the dance party Jamiroquai with jams like “Love Foolosophy”, “Canned Heat” and “Alright” — when I heard “World That He Wants” for the first time, it completely caught me off-guard. Why did it sound so tortured? Is it some introspective look at humanity? Are we saying that God’s abandoned us? And why is the music only coming out of my left speaker???
“World That He Wants” is hauntingly beautiful, and gives you a completely different idea of what the band is capable of. It took them 13 years to get to this point, but the song is worth every second.
#1 — Kendrick Lamar — Money Trees (featuring Jay Rock) (769 plays)
I was caught in Jamiroquai’s throes for a while, but it wouldn’t last. The 10 most-played songs in my iTunes library are undoubtedly Kendrick Lamar-heavy, but before I bought gkmc, before I even knew the story behind the album, there was one beat that burrowed its way deep into my audio cortex and wouldn’t leave. I’d only heard a 90-second snippet, but it was looping in my head and wasn’t going anywhere until I’d heard it in full on the album.
That song is “Money Trees”.
What makes Kendrick so unique is that he isn’t running around talking about all the things he’s got or glorifying life in the hood. He’s a conscious rapper, analyzing everything that he’s been exposed to in his environment and portraying it in a way that draws the casual listener into his world. But unlike the conscious rappers of yesteryear who preached messages but couldn’t package them for mass consumption, Kendrick’s managed to combine amazing beats, killer flow and complex lyrics into a body of work that lets anyone realize that hip-hop is far from dead.
Kendrick is very likely the man holding the torch that lights the way for the future of hip-hop. I can’t wait to see what he does next.
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So there you have it. My top 10 most played songs in my iTunes library and why they beat 10,000+ other songs to get there.
But enough about me — what are your top 10 songs? How many times have you played them? What do they say about you? Are there any on there that you wish didn’t make the cut?
Looking forward to seeing what makes you tick!
HYFR and YOLO,