The Smiths — Stop Me If You Think That You’ve Heard This One Before. My first breakup. Unforgettable. I fought myself for months. Worried myself sick every day. Hurting someone. It’s bad, right? Dreadfully, I should avoid hurting someone. Late night phone calls. Arguments. 

I had a neighbor in his mid-life arena of thrill-seeking. One time we went to the grocery store. I was bored. He put this song on. I thought about the break up. Relax. It’s all part of growing up. One day I would look back. And laugh. 

You can’t blame yourself. Love is everywhere when you’re 15. Sometimes you have to stop.

A Tribe Called Quest — Buggin’ Out. My Dad lived in San Antonio (2 hours away) during my teens. At 16, I could take drive to visit. Simultaneously, I started to build my own life at my Mom’s. Visits got scarce. Wanted to hang, fellas.

My friend Tom drove a big blue truck. He had this CD laying on the dash. It had three guys, outlined in neon green. They looked wide-eyed. Humbling. I asked if I could borrow the CD. Tom said ok.

I played the CD on a road trip to my Dad’s. Back to back. Density. It took about 3-4 minutes to leave city limits. By the time I was out of town, at 65 mph, this song came on. The quest began. 

It was a re-introduction to jazz. The upright bass. The snare sampled from some dirty funk drum. All with vocals that were anything but noisy. This music was a search. A search for the beginning of everything.

I took more drives to San Antonio for a while. I enjoyed the solitude. No fellas. No parents. Just soul searching.

Common - Funky For You. I moved into my first-ever place with two best friends. It was 5 miles outside of the city. We could be loud. We could play drums and instruments. I felt fear moving out at first. Responsibility, maybe? 

It’s interesting mixing your life with other people for the first time. I owned the couch. Chris owned the coffee table. I owned the stereo. Jay owned the microwave. The kitchen table was mine. Eventually, I lost any entitlement. 

I worked in a music store and brought home this Common CD. I called it “the green one”. It was late one night in our place. We had some friends over. A light on in the kitchen across the way was on. Just bright enough. The subtle drums kept the room alive. Just enough, just like the light. Common’s flows not too loud. Fluid instruments. I put it on repeat and felt comfortable.

Despite the furniture. Despite the responsibility, it felt so good to be in your own place.  Alright. Ok. I could groove. 

Photek - Ni Ten Ichi Ryu. Growing up in a smaller town (pop. 50,000), we drove far to parties. At night, mostly. Sometimes it would take 45 minutes to reach a place. Usually down a long, empty road.

It seemed to go nowhere. Space was irrelevant. You could watch the stars though.

We would listen to Photek on these dark road trips. This song always sent our 18-year-old brains into a frenzy. How could you make something sound so busy, from a space that sounded so empty? It was intelligent.

We were finally getting somewhere. 

CFCF - Raining Patterns. Early 2012, my new job called. Friday before my first day. They wanted me to come to Chicago. I was excited — I had friends there. I asked where to go.

They said the Merchandise Mart. 

It’s colossal. It used to be the largest building in the world. It’s own zip code. Impressive architecture. 

I had learned about CFCF from his Night Bus mix. I saw it on a blog. The artwork had the Blade Runner girl. Someone gave me his new album, “Continent”. The name reminded me of big things. 

I listened to this first track while approaching this massive architecture. Long, warm “undercurrent” synth that heats thousands of square footage. Shiny, triumphant leads. An introduction to a successful piece of work. And of course, the strong 707 that follows the footsteps of structure. 

I commuted and worked out of that building for 3 months. Wide became the new tall. Shapes made impact. No boundaries.  

Goldie — Inner City Life. I skated for about 10 years of my life. Never got past big ollies and 180°s. Needed more nerve. My 5 best friends were better. Kickflips. Heelflips. 

I never quit though. I credit the places we would skate in our 50,000 population community — the nooks and crannys. It wasn’t big. However, there were areas I’d never been to. Dilapidated shopping centers with large loading docks. We would bet who could land the first ollie.

In it for the exploration. Things would close down. We’re there. 8pm.

Around ‘97, I read the “thank you notes” for Roni Size’s New Forms. He mentioned an artist named Goldie. I looked him up at the CD store. Go figure. Double CD. Big skull. 90s digitalia artwork.

Every day, skate at 8(pm). The motto. We’d finish around 10. My friend played this in his truck. Stone solid energy. Pounding drums. They moved as fast as your brain the split second before you attemped a trick.

Timeless.

DaM-Funk — 10 West. It was my first time driving through Los Angeles. I was nervous. Cars of all types haunt the highway. You can feel the open air of LA when you go fast. The headroom. Especially traveling down the Santa Monica freeway. You know where you are.

I drove west on 10 with my friend in the passenger seat. We went towards downtown. There was a futuristic feeling about the night drive in LA. Distant clouds of high-rises. Lights from a distance shining like beacons. Shine money. Show success. Golden lights. White lights.

This Dam Funk song came on the radio. My friend turned it up. The airy synth went along with the tracing lights we passed by. The beat was quiet. It calmed the drive. The bassline reminded me of the year. 2009.

I thought about the backseat ride when I first heard the Beastie Boys. Never thought I would be driving through this city when I was 13.

I searched forever for the song title. It was called 10 West. I got excited. I wasn’t nervous. I was excited about the future.