Moments Make Music [Blog]
Toronto, ON – When I was born, my mom started a very elaborate scrap book. It included pictures of me, lists of my friends’ names, accomplishments and fun fill-in-the-blank questions like “When I grow up I want to be…” One particular year, that question reads “When I grow up I want to be…Batman, a fire truck, Michael Jackson.” Aside from the obvious challenges to becoming an actual fire truck, the point I’m getting at is my adoration for Michael Jackson. And in retrospect, I could argue that saying I wanted to be the biggest pop star the world’s ever seen is just about as ludicrous as wanting to be a big red truck anyway. But I was like 6 and that’s where my head was at so cut me some slack.
When music really hits, it attracts adoration like that. I wanted to be MJ. But this wasn’t “Be Like Mike,” this was be Mike. There was nothing to stop his music from complimenting any number of moments in my life. Remember, I was 6. That’s 1992, that’s Dangerous. He seemed to always be around, whether because of his enormity or because of my or my family’s playlists. Like many of you, I look back on moments of my childhood or teenage years with fond, if not vague memories. But the music that accompanied those moments often remains, symbolizing those moments and carrying those nostalgic feelings. As I grew, music became a part of my identity and how I experienced life during that period. Michael Jackson, along with artists like Jay-z, Tupac, etc. served as the soundtrack to the foundational experiences of my life.
- What was the first song you knew all the words to?
- Who did you dress like?
- Who influenced your behavior and/or thoughts about the world first?
- What songs played at your high school prom?
All these questions point to the inescapable fact that music is made by moments. The moments you have with a particular song or artist invariably influence your perception, judgment and memory of that song’s worth. How many times have you heard a song for the first time and felt nothing at all? And then, as the song grows into popular consciousness and thus coincides with particular events in your life (parties, dates, adventures) you become more and more attached to it and before you know it you’re walking around saying “This is my joint right here.” The music itself did not change or improve. The chords, lyrics and cadence all remain the same. The difference lies in the increase in personal moments suddenly associated with those chords, lyrics and that cadence.
So it’s no wonder that music lovers, or art lovers for that matter, of every generation almost always prefer the music popular during their youth. This is why your parents still listen to music from the 60s, 70s and 80s and why hip hop’s “golden era” is highly regarded as the pinnacle of rap’s artistic output. You could make the argument that particular songs or artists from any period could compete with the artistic quality of music made during those periods. However, you won’t win the argument if you’re talking to people whose opinions are shaped as much by the social interactions with the music as with the musical nuts and bolts (which is most of us).
I’m a hip hop fan so I’ll focus this theory on the “golden era.” Did you ever notice that the years that are most often hailed as producing the best hip hop also coincide with the genre’s commercial coming of age? So you mean to tell me that the same time hip hop achieved mainstream exposure, the music was miraculously leaps and bounds above any time before or after that period? No. What it means is that more people than ever before had moments to hip hop music which gave it social meaning. It means that all those people who heard hip hop across the world while they made babies, went to parties, broke up, apologized, got married, made money, lost loved ones, etc were creating a bond with the music they’d later remember with nostalgia as the “good ol’ days.” So as they grew older, those songs became cemented in their musical sensibilities as meaningful and foundational.
How could the music after it compete? It would be hard pressed to have the same ripe opportunity to influence or contribute to your life’s memories when you’ve already had so many. The first memories and the first music that accompanied them; that’s the music that sticks with you, that’s the music you see as original to you and your life. It’s also the music that probably incited your adoration of particular artists during a period of your life.
My mom and that scrapbook asked me 20 years ago what I wanted to be when I grew up. And to ask a 6 year old that question is just begging for a punch line (as I demonstrated in the opener), but in retrospect my answers were pretty revealing. I picked a noble profession (fire truck/fighter), a pop-culture icon/superhero (Batman) and most importantly, Michael Jackson: the guy who was there for all the moments that went on to make me into who I’ve actually become.
When I grow up I want to be Jonathon “Bizz” Brown
Written by Jonathon “Bizz” Brown – Central Canada Editor
The views and opinions expressed in this page are strictly those of the author and are not necessarily those of HipHopCanada or its affiliates.