I started learning to play the guitar mainly because I wanted to pull chics, unluckily I had to stop the lessons to resume back to school and since there wasn’t any good guitar in school the little I learnt evaporated due to lack of practice. For the next long break I had to stay with a family friend, so I found a new instructor around that area. This new guy made those lessons unbearable and being a very lazy person I simply stopped, I can’t be collecting slaps for making mistakes, I’ll find a new way to get girls.
Back then the concept of writing love letters was still in vogue, I made that my next recourse. But no matter how hard I tried it just didn’t seem to come off in the way I thought would be enough, until some guy at summer lesson advised me to incorporate song lyrics into these letters. Finally, I wrote a letter (containing excerpts from Michael Jackson’s ‘Speechless’) that I liked but giving it to the girl I liked was the problem. Apart from being in my class, we attended the same church and since she was in the choir I joined the choir just to get close to her. I never gave her that letter but she became friends with me somehow (I was funny, I think) – a friendship that triggered my love for Hip-Hop.
Before this friendship music to me wasn’t deeper than fun, parties and romance. Even though I had being exposed to a lot of Fela and some classic American hip-hop releases (Illmatic, Reasonable Doubt, Me against the World etc.) by my dad, I didn’t fully appreciate hip-hop until I met this girl. She had this CD Walkman at the time and I can recall us listening to albums by Jay Z, Kanye West and Lil Wayne. We’d spend hours together listening to these artists even skip choir practice and stab lessons, sneaking around listening to and rapping along with our favourite songs. I remember how we would imitate Hov’s angst on ‘What more can I say’ and scream every line to Kanye West’s ‘Good life’ like we were trading bars, every day we were together was unbridled fun. The holiday finished and even though we tried to keep in touch drifting apart was inevitable. She gave me my love for hip-hop and by extension a deeper appreciation for music.
Years down the line I currently consider myself as (almost) a hip-hop geek and a music enthusiast. My love for hip-hop led me to find out its origins, going back to the earlier ages of hip-hop and appreciating the foundation blocks on which a towering genre stands. Reading reviews, think pieces and biographies written by seasoned music journalists and in some cases the artists themselves deepened my love for hip-hop. It was deeper than the just lyrics, the way the words were rapped and the production used were part of what had me hooked.
Bugging out over samples used by producers led to me listening to other genres. I got into 60’s and 70’s soul by dotting on samples from Kanye’s chipmunk soul days as a producer, entered jazz from No ID’s work on Common’s Resurrection album, went into Fela’s work extensively after I listened to J. Cole brilliantly sample his work on ‘Let Nas Down’. My palette expanded as I listened to more albums from different genres while accumulating gigabytes of music on my laptop, with each album my understanding and appreciation of music only deepened. Some of these albums became life companions, helping me scale through personal issues. What started as a hobby has become a passion and a way of life.
One who understands music will understand how the universe works – Michele Gilbert.
Music appreciation borders on subjective opinion, but the objective angle is what determines how good a song/album is and offers a deeper understanding. It is hard being objective because of the initial perception we might have towards an artist or a particular genre of music. Objectivity comes from treating every part of the music (including the artist’s life) as a component in a bigger wheel, e.g. a song with really deep lyrics only goes beyond the surface when it is delivered to create an affecting emotion.
Two songs off M.I Abaga’s sophomore LP M.I.2: The Movie – ‘Wild Wild West’ and ‘Craze’, both socially conscious songs create their desired effects due to how each song comes about. There is an inherent sadness about the then chaotic state of things in his childhood hometown on ‘Wild Wild West’ and a very palpable angst concerning the dismal state of things in the country on ‘Craze’, both songs delivered with varying vocal inflections carry his words in the perfect emotional tone.
Every song whether crass or complex is a piece of the artist created in a somewhat cinematic design, the best method of appreciation is a deep understanding of these songs or album. Understanding that comes from living and loving the jagged or smooth pictures created by these artists.
Even with my large collection of music and insatiable appetite for music, I’ve come to the harsh realization that no one can listen to and understand every sort of music under the sun. Why not just share my understanding of the ones I believe are worth the praise? I love music and sharing my objective opinion is my passion.
Words by Peter Ade Dennis, aka The Corner, aka @ayo_dennis.