I was a fat child. Not just “a growing boy”, as my mom lovingly offered, or “chunky”, as my late grandmother more accurately observed. My greatest love was playing video games and I disliked few things more than sports. A day gracelessly failing on the soccer field was soothed by a night clocking hours on Kingdom Hearts or Sly Cooper.
So it shocked some friends and family members to hear about my recent basketball obsession. In December of 2018 I went to my first Sixers game since I was a fat boy, and since then following the NBA has become a favorite past-time. Basketball games, basketball podcasts, basketball players’ Instagram posts, basketball articles. Every day after work I looked forward to watching basketball.
And then something happened. On Wednesday night I was watching the Miami Heat host the Charlotte Hornets. The Sixers had just won, and it looked like the Hornets were about to upset the Heat (they would). Then a message popped up on my screen.
This made everything real. Even though we use our phones like appendages we can still distance ourselves from the pain and confusion that we see in the news on a daily basis unless it affects our immediate reality. And without those games to look forward to, I sat on the couch pouting. No more basketball. Just a void created by an unprecedented and seemingly unavoidable global pandemic.
I started looking at some pictures from last year that I uploaded onto my laptop from my phone in a folder labelled “Jan-Mar 2019”. Besides the meme at the top of this page I found pictures from my 24th birthday party and from a Julia Holter concert. This year, no party and no concerts for the foreseeable future.
Many people have it worse than me. While sitting and working from home for full pay, others will lose their jobs and worse. I don’t mean to emphasize my first world problems as devastating, because they are not. But all this is still unprecedented. I sit around and process things, distract myself, spend time with my girlfriend and my roommates, and wait for things to get better. Until then, I hope to update this website and reach out to friends and family, as well as artists I would like to interview. I’ll soon be transitioning from TIDAL to Spotify so that I can easily share playlists. You can reach me here, on Instagram @goodsinginggum, or email me at email@example.com.
In September I caught a nostalgic high listening to “Back Here” by BBMak over and over again. Suddenly I am 5 years old, in a suburban basement at 7am playing Rugrats in Paris: The Movie, the videogame on a not-yet dusty Nintendo 64. Smartphones don’t exist and the millennium is fresh with silvery promise. Nothing seems meaningless. I lay suspended in this cloud of memory for minutes that add up to hours.
When I think about music in 2018, I do get wistful. The past years feel better because the hyper-accelerated world we exist warps our sense of the present. It demands rapid consumption and this takes a toll on the quality of music, at least in the rap game. Case in point – on my 2017 list, 9 of my top 15 albums were rap projects. This year, 4 are. Maybe if my tastes were more inclined toward other genres I’d feel more comfortable celebrating the year in music. Regardless, I’m thankful for these releases that provided excitement and comfort in good and bad times.
Originally published on Monday, June 27, 2016 on ethancreis.blogspot.com
Houston’s late DJ Screw will forever be a legend. He pioneered the “Chopped & Screwed” style of hip-hop, in which the tempo of a song is slowed down significantly (screwed) with short sections repeated and/or cut (chopped). Houston Press has described “June 27”, a 37-minute freestyle session from that date in 1996, as “Houston rap’s Sistine Chapel ceiling”. This is an apt description of the monstrous track, on which eight rappers freestyle over a dazzling beat (Kriss Kross’s “Da Streets Ain’t Right”, properly screwed) to celebrate rapper DeMo’s (alternately known as D-Mo) birthday. A screwed sample of Biggie’s “Warning” plays over the track before Big Moe enters to host the freestyle session/birthday party. In between every rapper, Moe performs a quick verse in his signature half-rapped, half-sung style. Moe’s baritone croon is huge, almost elegiac, but the positive energy he exudes introducing his friends negates that description.
Big Pokey steals the show with a dazzling freestyle verse, providing what would become the sample for Paul Wall’s hit “Sittin Sidewayz” early on in a particularly ferocious run that lasts about 6 minutes. When the beat’s fried synth melody enters it seems to energize Pokey like some aural electric charge. He shouts out his friends, teams up with Tom Sawyer and rhymes “rabbit” with “dagnabbit”. The way he puts emphasis on his rhymes is stellar, especially for a freestyle: “Let them boys know, flip phone I be foldin em / Fillin’ up my foreign ride with petroleum”. One more standout section: “Ain’t no preppin in my corner / Cause you’s a goner / I’m smoking marijuana / Broke em off when I snatched my diploma / I walked across the stage / I turned the page / no more minimum wage / And my corner got paid“.
Yungstar is another essential player here, flexing a quick wit and southern slang on two verses. He shouts out “baked potato with chives” in both. Before closing it out he references his “Playstation in the car / Sippin on barre / TV VCR / With the star”. Not all of the other rappers have incredible verses, but somehow, for 37 minutes, the sound of a bunch of guys hanging out and rapping becomes completely transcendent despite a lack of lyrical direction or a changing instrumental. The sound is not professionally mastered and there are obvious flaws in the recording quality (which somehow works to the track’s advantage). Yet this is more a perfect snapshot of the lives of these friends than anything that could have been commissioned by a record executive. I was 15 months old when June 27 was recorded, but it still resonates today.
The rest of the June 27 tape consists mostly of remixed tracks, all of which are excellent. Bone Thugs’ “Crossroads” is transformed into a swirling elegy. I never thought a Too $hort song would make me emotional, but the syrupy “Gettin’ It” screw, with its “I’d Rather Be With You” flip and chorus from P-Funk members is just inspiring. Excellent chops in the second verse, too. “High Til I Die” is a superb 2Pac track that I wouldn’t know about if not for this tape, and Screw even takes on reggae (yay!) with great results on “Rollerskates“. June 27 is a classic Screwtape, and I have no doubt that its towering freestyle session will be bumping throughout the world today. Rest in peace to DJ Screw and Big Moe.