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Wherein I Come to Terms With the Fact That Neither This, Nor Anything Else I Do, Can Go Back In Time and Make Me Cool

August 6, 2011

I’ve been listening to a lot of Tribe Called Quest lately, and I like the way it makes me feel.  I’d forgotten how much I enjoy hip hop when the lyrics are smart and edgy and are composed with good meter; there’s just a lot of over-produced crap out there, rap having long ago gone the way of pop and new country.  A well-laid beat sets my head to bobbing in a manner I like to think of as reminiscent of a hip beatnik in a jazz club before anyone knew about beatniks or jazz clubs.  In reality, I probably look to any nearby driver at any given red light more like a bobble head having a mild myoclonic seizure (but a really hip one).

I never learned much about hip hop during my music collecting years because back in the day, you sort of had to already know an artist before you’d shell out $15 for a CD (three long hours scooping ice cream (if you were me (which you weren’t (but I was)))). I knew there was some I really loved and a lot I really didn’t, and I kind of suspected that the artists I’d heard of were not the ones I liked. Today’s hipsters wish they had the kind of territorial claims on music that we enjoyed in the 90s. I may not have known rap, but I could chart the genealogy of the Pixies, Throwing Muses, Belly, Frank Black (with or without the Catholics), Kristin Hirsch, and even the underwhelming Kelly Deal 6000, and I knew I was mildly superior to the rest of you who could not.*

* I no longer believe this, but I was a teenager, so I hope you’ll forgive me that transgression.

iTunes has made musical protectionism a more difficult hobby to maintain.  Luckily I’m old now and don’t really care if you like what I like (ironically, I did not want you to like what I liked as a teen; my ambivalence now is purely benign, I assure you). It wasn’t iTunes that schooled me on Tribe, though undoubtedly I’ll owe Steve Jobs’ brainchild a richer “Rap/Hip-Hop” category on my iPod soon, thanks to its suggestions for related music. (I’ll also owe him money by then).

Rather, this latest fascination was inspired by – of course – NPR. Apparently a documentary about Tribe has recently been released, and its director-or-something-like-that was featured on public radio during afternoon drive time. And I, in all my 34 year old middle class Caucasian glory detoured from my route between my high rise bank office and my chi-chi yoga studio to stop at a suburban used CD store to buy all of the available ATCQ albums. And while I realize that at this age it’s too late for me to ever become cool, let alone go back and be cool in my youth (See? “Youth” is not a word cool people use to describe their current, former, or future selves), discovering new things (even if they’re really so very not new at all) makes me feel cool, even if no one else is buying it. Pretending I knew what the acronym “ATCQ” stood for 20 years ago, or even 2 weeks ago for that matter, does too.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go to the mall to buy pantsuits, because that’s what cool people do when they get new jobs in new suburban office parks, right?  Luckily, no one cool will ever take notice of me to refute this…

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