(Note: An unfortunate heist has caused the afore-hyped Jay-Z post to be delayed hopefully just a day. Maybe 2. Definitely not 3. Angrily re-writing thousands upon thousands of words is never fun.)
11 years ago next Monday, the world was greeted with Eminem’s The Marshall Mathers LP. I turned 13 a few months earlier and I’ll never forget listening to it for the first time. I borrowed a copy of the CD from a friend, was riding in the passenger seat while my mom drove, and was SO nervous that she would hear the vile language that was blaring from my Coby CD player that I turned up her old-school jams and turned down my volume to a comically low-level.
Now, there have been a few moments in my life that have either robbed me of my innocence or just made me grow up extremely quick, and listening to this album is definitely one of them. With that said, I listened to this album, chocked full of tales of domestic violence, rape, homophobia, and overall crudeness non-stop for weeks and weeks. Had the very different (but equally important to my childhood) Country Grammar not come out a month later, who knows how long I would have been looping Slim Shady. For as horrible as a lot of the content is, I still think it’s one of the better rap albums ever made. And I’ll never forget how it made me feel as a young, angsty, confused teenager that didn’t know how to really understand all of his emotions.
Fastforward to last August, and I am taking a road-trip with one of my best friends, Ben. This is a friend that I’ve been close with since 5th grade, which also means he’s a friend that went through a similar The Marshall Mathers LP phase as I did. In fact, we went through this phase together and that easily could have been his CD I borrowed in the first place. Either way, we had an ATL to LA drive to make in 4 days and we thought this was an appropriate time to go on a nostalgia binge with regards to the music we played. At a certain point in Arkansas, we decided it was time to go through the Eminem catalogue. We were both pretty pumped to listen to one of our favorite albums from back in the day.
We were both pretty surprised and impressed that we hadn’t forgotten a word, but as the album pushed along, it became clear the lyrics and the overall message didn’t have the same impact on us as before. While there are certain points that it’s almost impossible not to laugh, there were times, especially during some of the skits, where it was hard to even sit there and listen to what was coming out the speakers. For something that the two of us had individually and jointly put on such a pedestal as teenagers, it had become clear that we had grown up a little and maybe this album wasn’t for us anymore. Maybe.
This has long been one of my fears, that of outgrowing the things I once cared so dearly for. For the most part, nostalgia is such a big part of my life that it doesn’t happen often, but in the case of this album it slightly has. The content is just something I can’t even pretend to be as entertained by as I once was.
The reason I bring up this story is because of a follow-up story to the road-trip revelation that occurred last week. Last Thursday, I was sitting with my friend Matthew, another 5th grade-on friend that, with Ben and I, spent a significant amount of time learning every word to The Marshall Mathers LP. We were sitting in his apartment and decided to listen to Odd Future poster-boy Tyler, The Creater’s new album Goblin that every music outlet has been buzzing about for the past 2 months.
Before listening to it, I had read a few reviews of it (most notably two extremely well-written one by Modi in Complex Magazine and Mr. Barth in Pretty Much Amazing). I thought I would really like it, if for no other reason because I enjoy rappers that are clever lyricists, which Tyler definitely is.
We listened to it, and it (pretty immediately) started giving me flashbacks to the road trip. The same themes of Eminem’s classic album were running though every track of the soon-to-be classic Goblin. All I could think about was, “if I was 13-16, this would be the greatest album I’d ever heard”. The album is an achievement and it’s definitely something I could listen to from front to back, but what he’s rapping about just doesn’t grab me like it may have 6-8 years earlier.
I do things that make me feel young quite often (go to school, play with legos, call my mom all the time, not be completely financially independent), but this is one of those times that I just feel like an old man. I’m undecided on how I feel about this revelation, because there is a part of me that loves the idea of a group of Black teenager genius hooligans taking over the music industry. A huge part. And I’m extremely happy they are around, because if you think about it, when’s the last time you can remember a group of angsty Black male teenagers being this popular.
New Edition? The Four Tops? Tyler is like the much more violent Alanis Morissette of hip-hop. I’m definitely in the boat that teenagers sometimes need musical outlets like this, but for 24-year-old me, I’m just not as die-hard as I expected to be. For now, at least.