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The Value of Music

December 28, 2012

The Value of Music

As I sit at my work center and pen this I’m reminded of all the .99 cent singles I used to buy on cassette tape. My younger readers won’t remember these I’d wager but my core audience I’d bet had a Sony Walkman. Remember that folks? The bright yellow casing that meant you had the best. The king of portable cassette players in my teen years, man did we love our cassette tape players. My friend and I used to troop to the WIZ and HMV on the eastside of Manhattan to find singles. And the great ones had 4 tracks. Man was it awesome. Back then we used to get them for a dollar, but the playback value was priceless.
Between the price, the sheer greatness of the music, and the journey to acquire them we had great moments. For 5 years I had a love affair with those tapes. It didn’t matter that we were broke high school kids. The fact that we didn’t have to buy a whole album to get some of our favorites was the best. To be honest we even paid 2 bucks and at times 3.99 just to get our hands on the stuff. Indeed the music had such value that we spent our last dollars to get extra music. And the excitement when the B side had a remix that went unreleased or never aired was yours exclusively, man that was unbeatable. We would jam for hours and trade tapes. Train rides that took an hour zoomed by. I started with R&B as my favorite but those rappers and their eloquence sold me quick. Even the ones who preached street life and topics we won’t condone, spit wicked wizardry that convinced me to write as well.

As we got older the tapes became compact discs. But the singles disappeared and my friend went away to a different college. Now we had less choices and no time to jam. But music still ran the scene. When we couldn’t get singles we found bootlegs. Yup. Those nefarious individuals lured us in. Chingy, Nas, Biggie, R.kelly- sorry all. (Ok we didn’t buy Chingy lmao- is that slander?)

Anyways, we learned a good lesson. That music was more than the medium we could acquire it in. We went from singles to bootlegs to cd-r’s. And it was all heaven.
It wasn’t how we got the music. It wasn’t where. Heck it wasn’t even the journey that is always touted as the true prize. It was the Music. In every situation we had music. The parties, the weddings, the study bonanzas after skipping 5 straight classes before the midterm- music fixed it all. The music had an incalculable value. A few of my friends still have those cassette singles. The tracks we can’t find, the hot97 freestyles that no one can find. Its amazing.
(Shout out to Dj Evil D, Premier, Red Alert, and others who set it off for us. Remember hip hop Olympics on Hot97?)

Nowadays the radio buys its top 40. Its all advertising and loops. Cheap hooks and. short verses (no more than 2) dominate the airwaves. Its all about the dollar. It always was I’m sure but it’s so in my face now that I don’t listen to the radio. I’m usually 6 months to a year behind. I might blame the moment when producers became more important than artists-particularly in rap and r&b- but then I’d have to blame the artists for being of a lower caliber than their predecessors. I could blame Steve Jobs and the advent of the ipod. However the artists and the labels made the concessions.
While I don’t agree with the direction music has taken I’m still in love with it. There are tracks that evoke images and memories that will be with me forever. Music transcends time and generations.
Music is inherently valuable. I’d simply challenge the artists to be more than the machine, more than the monopoly. Don’t sellout.
Be Valuable.

If you don’t stand for something you will fall for anything. -Malcolm X

Thoughts? Concerns?
Questions? Think I’m wrong?
Let’s chat.


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