This is going to be so hard, man! My taste in music has changed over the years and different songs carry different memories for me.
Growing up in a strict Christian home (Like, at the age of 17, I would lie to my mum and tell her I was working the night shift in Tesco so I could party through the night!), gospel music was the order of the day. Hezekiah Walker and C.O.G.I.C. could regularly be heard blaring from the struggling speakers of our ‘top notch’ Alba sound system, with it’s auto-reverse cassette deck and full-sized vinyl player. There was even an input for a CD Player stage! Man, I can still remember sitting on the railing of the balcony with my sister, Cheralene, singing along to Psalty, the Singing Songbook (He had some classics, though!)! LOL!
Strict religion, unfortunately, comes with a level of ignorance and, growing up, I definitely clashed with those around me on some things. That’s for another time, though.
Going out at a young age, with raging hormones kept on Level: Raging by cheap alcohol meant my first favourite songs were aimed towards my aggression and lust (Yeah, Lust. Judge if you must but, at the end of the day, who actually falls in love on a dancefloor, while slow-win’ing an attractive person of the opposite sex?!). I’m kinda thinking I may go beyond the suggested 10 at this point!!
- Valley of Shadows. A Drum & Bass tune that seems to have no producer! I remember when the bass line used to kick in and the roadman of the day used to bounce each other, which often led to arms house and violence. While we were young, the violence wasn’t too bad. More so young guys bouncing up and down while shouting and young, drunk females, staggering on the stilettos that were clearly hurting their feet. As we got older, though, and fights stopped being a one-on-one affair, the violence reached new levels and I found myself on both sides of victory. Usually, I walked away unscathed but I do remember one instance, outside Cameo’s, off Regent Street, Central London where I got sucker punched and went home with a deep cut above my eye.
- Shanks & Bigfoot: Sweet Like Chocolate. Along with some other 1990’s Garage songs, this was the young man’s introduction to the Erection Section. It was also a point where I started moving away from Garage, Drum & Bass, Hip-Hop, etc. and exploring music that I remembered my Dad liking: Reggae and Dancehall. That’s for later on, though.
If you knew the words to Sweet Like Chocolate and you happened to be in some of the larger clubs in Ilford and Essex, such as Time & Envy, Liquid, Venue (Even Drummonds gets an honourable mention here!), you were guaranteed to leave the establishment with a name, a number, a date, a bed to sleep in. Sometimes all of the above! This, unfortunately, was the beginning of a time of life that I’m not so proud of anymore but, if it wasn’t for the following 8-10 years of this point, I wouldn’t be the man I am today. In fact, I’m inclined to believe I would have probably started my ‘female’ phase late and been an absolute mess right about now.
From around 1997-1998, onwards, I became very in tune with my writing. I wrote vast amounts of poetry and was lucky enough to run some of it over a mic with friends. It started off with a whole bag of foolishness. You know. Cars, money and women that I actually never had but wished to attain to but then I fell into the world of conscious Hip-Hop and Reggae/Dancehall. My writing took a turn for the conscious better. Or, at least, it took a turn anyway!
3. DMX: Look Thru My Eyes. Going through Tower Hamlets College was a defining time in my life. My horizons broadened, my thinking on so many different subjects changed and, most importantly, I began to increase in acceptance.
As we grow, we begin to define ourselves and we begin to become proud of who we are, to a point that we become unafraid to project who we are.
For me, I was still coming out of my shell. I was the quiet one in the Common Room, sometimes winning a few games of Blackjack here and there and shining, as a Goalkeeper, on the football field. Inside, though, I was still that guy from the strict Christian home. Look Thru My Eyes resonated with me. No one really knew what was going on inside. I was unpredictable, even to myself, at times. The simple piano loop and kick-drum of DMX’s rendition symbolised my life while the stormy background symbolised the frustration of that simplicity. I began to see that there was a massive difference between living in my lane and being kept there. This frustration would grow to a point that I would leave home at a young age.
4. Capleton: Slew Dem. So, early 20’s. The club scene begins to change as I’m drawn away from from Hip-Hop and into Dancehall culture. At this point in my life, I was VERY anti-homosexual. Something that would be tested further down the line when a good friend announced that he was gay.
I wasn’t necessarily drawn to any Dancehall. More so, even now, I found myself drawn to the message that Rastas put across. The music, therefore, varied. A riddim such as Slew Dem would have me jumping on a dance floor, at one end of the spectrum. Whereas ballads, such as Sizzla’s No Pain would see me lost in thought, at peace with myself, relaxed on my couch, on a bus or in a library. These riddims would also come on towards the end of the night, in the clubs, where I’d be found, if I didn’t get ‘lucky’, holding a quiet corner, rocking away to myself. I think, for the most part, I’m still this way, in terms of being very peaceful and private.
5. RZA: Sunshower. I see a running theme of acoustics when I think of the slower songs that have influenced me over the years. Quiet piano, simple drum beat, held together by simple background ‘noise’.
Wu-Tang Forever is my favourite Hip-Hop album, without doubt. The beats, lyrics and rhyming ability of the artists were gritty, raw-edged and uncut. I loved it! Especially with the skits from old kung fu films, which I also took heavy interest in.
I see, so far, from this list that I’m attracted to music that gives a message over a simple beat. I listen to noise from artists like Young Thug and I just don’t see leadership or stability, neither direction. Instead, a lot of today’s Hip-Hop displays, to me, puppets who are chasing money (Which has no value), doing what big music labels want them to do, in order to keep social groups in certain positions. Almost like a gentrification in music.
6. Beethoven: Moonlight Sonata. My go-to Classical place of calm.
I still remember how myself and a good friend were made fun of in school for listening to classical music. I remember going to his house to do homework while listening to The Four Seasons in the background. An album of Classical pieces and short spoken word.
Classical music and Operatic movements have become more and more prevalent in my daily listening. Some would say a sign of getting old. I say a development in my ability to respect the great displays of art. There was no auto-tune back then. There were no digital studios and MP3 files. Just raw talent and ability from minds similar to mine.
7. Agnus Dei (Adagio for Strings). Another masterful Classical movement. This time tied to the dramatic scene of Sgt. Elias (Actor – Willem Defoe) as he exited a Vietnam jungle, being brought down to his knees by multiple gunshots, reaching to the sky with expectancy but left to die on the battlefield. Another go-to place of calm for me.
8. Donnie McClurkin: Great is Your Mercy. November 2013 was a massive turning point for me. I decided that I couldn’t carry on living how I was. It was here that I realised, fighting against my purpose was, as the Daleks would say, ‘futile’.
For whatever reason, I believe the Lord will have me reach my purpose whether I like it or not and regardless of how much I fight it. Sometimes I feel like the baby trying to avoid eating food I don’t like but HAVE to eat! LOL! The lessons start off with, “Here comes the big airplane. Wheeeeee!” and then, sometimes, end up as, “Just open your mouth!”
One Friday night, I came home from work, sipped half a bottle of Heineken and randomly browsed through YouTube videos. I don’t know why I was looking for Gospel music but I was anyway and, let me tell you, Great is Your Mercy played for hours on repeat! The switch was ‘flicked’ and the journey to change began. It’s far from finished but the journey continues nevertheless. I believe, wholeheartedly, that this song ties in with my scripture of change, Psalm 51. Powerful.
9. Marvin Sapp: Thirsty. In spite of my shortcomings and failures, I want to go on record as saying that my soul seriously craves a relationship, of the closest kind, with my Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. Academics of the Word, deep discussions about the spelling of his name and the colour of His skin pale in value when held up to the fact that I just want to be close to Him.
The comfort and peace I feel in His presence, the ease of overcoming when I walk with him. Man, I’m at a loss of words to describe the greatness of my God!
It’s often cliche for people to say that they wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the God we serve. I can assure you, my God has kept me, man. Like you might never believe it. I just wish everyone could appreciate His work as I do.
10. Marvin Sapp: The Best in Me. As you can see, there’s somewhat of a journey, through music, here. I always bounce back and forth to various genres but, steadily, Gospel is becoming my safe house and I believe it will stay that way for a long time to come. I’m hoping for eternity.
The Best in Me is in this list because it portrays my Samson anatomy. I chase the Lord but often times, I fall. Sometimes I fall real hard and I pray that, further down the line, my falling doesn’t cost me my life. What I do know, though, is that, regardless of how much I get it wrong, the Lord knows my heart is after him and, therefore, sees the best in me!