Monday, April 30, 2012

The Call I Won't Be Getting

98.7 Kiss FM went off the air at midnight last night just as I was marking my thirty-third birthday. I slept through both events and woke up feeling groggy and out of sorts. According to lore, Jesus Christ was crucified at thirty-three. I only know that because Nas mentioned it in "One Mic," but I've heard it repeated enough times that it either must be true or Nas just has a lot of fans. (Note: Apparently, theologians tend to agree) I like to think that if I make it past this year I'll live a long, rich life, but most likely that's just a delusion of grandeur.

Kiss FM used to fill up my mom's green Buick that tipped over into the shoulder on the highway and her red Chevy Cavalier that had its engine catch on fire on my seventh birthday. I think both incidents permanently traumatized me against driving and the morning's news that three generations had perished in a horrible accident on the highway just down the road from my apartment didn't do anything to alleviate that trauma. Were it not for a few fortuitous twists of fate, that family could've been my own. Kiss was the kind of station that would have spent all day ruminating on the horrible tragedy of the lost lives, interspersing prayers for the family with mixes of funk and soul music. The station nurtured a culture of community and community responsibility. In the late 80s that community was the fledgling hip hop scene. In the 2000s, it was the niche classic R&B that almost every African American over 30 had grown up with.

Knowing Kiss FM is off air feels like one more death blow to my childhood, which has taken a considerable drubbing over the past year. This morning when I woke up, I felt older and less satisfied with the world. As a matter of personal survival, I've always shunned nostalgia because it tends to be a bad liar. The awesome trip you took to Six Flags actually had you walking around clutching your stomach half the day after eating a bad hot dog. The amazing vacation you went on down south was bookended by twelve hours of hell driving in a car without air conditioning. Reality maybe needs nostalgia to soften its edges, but I find it better to just take notes of things as they're happening so you can remember how you really felt in a given moment.

Nostalgia might have been what I felt when I picked up my phone this morning, checking to see if I'd missed a call. Or when I dialed my voice mail. Or when I stared at the screen as the hour approached noon and I still hadn't gotten the call I was waiting for. I fielded a couple other calls, some Facebook messages and a couple texts before settling for the fact that the call I was waiting for; the one I'd received on this day for thirty-two years wasn't coming today. I wouldn't hear a familiar "feliz cumpleaños" waiting for me on the other end of the line anymore than I'd hear Michael Baisden implore the Kiss family to take up his latest cause célèbre. The voice I was waiting to hear had been silenced absolutely.

Today I miss her call and I can't even tune my dial to 98.7 to cheer me up. The nostalgia isn't quite as satisfying, but it'll have to do.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Between the Ears

How do you go about discovering the Ebony Rhythm Band?

It's a funny thing to just let iTunes play sometimes. You chance on music you forgot you downloaded and you wonder if you might have snagged the song after listening to the music channels on cable because even Pandora doesn't come up with music like this.

You sat across from the TV with the remote dangling from your fingertips and the plasma bathing/maybe burning your face. And these guys came on and they weren't smiling in any of the photos. Their clothes looked drab like something Lamont would wear when he had a date.

When you googled them, the first thing that came up in the suggested results was the rhythm method. They didn't have a Wiki. You checked YouTube to get a wider sampling size and then grab a torrent that had them as part of a larger funk sample pack.

But you still had to free up space by moving stuff to your external hard drive so instead you left the torrent file on your desktop for some other day.

When you downloaded it a month later, you forgot why and then nine weeks after that you let iTunes keep going after listening to Dwele.

And it was good.