10.24.2002

So I'm rediscovering my musical roots, through my alphabetical MP3 project (the short on it: I listen to each band and it's albums in alphabetical order). Right now I'm on Public Enemy's 1988 landmark It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back.

I've made this comment so many times before, but it bears repeating: it is nothing short of a miracle that a 12-year-old white kid living in rural Wisconsin found this group. They were just what I needed at the time, a completely transcendant expression of anger towards inchoate forces conspiring to keep one down. To this day, I am moved by "Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos." Great tune.

Was I repressed as a 12-year-old? I suppose it depends on your perspective. I was not particularly well-liked in school with either girls or guys, and I possessed enough self-awareness to recognize the lack of confidence the school administration had in us. The guidance counselors, in particular, seemed to lack any kind of empathy. With the skills and world-view I have now, I would be far more successful negotiating those waters, but I wouldn't go back for anything.

Here's a quick example of what I was dealing with: Van Halen was cool. Guns 'n' Roses was cool. My discovery of hip-hop (especially such a political strain of it) only further colored me as an outcast, but the music gave me an important crutch.

In the end, it was among the first instances of me expressing my individuality in the crowd. It further singled me out, but it also solidified my distaste for what the cool kids do and who the cool kids are. It demonstrated the power of leaving behind the opinions of others.

I abandoned hip-hop a couple of years later, when the once-nascent strain of West-Coast gangsta rap took the front of the stage and achieved unprecedented success. Simultaneously, those who had previously mocked me for listening to hip-hop listened most ardently. I went goth.

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