Welcome to the newest regular feature here at True Genius Requires Insanity, the “Crate Dig.” As you may already be aware, we strongly feel as though it’s time to advocate a “back to basics” movement in music. We feel that instead of everyone being an innovator, that some of us need to be preserving the importance of original source material. To that end, the “Crate Dig” will feature members of the TGRIOnline.com staff, the “Hustlers of Culture,” digging through their mental crates to remember the songs that made them appreciate music. There will be some amazing, and yes, embarrassing choices here, but always the key impact is to remember when music was not something to be over studied, remixed, downloaded, forgotten and torn asunder. We’re remembering when music was simply a song you liked, and really couldn’t tell you more than a sentence or two why. Sit back, reminisce, and enjoy the building blocks of music appreciation.
Song: “Grapevyne” by Brownstone
Year Release: 1995 – Year “Discovered” By Me: 1995
Reason Discovered: My father
Crate digs are trouble for someone like myself – but trouble is my business: let’s do work.
The premise of my first crate dig is “what was the first song you remember hearing and how does that affect who you are today?” Yes, that sounds overarching for the column at hand; no, you don’t know me if you think it is too overarching for any column. That said, the second Marcus mentioned “Crate Dig” I immediately thought to the song “Grapevyne” by Brownstone.
Why I’m a Fan?
I had to be. My dad played this song everyday on the way to and from school when I was 8. Logistics aside, this song set the pace for my future relationship with all recorded sound. “Grapevyne” was the first date that set the tone for my subsequent marriage to music – I liked it so I put a ring on it – my dad’s obsession with said song walked me down the proverbial aisle. If my dad liked a song, he lived in that song… forever. Thus, all credit (or blame) for my musical mind goes to said indoctrination.
Growing up in Baltimore was my tale of two cities. One one hand there was the “Charmed City on The Wire:” a perpetual fixer-upper metropolis in urban decay, laden with a cacophony of crime, crabs (residing in the Chesapeake Bay, as well as most rowhouse beds) and drugs, with a murder rate well exceeding the literacy rate (“The City That Reads” – obituaries); on the other hand there was my Baltimore bubble: a predominantly white Catholic school with suburban Sallies and soccer moms, conservative values, mini-mallrats in kilts, and little lacrosse bros in suede Bass loafers. In the midst of those clashing cultures was my own home, and in the midst of the external noise was the soundtrack my parents played in the house.
Outside on the streets there was classic Baltimore rap – hearkening to the signature crack-infused club-bangers a la Aaron LaCrate Bodymore Guttermusic – and on the playground, well, there wasn’t – I can’t really remember my classmates listening to music before middle school. However in my house there was always something playing – whether it be BeBe and CeCe, Sarah Vaughan, Lady Day, Toni Braxton, The Rippingtons, or my Grandad’s jam session partner-in-sonic-crime Duke Ellington. That “something” that was always playing inside, was rarely the “something” that was on blast outside. All of this is to say that I grew up learning to make sense of the world through music, when my own musical taste made no sense within the context of any world but my own – that constant conflict didn’t stop me, in fact it is what created the audiophile you have before you today.
Back then it didn’t matter that none of my friends or acquaintances knew “Grapevyne,” because my dad knew it – and if I didn’t know anything else at 8, it was that my dad was always right. Now, it doesn’t matter if anyone else thinks GaGa or Kenna don’t make sense, because they make sense to me – and if I don’t know anything else now, it is that if Bieber’s “Baby” and Ke$ha’s “Blah Blah Blah” are right, I’ll gladly be wrong.
For this first “Crate Dig” I dug deep – I went back to the old brownstone and to the root of the grapevine where it all began. There was the city listening to police sirens, squad cars, and gunshots. There was my school listening to VH1 or still stuck on Raffi. I was somewhere remixed in between – and somewhere so far beyond – coasting along with my dad in the car where all I heard was “Grapevyne” where – in the midst of madness – he and I were just fine.