Squad Up

Shout out to G.I. Joe. Listen… right now here in 2018, we are not in a knowledge desert as it relates to providing context around music. Now granted everyone may not be tuned into the same channels. But if you have a thirst for the knowledge it can and will be quenched if you seek it out. Not really going to debate the varying quality of the beverage offerings. It runs the full gamut, you can engage with top shelf content all the way down to tap water contextual content if you like. What I’m most concerned with in this post is whether you’re a fan of music or a musician, after all the documentaries are consumed, after all the tears shed during the end credits of music biopics, after all the award and tribute shows have wrapped, and most importantly after all these various forms of media have been contextually presented with running commentary on these internet streets… now what?

HIStory

On a personal note, I have been an avid student of history my whole life. The connecting of dots, factoids, the scholarship that makes you question the widely accepted narrative of any and all moments in time. I love it all. But I’ve also come to understand that all we have ever had and all we will ever have is now. So yes the knowing of from whence we’ve come is of paramount importance but what are we doing with the lessons we’ve learned right now? How have these lessons impacted the political, social and cultural fronts in the country? I’m going to leave that discussion to someone skilled in those areas. On the music front? Let’s talk.

Growns

If I’m being honest this screed is for folks of a certain age. I’m not really dealing with the young, young folks. Reason being is they’re developing. I’m not saying that all young music and artists are free from criticism because of age but one of my guiding principles is “Know better, do better.” So, I don’t expend a lot of energy on folks who don’t know. Often the not knowing boils down to lack of exposure. So we’ll get to the reasons for that one day and how entities conspired to create an even greater wedge so that many of our progeny just don’t know any better and the music sounds like a product of not knowing. That conversation is for another day.

The Fruit

Today… let’s just get to it. Not to get all biblical on you but Matthew 7:16 reads thusly “You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they?” – New American Standard Bible. So let’s say for argument’s sake that Music History represents the fertilizer for all of our collective musical selves(oh heck our musical trees). You have all kinds of options as to what you will use for your fertilizer, always giving consideration to the type and how much nutrition that will be received. Some folks like a narrow bandwidth of nutrition (I like one genre of music produced over the course of one generation) whereas some folks are full-on all over the spectrum as it relates to their musical nourishment and then as these things go lots folks of folks in the middle. All good. But let me continue on in the rhetorical… would you be pleased if you spent a season or seasons working on nurturing a tree where the net result was no growth?

Go Forward, Move Ahead

Growth can be (like everything else it seems these days) subjective. I’m certainly not suggesting that daily glorious strides have to be in place to be considered growth, but what I am saying is consider some movement ahead. I’m not completely sour of nostalgia but yo…

Shout out to the Dr.

On another note, you know it took me a long time to understand the genius of Miles Davis. The constant moving forward, reinventing and revolutionizing music by refusing to go backward.

I think part of the problem we have in the contemporary space is that you do not have to engage with anything of a contemporary nature if you don’t want to. Now part of that is a good thing because by and large radio is arse and what many streaming services present to you as music you need to hear has been paid for the same way radio has so it’s just a different side of the same arse. There’s great contemporary music out now as always. Gotta find it on your own most of the time. Music discovery via the radio (which the vast majority of us were raised on) was laissez-faire. So without much effort, you’d get what was happening and everyone heard a lot of the same music at the same time. Now we’re scattered and can thank technology for that. I’m certainly not suggesting that a monoculture was the end all be all and I certainly am not advocating for a return to her shores. For all the great that tech does and continues to do it has at once driven us apart as it has seemingly brought us closer together. Earbuds and personal screens mang, in public and private spaces.

Drip Drop
You see in every life some rain must fall (I think that’s how that goes) and whereas the nutrients can be garnered through the application of the fertilizers, in order for those nutrients to activate (really work) the wonder twin power of rain has to show up. In other words when we solely engage with the world via a screen that’s only a two-dimensional representation at best of the world (drizzle). That experience cannot remotely compare to the full on out in the world third, fourth and fifth dimension (Up, Up and Away) experiences that happen with other people in realtime, with real conversation and real feedback. The drizzle serves its purpose but if all you have is a drizzle eventually you will end up with a drought. Then what will your fruit look like? Better yet, what will your music sound like?

Hot Beatz Baby
I understand the market forces, the government legislation that created radio mega-networks (and net worths) record label consolidation, advances in music production technology that for some has music making resembling paint by numbers or a Colorforms scene layout. All that aside. What are you, I, we that know better doing about it? Oh, I know what you’re saying to yourself “I can’t do anything about it, and since they haven’t made any good music since the 90’s I’ll just keep listening to that and complaining about now and celebrate the same 20 albums made by 15 artists.” or something like that. Cool. I guess. But here’s the problem with that: No new musical memories. I’m not saying that you have to completely disavow yourself from nostalgic listening. 75% of the time if I’m being honest, that’s what I do. Listen and live out my nostalgia. But I take joy in knowing that there’s 25% of music that I can listen to that was released in the last year or hell even the last five years… that’s new memories and new energy. To me, that just feels good, like a great new outfit.

Turn Off That Radio

Hey, remember this guy? Do you remember why his message was so pointed? Given that Hip-Hop is the global behemoth that it is now do you think the message got through? I’m not really here to debate the merits of Hip-Hop one way or the other or for that matter how Cube’s message was framed/received but what is undeniable is that Ice Cube and many emcees of his era were so malcontent with the status quo state of affairs (sound familiar) that they just literally said to hell with you respectable radio folks who aren’t going to play us and refused to play the game and look at what happened? There was a win for a real minute there and just like any and everything else the art gets cannibalized and commodified to the point that the music that wins now bears no resemblance to the anthems that started and won the war.

Now, Then

In my Sowthern Parlance (Yes, Sowthern) I will move to the part of the program where I state “I said all of that to say this…” how about harnessing the energy that we use to complain, consume what we know and love, complain (did I say complain?) and put it toward some real change for right now, today. I know many have dropped off the radio because well, yeah… but in considering what else to do, don’t be ashamed to call a thing a thing. If a song is terrible, it’s terrible and should be critically dealt with as such. Unfortunately, in this era where Standom often prevents the free-flowing criticism of wack beats and vocal runs that could benefit from Immodium, please know that if you can’t find any other safe space in cyberspace to let your rant be heard, unfettered, free of any and all hives on your every word, you have a home and friend in us!

We Are The Musical Resistance!

We Are Grown Folks Music!!!

Ivan Orr is a multi-instrumentalist, composer, performer, and writer. A native of Charlottesville, Virginia Ivan was involved with the forming and nascent days of The Music Resource Center as its first Program Director. A graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University’s Department of Music, Ivan currently resides in Richmond, VA where he maintains an active performance and production schedule while serving as the Music Editor for Grown Folks Music, a position he has held since 2010.