Intro By Jesse H.
The TSS crew is proud of our national and international presence. This place stays moving with fresh and lively comment boards no matter what time zone you’re in (we’re looking at you in particular, Greumsy.) Not only is the TSS nation comprised of an eclectic mix of readers from all over the globe, we’re also blessed enough to have a similar hometown diversity on our writing staff. While we might show our respective regional biases from time to time in our posts, we decided to really tilt our hands and give you all a behind-the-scenes look at what we listen to when we’re in transit to the places we call home. From coast to coast, our crew of writers put on for our cities, in a little piece we like to call…
New York City
I just recently moved to NYC, and whenever I visited here in the past I would always bump the same song on my iPod coming in – “Where I’m From.” The dark, thumping beat sounds as if it’s alive and possessed. The eerie whistling drifts by at the beginning of each bar. The rhyming – dexterous genius, unrelenting pessimism, and a palpable desperation that climaxes with, ‘Where you can’t put your vest away and say you’ll wear it tomorrow / Because the day after we’ll be saying, ‘Damn, I was just with him yesterday.’ Followed immediately by, ‘I’m a block away from hell.’ Incredible. And the hook? You can’t tell me that’s not a top-ten-of-all-time hook – ‘Cough up a lung, where I’m from / Marcy, son, ain’t nothin’ nice.’ There’s no empty sentimentality, no glorification, no glossy flashing. This is The Wire on wax. As New York and the rest of the world plummets into a recession, this song will be getting plenty of burn for the next little bit, I fear. (See Contra’s pick below for link)
Besides the obvious thematic relevance, Brother Ali’s “Take Me Home” is the auditory equivalent of a throwback Minnesotan summertime barbecue. You can feel the humidity of the Minnesota summers in the wah-wah guitar, and the relief of the occasional summer breeze in the vocal sample softly cooing what sounds like “right.” Maybe that’s not what they’re saying, but I couldn’t think of a better word for the feeling I get in my heart when I come back to the front of my house and can smell the charcoal and the lighter fluid out back.
New York City
There are few sights more breathtaking than coming out of the clouds on a night flight to JFK. Lights on plane wings pierce the clouds, revealing the luminescence of the greatest city in the world, and only one song could fit a moment so monumental. The recipe: take one part frantic Just Blaze banger (brooding piano and stabs of metal guitar,) add a Harlem hustler, Brooklyn’s finest himself, and a thrilled-to-be-participating Juelz Santana, and you’ve got the definition of a dramatic entrance. Welcome to New York City.
Only thing gullier than the Dilla sample, boom bap and hi hat is Lafayette Coney Island at 2:30 in the morning after St. Andrews let out. Newport smoke and laughter swirls around an extra loud conversation about the time Shoes was on Jenny Jones, and the crackhead who’s always outside asks for money the rude way. You order two chili dogs with extra onions and cheese, and an MGD in a can.
Synth so heavy it qualifies for welter weight. Beat funkier than your high school gym locker. Dam Funk is talking silky smooth pressed perm. Cruising the 110 freeway through downtown, a million high-rise windows lit up like the night sky. Velvet roped lines you bypass because you know so-and-so, with VIP bracelets the most necessary accessory. A carafe of sangria, please.
There was a stoop somewhere on Nostrand & Gates. Once upon a chain-smoking winter day, I brushed the snow off my Timbs and Carhartt jacket and readjusted my knit hat. I pressed a Newport stub against this very stoop and headed to the corner store for another pack. Ensuring my mug was on point, I dapped dudes every 10 paces, and it occurred to me that times would change; it would not always be this gully, homely or ugly. Guess I was right cause that stoop is no longer there. I often feel lost on my old block, and now need a soundtrack as a map to a world once loved, lost.
The pace slows down and the temperature goes up as soon as you step out of Hartsfield-Jackson Airport. County Police lurk, so cruise carefully and crank that volume knob heftily as you careen the corners, from Zone 1 to 6, Bankhead to Decatur. Sip your brew and lean your seat all the way back, tilt your lid and listen to your car frame rattle, whether you’re watching the effervescent nighttime skyline, or the somewhat more dubious, darker rural boondocks…This is Atlanta, shawty: the bastard seed of the big city and the deep south.
A city dripping with the emotions I endured and enjoyed over the course of my 22 years. A city constantly coming to grips with its history, while trying to get past the embarrassment of a half-retarded, recently indicted mayor. Every embarrassment, moment of sadness and success from my formative years is floating around in the suffocating, humid air. But shit — I love it. The culture. The people. My fam. The good and the bad that have made me who I am. So I drive into the city, defying Heron’s warnings. Sometimes it may not be a good idea, but dammit, I’m headed home.
I’m not simply from California, I’m from the Bay Area — somewhere I consider it the most diverse region in the nation. Though the Bay is known for the Hyphy that had us all going dumb and riding the yellow bus, there are artists who are raw and don’t rock stunna shades or thizz faces. Andre Nickatina, who hails from San Francisco, is one of them. On “Ate Miles From the City of Dope,” Andre Nickatina and fellow Bay MC Equipto educate listeners on the ruggedness of the Bay Area that is hidden behind the Golden Gate Bridge and people who say “hella.” With a somber, simple beat, the track is the perfect antithesis to the fast-paced, delirious vibe Hyphy used to give off. Reminds me the Bay isn’t always pretty and carefree.
I was at Morehouse for my freshman year, and when Thanksgiving break came around I was crazy homesick for Jerz. I played that “Fire” off of Joe Budden’s self titled debut right before I left for the Marta to Hartsfield-Jackson. This joint definitely got me hype to come back home. I would need that energy since a flight scheduled to leave at 7 got delayed to after 10 or so. This was because it was the day before Thanksgiving, there was shaky weather in Jerz, and Newark Int’l felt so inclined to maintain its infamous rep for calling arbitrary “delays.” I didn’t hit Newark Int’l until 1 in the morning. Despite the holdups I was happy as hell, albeit a bit tired, to be back.
The songs I envision have nothing to do with flying to my actual home. My choices make me happy to make my way into other cities. Originally, I started to go with Com’s “Resurrection” remix because I see Chi-city when I hear that joint. I was in the city when the video dropped and that song OWNED The Box.
However, I’ll bring it to something closer to region & say Killer Mike’s “Comin’ Home Atlanta” gets the nod from me. While every Southern city has its differences, they’re more alike than different. Looping expressways, fluorescent orange lamplights lining the streets, horizontal (not vertical) project buildings, billboards, city buses & police cars. What Mike brings in this song is a overhead view of how I feel as I’m comin’ home, once I hop in the whip & burn a few squares, glad to be back behind the wheel & in control…and in the city I call home.
Because of the University of Kentucky’s current parking situation, I walk to class every day. Whether rain or shine, sleet or snow I strap on my sneakers and kick dust. From my place to campus requires me to be in transit for a good 20 minutes, a walk of this magnitude always calls for a fitting soundtrack, something to set the pace of the walk and put a story to each smiling or frowning face I pass. No matter what time of the day, whether it’s the 8am or 1pm walk, this classic James Brown joint keeps pep in my step and makes the passing girls look even better. So look at this as a salute to the godfather for making my sometimes grueling walks a little funkier.
After inhaling that first breath of fresh unrecycled air, Levitti’s words echo out with the exhale, “I’m in your citttttttty, why don’t you come and swoop meeeeee.” While B-Legit uses “City To City” to detail a one night romp, for me the chorus has taken on a life of it’s own, becoming the official declaration of arrival in any city not my own. If Levitti’s chorus make up the first words out of my mouth (sung in a tune only I can only appreciate), B-Legit’s closing remarks are quick to follow to whoever is on the other line, “I just touched down, trying to get something crackin.”
As the first song off B-Legit’s Hemp Museum, “City To City” is like so many other Sick-Wid-It classics; a great song made even more memorable by the presence of Levitti’s crooning. His vocal tone alone is enough to inspire a smile, but with “City To City” he creates an unforgettable hymn that anyone can relate to and find revelance in; “I’m here to kick it, have a good time, and get into something.” For over a decade I’ve found comfort in the song and it’s chorus, and I fear the day when the phrase fades out of my lexicon.