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LINER NOTES FROM A MIXTAPE: PART 1

In a strange turn of events, for the first time in years, I, J. Carter Williams find myself with a girlfriend.

(Please hold your applause until the end.)

In the usual tradition when dating someone, I like to make a new love interest a mixtape.

(Yes, I’m aware that I’m a not-so-secret 16 year old. Thanks for the reminder. I’m also aware that they’re not actual cassettes. I just refuse to stop calling them “mixtapes.” Sort of like how my grandfather called jeans “dungarees.”)

After making two well received compilations, I decided to create a third.

Instead of just slapping tracks together, I thought I’d challenge myself with a theme. As part of her birthday present, I created a mix comprised of one song for each year of Boom’s life. (“Boom” is her nickname. Trying to protect the innocent and all that.)

While I succeeded in my selections with one exception, I failed to create liner notes. (The one exception will be revealed.) I’ve always wanted to create liner notes for a mixtape or really any album (If anyone ever creates a deluxe edition of The Low End Theory or Background Music, let me know. I’m your guy.)

Liner notes are just that extra, personal touch, giving context for the songs. So here’s my liner notes for 27 Years of Sommer. (Note: these songs aren’t the “best” songs of that year, but just great songs from each year. As with everything, the “best” argument is always up for debate.)


1983 – Run-DMC “Sucker MCs”
The Kings from Queens…what do you say? Well, I guess you’d start with the fact that this ushered in the “new school” with more aggressive rhymes, harder beats and a more street look, ending the “old school” disco breaks and leather & spikes glam attire.

1984 – Billy Bragg “The Saturday Boy”
While I didn’t get into Mr. Bragg until my 20s, he’s indicative of the great British storytelling which is missing in a lot of American music. (If anybody ever read this, aside from my friend, they’d tell me that I suck and then name some indie rocker) With his irreverent, self-deprecating style, Bragg tells a first-person recount of a schoolboy crush from his youth. With great lines like “In the end, it took me a dictionary to find out the meaning of “unrequited,” Billy lays out a tune for everyone whose adolescent crushes figuratively left them crushed.

1985 – The Replacements “Bastards of Young/1986 – Husker Du “Don’t Want To Know If You’re Lonely”
Two Minnesota powerhouses who survived punk/hardcore by not boxing themselves in. “Bastards of Young” is easily one of the best songs about artistic “success,” with the line: it beats pickin’ cotton and waiting to be forgotten. Husker Du decided not to be a dinosaur in the hardcore scene and evolved wonderfully by embracing melody.

1987 – Eric B. and Rakim “Paid In Full (Seven Minutes of Madness Mix)”
Like Run-DMC before him, Rakim was a game changer in terms of hip-hop. Prior to him, everyone was just trying to rap really fast and hard. Like Biggie, his slow flow is remarkable. Not to mention all the crazy samples that make up the melody. Definite a Golden Era classic.

1988 – Public Enemy “Night of the Living Baseheads”
Off arguably the greatest album of all-time, It Takes A Nation of Millions To Hold Us Back, this jam tackles the crack epidemic. For as much damage crack did, one good thing that came out that awful time, was classic, conscious music. Bomb Squad production with the samples layered like lasagna… so amazing. How do you mix Run-DMC, David Bowie and ESG, not to mention that squealing sax riff? Almost like Girl Talk with a message.

(Even, Flavor of Love can’t ruin my feelings for this song)

1989 – De La Soul “Me, Myself and I
The quirky Long Island trio penned this after being stereotyped as hippies for stepping outside the hip-hop mold. (It’s almost like going to high school and wearing a purple shirt and getting called a “fag.”) Their bold individualism was a cornerstone of the Native Tongues movement whose long lasting effects can be seen with likes of Kanye West and Lupe Fiasco, a certification that it was okay to be you and not have to fit into someone’s box.

Stay tuned for Part 2.

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