On the Goe: An opionated anniversary
Almost two years ago to the day, I started writing this column. Believe me, I’m as shocked as you are.
Fifty-three columns down, some good, some bad, and not one resulting in a libel suit. That’s something to celebrate.
If you’ve been with me from the start, first off, thank you. I’ve used the forum to discuss all sorts of music topics, and the feedback I get from you helps to keep me motivated.
Secondly, you’ll remember I kicked this whole thing off with homage to my first record purchase: Weezer’s Blue Album. I chose to share that memory because I thought you can learn much more about who I am based on the music that shaped my life than you could from the half-wit rambling introduction I originally planned on submitting. I’m much more interested in showing you than telling you who I am.
Back in 1994 I was a mere virgin to the music world, accidently happening upon a great album. Oh, what a difference three years can make though. Slowly learning how to curate my own record collection, things took a wild turn in high school.
Everything changes once you enter high school. “Parental Advisory” stickers are much less threatening, for one. I couldn’t entertain that dirty mistress of hip-hop in ‘94 but we sure did spend some quality time together in 1997.
That’s when I discovered the second album to dominate my young life: Puff Daddy and the Family, “No Way Out.”
I have a vision of my high school self, kicking in the doors near the old gymnasium at Grand Junction High School.
Try, if you might, to picture this. As the orange doors swing wide, a flood of light rushes in. All you can make out is the silhouette of a budding G. Stepping through the door, I slowly come into focus and the first thing you recognize is my forest green New York Yankees hat.
The wires of my ill-fitting, over-ear headphones snake down underneath my crisp white T-shirt and sweater vest and connect to the Sony Discman, with 10-second electronic skip protection, in my canvas messenger bag. Tommy Hilfiger jeans hang low as I walk down the hall in my white Lugz boots that couldn’t be cleaner.
The whole scene unfolds in slow motion, as “Can’t Nobody Hold Me Down” plays overhead. I look as pimp as can be, just like Puff.
Pimp status not withstanding, truthfully I look much more like a wimpy Steve Bartman than the man now known as Diddy.
“No Way Out” was much more than an album. It was a guide to living. Clearly, it had a strong influence on the fashion choices made by me and most of my friends. Everyone had those stupid carpenter jeans and the color Yankees hats that Puff and Mase wore everywhere. Our golf team alone represented nearly every color you could own (yes, I was a jock in high school).
I ate up the lyrics to “No Way Out” like they were a new gospel. That album taught me the true virtues of life, the ones left out of boring high school curriculum.
I learned about hustling from the tracks “Victory” and “Young G’s.” I learned to stack bills by endlessly playing “It’s All About the Benjamins (Remix).” Most importantly, I learned about being awesome from “Been Around the World.”
As Puff asks early on in the album, “P Diddy and the Fam, who you know do it better?” At the time, nobody.
Besides being culturally significant, “No Way Out” was the quintessential 1990s East Coast hip-hop record. It’s loaded with hits and guest rappers, notably the Notorious B.I.G., Busta Rhymes, Mase and Jay-Z.
I played that album so much the CD nearly cracked in two in my Discman. As it turns out, “No Way Out” was by far the best effort that has been put forward by Puff. I’m extremely partial to the braggadocio of that entire record.
I joke about the life lessons this album taught me, but seriously, what better skills could a freelance columnist ask for?
With that, here’s to another year of misguided opinions. Don’t worry, I’ve still got plenty to say.