The truth is that for many years I’ve felt my “coolness” factor dwindling in the music department. I can’t distinguish between Pearl Jam and Oasis most of the time, and I can’t tell you the name of a single song by Vampire Weekend. Some stuff just sounds like whining that shifts into shrieking. Hip people like this stuff.
I sensed a momentary resurgence of cool when the Stones came to Austin a couple of years ago and I danced and “jumpin’-jack-flashed” along with the audience . . . all of us jamming like the ‘60s were back! My older son and daughter-in-law were brought along as witnesses and both were impressed with my ability to time travel.
When Rolling Stone magazine issued its Special Collectors Edition of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, I was delighted to see that practically all of the great songs belonged to “my generation,” as The Who would say. It was worth $10 to buy the magazine so the milk in my shopping cart wouldn’t curdle as I pored over it, verifying that we knew good music when we heard it! In the top 10, first was Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone,” and afterwards in order, “Can’t Get No Satisfaction,” “Imagine,” “What’s Goin’ On,” “Respect,” “Good Vibrations,” “Johnny B. Goode,” “Hey, Jude,” “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” and “What I’d Say?” With the exception of song Number 9, sung by newbie Nirvana, most self-respecting Baby Boomers could sing any of these songs in their sleep…..after all, we probably first listened to this music in an altered state of consciousness.
It’s not that I’m hopelessly lost in the 60s and 70s. I liked Michael Jackson, and my kids’ interest in music of the 80s, 90s and 00s, allowed me to attain some appreciation of Madonna and bands like Green Day and Coldplay. At times, I’ve strived to understand my younger son’s fascination with Radiohead, listening to hours of their music.
That was hard (apology to you R-heads), but when hip hop and rap came along I balked. Rap music? Not too many years ago, I would have said, “That’s a line I will not cross.” Such music, I would say, seemed characterized by a monotonous beat, not much melody, talking rather than singing, and the lyrics – assuming I could catch a few – are … hmmm … a bit “unpleasant.” Rap was the final frontier and I was not buying a ticket for that trip.
And then, my younger son, who wrote and performed music for a number of years, collaborated with a long-time Austin friend and co-worker, writing some rap songs and making videos which they posted on YouTube. From my un-hip Baby Boomer perspective the most interesting fact about these rap songs written and performed under their stage name, “Sniper Twins,” is that I like them — and my equally un-hip friends like them!!! In fact, there seems to be a universal appeal, as demonstrated by a comment regarding one of the rap songs about good nutrition called “Salad Wrap. This woman writes, “I know that this probably isn’t your target audience, but my two-year-old LOVES this song. Anytime my husband or I go over to the computer, pretty soon there he is saying, ‘Shake the ranch….shake the ranch.’ Then once it is playing, he does a little ranch shaking dance. Thankfully, this is one song that my husband and I also thoroughly enjoy listening to, so we don’t mind playing it for him.”
In fact, I recommend all dieters and nutrition conscious folks (along with two-year-olds) listen to “Salad Wrap” at least once a day. Along with its catchy beat, it inspires me to go for green veggies when visions of Blue Bell ice cream appear like annoying computer pop-ups. After all, how often do you hear a song where “big boy” gets rhymed with “bok choy?” Here are some other lines:
“Lady’s so lucky to find a brother
who’s blood pressure ain’t about to rupture
keep it on the low, low with cucumbers
fried food, hell naw, not for supper.”
And then there’s web favorite, “Computer Friends [Stack the Memory]” with another former Austinite, Rob, and lines that will make even the nerdiest computer geek feel cool:
“Despite my fiber optic cable ethernet
my quadruple core processor is working up a sweat
something slowing down my system that I can’t even see
my folder’s full of cookies, eating up my memory.”
And if you want to see candy-making set to rap music that sounds like bad dudes getting ready to make a move on a rival gang, watch “Chocolate Shoppe,” filmed in the Hershey’s chocolate factory. Factory workers, take heed! You can be “bad dudes” even while wearing hair nets!
I’ve heard rap music compared favorably to written poetry, and I wouldn’t necessarily dispute that. I just haven’t made the move from Sniper Twins to the more mainstream stuff, like Snoop Dog or Puff Daddy on a regular basis. But it still gives me a bump on the coolness meter. Like, if I’m in a group of young hipsters who start talking about rap music, I can always say, “By the way, have you seen those rap videos on YouTube by the Sniper Twins? Talk about great beats!”
I don’t think I need to tell them that my son just happens to be one of the Sniper Twins . . . that would just detract from my coolness cred. Just let me regain a bit of “cool” before I start collecting social security!