About a month ago I went back to my middle school, McMain, in New Orleans. I was there representing Recording Academy (Memphis Chapter), whose GRAMMY IN THE SCHOOLS initiative was presenting the McMain band with a $5,000 check.
Of course, I couldn’t help but think about the music of my middle school experience — 7th (94 – 95) and 8th (95 – 96) grade were such transitional times in my musical life. 5th and 6th (93 – 94) grades had been defined by the usual suspects in popular metal and grunge — Metallica, Pantera (turns out Phil Anselmo is a racist jackass, btw), Alice in Chains, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, etc. But as the early 90s turned to mid, things started to change.
The transition was started by my discovery (thanks to my older brother) of bands like 311, Rage Against The Machine, and albums like the Judgment Night soundtrack — all of which were monumental in introducing hip hop (or at least elements thereof) into my musical journey. At the same time, Green Day’s Dookie opened the door to punk rock (or, again, at least elements thereof). By 8th grade I was listening to equal parts punk rock and hip hop, which seems like an odd combination, but was perfectly harmonious thanks to one thing:
I started skateboarding in middle school and along with that came skate videos. The soundtracks to these videos had music from groups that I had never heard of but quickly came to embrace. I can still remember the first time I heard Rancid and NOFX on a skate video in 1994. Same goes for Tha Alkaholiks and Mobb Deep on a 411 Video Magazine skate video in 1995.
Even though McMain was 80% African American, my taste in hip hop was not exactly in the norm there. In the mid-90s, New Orleans hip hop was dominated by bounce music and the beginnings of Cash Money and No Limit. To be honest, I wasn’t that into bounce and, at the time, I didn’t have the ability to appreciate it for its cultural significance (meeting and later representing Big Freedia changed all that for me). And my taste in hip hop seemed as foreign to most of my classmates as my taste in punk.
But there were a few exceptions. One of which I had completely forgotten about until I went back to McMain recently.
After the GRAMMY IN THE SCHOOLS check had been presented, a girl came up to me and asked if I remembered her. I didn’t. She introduced herself and said that we had been classmates at McMain back in 95. Then she said, “Don’t you remember, you introduced me to The Pharcyde.” And then it clicked. The memories came back. My memory of her came back. For a brief moment in 95 our musical paths had crossed, and that had stuck with her for 20 years.
It’s the power of a shared musical past — and rediscovering it — that makes me love being a part of ECHO. Do you have any memories like this?