mixtape musings & methodology: one for the homie who passed

the new _ronitape mix is more personal than usual, so i wrote on it...

greetings & salutations my people! i recently completed 2 of my _ronitape mixtape cassettes and i’m going to highlight the more important one for you here. i usually pop out one of these mixes every week; i’m constantly playing records, so i just keep a blank tape in the deck and try to stay vigilant on continuing the mix while going about my business. pretty much any time i paint i’m adding on to a mix as i go, so there is some kindred imprinting on both. however as i eluded to previously, i lost a good friend recently to a heroin overdose, and two other homies right before, all from the same areas that i grew up in CT, though this shit happening everywhere. after stepping back for a couple weeks to regroup i got back into my mixtape routine, and on this one i made some kind of meditation on my friend. i’ma get my musings on and give you some context for this mix, there are two made in this period but the second is the more important. you can hear the other mix, and dozens more which are streamable on the _ronitapes page of this site, and you can download the majority of them on my Soundcloud page.

stream or download 'no surprise: one for the homie' below as we proceed...

no surprise: one for the homie

so this is the more personal of the two new mixes; it is some kind of dedication or meditation on my old friend Rahsaan Thompson who we just lost to an overdose a few weeks ago. i went back & forth in my head on whether i should even put his name out there in this post like that, but his mom put all that out there in the obituary publicly and this mix is in memoriam to him, so for better or for worse, there it is. he was 4 years older than me, we first became homies when my family moved to Madison CT in the year 2000, my junior year of high school. the awesome Madison crew i became down with, largely through my girlfriend at the time, were into a whole bunch of different music than my fam from the Tri-Town area where I was coming from. though i still rocked some punk & whatnot from my youth, i was deeply obsessed with underground hip hop at the time, but Rahsaan and those cats put me on to lots of dope indie rock & post punk type stuff that greatly broadened my horizons which i might never have gotten into had i never met them. of all the bands he put me on to, Les Savy Fav effected me the most, becoming one of my favorite bands & biggest inspirations to this day.

that’s me and the homie one of the last times we chilled, a couple of years ago. we had lost touch for many years when he moved out to Oakland, pic is from after he returned east, during an epic reunion weekend with him and his fiancee Nicole at my last apartment in Jamaica Plain. he was a pretty legendary figure in my life, an immensely talented singer & musician with a passion for music, great sense of humor, a warm smile and a huge heart. he was also an addict and an alcoholic for as long as anyone could remember... i won’t pretend he was a saint. i don't mean to speak ill of the dead, but felt that should be said, because when some shit like this happens, you are inundated with a rollercoaster of complex and conflicting emotions in many different spectra, which to be honest fucks with your head. i am no stranger to death, my life became shaped by it early on when i lost my father to a random accident when i was 4; however this hit hard in a different way, as Rahsaan was the first truly close friend i’ve lost. there are so many great stories i'll have to write down one day... all-nighters for the books in Madison back when we were all wylin', bringing my Emerson College crew to his Westville apartment, G&T nalgenes at the Newport Jazz Fest with nowhere to sleep all weekend...

the title ‘no surprise’ might seem a little crass at first, but let me explain. almost anyone mourning him i spoke with dropped the line ‘well i’m not surprised, but…’, myself included. when someone has battled with addiction as long as he did, the news doesn't come as a shock, though conversely, if they’ve made it that long you also start to view them as a ‘soldier’ and almost think they’ll continue to weather the storm ad infinitum. the tape's title is a double entendre however; its real meaning is about ‘The Surprise’ which was the name of Rahsaan’s long-running, always-changing epic song he would typically bust out at the end of the night on his acoustic guitar, blowing yr fucking socks off with the power of his voice, putting it all out through song. if i were forced to only retain one memory of Rahsaan, it would be of him performing that song. it was never the same but it was always The Surprise. he made me a personalized cassette of it many years back but i unfortunately lost it forever ago. when i got news of his death i futilely tore apart my apartment desperately trying to find it, knowing the whole time it was long gone. so that is the real reason for the title.

expressive art i made after i got the news. Marsh ink x Arches Oil paper

the tape starts with the Sublime song 'Boss DJ' in which Bradley Nowell sings “it’s so nice… I wanna hear the same song twice” which i chose for multiple reasons; there's the obvious parallel of their shared cause of death, but also a similar energy they both embodied, that of a dude earnestly and passionately pouring out his heart backed only by acoustic guitar. also, on a meta level i knew I’d probably be using tracks on this mix which i may have used on previous _ronitapes, ‘Boss DJ’ included (though this is a solo acoustic version and the other time was the Robbin The Hood album version… but lets not get caught up in the details too much haha). i have well over a thousand LPs to choose from for these all-vinyl mixtapes so why should that ever happen you ask? because if it’s so nice, i definitely wanna hear the same song twice! i’m well aware that my vinylfetish is a full blown addiction, i buy too much and need to chill… there is just so much incredible music out there new and old that my soul desires to experience that way, it is one of the main focuses of my life, a driving force that feels like a biological imperative. in the current era we’re living in, thanks to the internet, there are so many millions of choices at ones fingertips and so much new stuff dropping all of the time to sift through. while on one hand it’s great to have so many possibilities and such a diverse span of music to explore, as compared to less choices or potential for exposure in my parents generation, for example, it is also bad for the brain in a way, splintering our psyches with such infinite sensory inundation. when my mom saw all my vinyl recently, her eyes went a little bugged and she noted how back in their day, they’d listen to the same album/s on repeat forever, and i appreciate that sentiment and way of being. less choices can be very refreshing sometimes, and if an album is a classic, or just plain great, it deserves much repeat attention. so while i’m all over the place stylistically with tons of albums to choose from, sometimes i’ll want to pop around all over the spectrum, and others i just want to get to know something at a deeper level and live that album/band/artist, until i start playing it out; then take some time off from it and come back fresh at a later date re-approaching it with a different perspective. back to the mixtapes, any time you put an individual track onto a mix it takes on a new context as its sandwiched between 2 different songs and so is thus heard in a new way depending on how it interacts with them. however, if yr a _ronitape regular and yr like, ‘dewd, you put that song on too many mixes’ haha please let me know… i unfortunately don’t have a photographic memory, or the patience to browse through the dozens of previous tracklists i made to check if & when I’ve used a song before!

 

blackbook drawing the night of... just to keep my hands busy

the rest of the mix features tons of great bands i learned of through Rahsaan like Les Savy Fav or Cursive, groups i associate with him from our times chilling that i know he messed with like Fugazi, The Breeders, A Perfect Circle; bands he was personally linked to aka Suckers (he was in the earlier version of Suckers, The Noise - I still have their excellent album We Make Babies on my old iPod) and The Lot Six, a Boston punk band he was in before they started dropping albums. he put me on to TL6 and told me stories of his days living in the Mission Hill neighborhood back when i was deciding on colleges in 2000, which largely influenced my decision to move here in 2001, so you can see the imprint he made on my life, I still live there 16 years later and my first two apartments were in that hood. when we reunited a few years back he put me on to Daughn Gibson, and i countered with Why? (Alopecia specifically) so there’s a block of that. i had tons of other essentials that are so him like Pixies, Radiohead, Modest Mouse or Nirvana that i didn’t get to this time, since i didn’t just want the mix to be all nostalgia, so i popped on some newer things i figured he’d like, a la Angel Olsen, Ho99o9 or Shopping. some tracks are picked because i specifically remember talking about them with him, like the Company Flow track, some because of the artists’ shared drug struggles, like Soundgarden, Amy Winehouse, Gil Scott-Heron or Royal Trux. everything is chosen for some connected reason, but i didn’t want to make it too literal or too heavy to enjoy listening to. that being said, i’ve been fuct up in the head and heart from Rahsaan’s death; this mix & the previous were made grappling with that so there is some kind of heavier, darker overall atmosphere to them perhaps... so i am hoping to focus my energies on the next mix in a more positive upbeat realm. i could use that PMA right about now. until then, much love to you all... especially to my homie now up above, i hope you digg the mix.