Episodes in Slowly Growing Older, Part 3

I spent another hour yesterday downloading the dirtiest, dumbest and most appalling gangster rap I could find and promptly uploaded it onto my iPod Shuffle. That’s what I call walking music. Great motivational music for walking to work every morning, or even busting my love handles at the gym.

As for the mental stimulation? Not so much.

I’m aghast at the music I listen to these days. And on purpose, no less. My reasoning is this: My life is just a little too mundane to listen to music that reflects my experience. I listen to rap for the same reason one watches action movies — yeah, none of its plausible or familiar to my experience, but it sure is entertaining. (Go with it.)

I don’t walk anywhere without my iPod or iPhone playing. I could go all 1950s and listen to the ambiance that is urban life, but I like having that buffer between me and the world. Music isn’t a disconnect — it’s an enhancement. If you don’t believe me, try walking somewhere today with Hall & Oates’ “You Make My Dreams” playing:

Powerful stuff.

Well, I’m challenging myself to do better starting today. Here forth, I’m going with National Public Radio as my walking companion.

I did so yesterday. Listened to a couple of archived clips from NPR’s fancy app for the iPhone. Maybe not so ironically, I listened to an essay about how rapper Lil’ Wayne’s pending incarceration is part of a larger business model. Then, I listened to an interview with Joel Kotkin, the author of The Next Hundred Million: American in 2050, where he claimed the Midwest would see population growth in areas like Fargo, Des Moines and, my hometown, Sioux Falls.

And you know what? It was compelling radio. Truly. It was satisfying in the way finishing a book is. I was engaged and walked away feeling I had truly learned something. Not only that, in each case, I wanted to take part in the dialogue. Can’t say I get that feeling from Young Jeezy.

Now, time doesn’t always permit me to listen to an uninterrupted hour of NPR, so from now until March 16, I plan on listening to at least five archived segments per day. This will inevitably influence some of my postage, as well, but I promise to not write about anything that originated on NPR without embedding the clip I listened to. OK, reader?

I don’t want to undermine the value of gangster rap music. It has its place. Somewhere. But I’m wondering if there’s some correlation between the amount of rap I listen to and my flippant use of profanity. It seems almost impossible to not regurgitate the language you take in daily. Think about all the jargon you use that comes from your workplace. These are the reasons I use terms like “transparency,” “time management,” “efficiency” and “punk-ass bitch.” You are what you eat and you say what you hear.

Thoughts? How does the music you listen to affect you?

To the comments section! Now!

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6 thoughts on “Episodes in Slowly Growing Older, Part 3

  1. Dude…honestly Miller, I had you pegged for an NPR guy since 99; guess not. There’s nothing better all day (once Weezy gets a little old). Start with Morning Edition all the way through Talk of the Nation and Fresh Air..DOPE SHIT!! Last week they had Aziz on The Diane Rehm show I think shit was truly hilarious. But really like you mentioned, I almost always learn something daily that is actually interesting and relates to everyday life.. Holla.

  2. Red Hot Chilis. Every day…all day. The way those guys each play the simplest rifs and meld them into something otherworldly just speaks to me.

  3. Neal Conan is the man. As far as your Hall & Oates reference, I have listened to that song many times walkin down MSU hallways. Its like your at a secret party that no one around you was invited to.

    • Between you and Paul, I feel like NPR is a party I wasn’t invited to. Well, I’m crashing it, and hard. The NPR app is fantastic. You can bookmark segments from the past few weeks and have them waiting in a playlist.

      • You can get them on podcast too. And if you like that, search the “stuff you should know” podcast. They release a couple 20-30 min podcasts a week. It’s great stuff.

  4. I am in agreement with you on the private music as “enhancement” to the world around you. As previously mentioned somewhere, I am a big fan of German industrial techno. When I have KMFDM or the soundtrack to Run Lola Run pumping through my earbuds, I am an unstoppable force. At least, it seems easier to imagine myself as such.

    And it is a conscious thing for me. I will choose music to prepare my mood to meet whatever it is I am heading into. In my days working at B&N, I pretty much had KoRn’s “Dead Bodies Everywhere” on a loop on my way to every shift. By the time I got there, I was ready for the next eight hours of customer service. I have done the same sort of saturation listening to prepare for first dates (different songs, though). And when I walk through a crowded city center during rush hour, I usually go for either Eminem or Rage Against the Machine as I shoulder my way through the herds of harried business types.

    So yeah, it’s not about tuning out the world; it’s about getting my game face on, and making sure I feel ready (however artificially) for whatever might be about to go down.

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