Many of us can link a certain album to pivotal moments in our lives. Whether it’s the first record you bought with your own money, the chord you first learnt to play on guitar, the song that soundtracked your first kiss, the album that got you those awkward and painful pubescent years or the one that set off light bulbs in your brain and inspired you to take a big leap of faith into the unknown – music is often the catalyst for change in our lives and can even help shape who we become.
In this Love Letter To A Record series, Music Feeds asks artists to reflect on their relationship with music and share with us stories about the effect music has had on their lives.
Lil Mussie – Kendrick Lamar, ‘Section 80’ (2011)
When looked at in its true form, music (sound) is simply the propagation of longitudinal waves caused by vibrating molecules at a certain frequency. However, the art form lies within the body of work and the artist’s story. Section 80 is not only a collection of amazing music deeply entrenched in thoughtfulness, but through looking at this collectively one is able to admire the personality of Kendrick Lamar. This album illustrates some very important life principals and serves as a reminder to what rap should be.
It’s a talent to make thought-provoking music. It’s even harder to make it thought-provoking and sound good.
When I look at the top 50 music list, I admire the labels more than the artists. The labels shaped and marketed the artists getting them to where they are to maximise return on investment. There’s a very commercial feel. Listening to Kendrick’s music and observing him as a person he still feels ‘human’. When looking at Kendrick one can see that his vision and dedication is what carried him to the top. He succeeded in an oversaturated industry coming from a very tough background (Compton) – that’s how he and his music inspires me. Be so good they can’t ignore you, something I live my life by.
‘No Make-Up’, depicts the natural beauty of a woman, questioning the reason for focusing on the ‘superficial’ act of wearing makeup. At the end, it is revealed the make-up was being used to cover up a black eye that the female had. Such a strong message highlighting the prevalence and acceptance (wrongly so) of domestic violence. The song begins with such a warm, smooth feel then he takes it to a very dark and dismal place – such a powerful way to highlight a concept through contrast.
He isn’t conforming to the usual rap stereotypes standing in front of a supercar with a pocketful of cash. This is one of his opening songs and is something delicate and appreciative about females, he goes against the grain. It’s all about following one’s vision in life as they see it, uninfluenced. It reminds me of when I first founded the Bread Charity helping kids in poverty. Raising money for a charity is so insanely difficult so I decided I’d have a procession of 40 supercars escorted by police down the main street of Auckland. Going against the grain, something no one believed was possible but then congratulated me when it worked. It’s all about following your vision and making sure it plays out no matter what.
‘HiiiPower’, opens with the verse “visions of Martin Luther staring at me, Malcolm X put a hex on my future”. Real concentrated rap as an artform conveys messages through rhyme schemes and flow. Rarely do we see meaningful lyrics starting a song, it’s hard to write about meaningful things. The song references Charlotte’s Web, a book written in 1952 with the superseding verse referencing a gun pointed metaphorically at a pig, referencing his frustrations in life. It’s such a spectrum of ideas presented on a single palette. It shows how elaborate his mind is and to tie those together and flow over a beat adds to the creativeness and difficulty.
It’s a constant reminder to me of what rap should be and important characteristics one must possess to succeed in life. It seems like people will listen to anything with a catchy hook but Section 80 is my gold standard of rap. It was a seed which eventually bloomed into a very successful career.
Lil Mussie’s latest single is ‘On Me’ feat. Chip Tha Ripper (King Chip). Watch here.