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 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.
Here are their love letters to records that forever changed their lives.
Rachit Moti, The Dollar Bill Murrays – Kendrick Lamar’s Good Kid, M.A.A.D City
Until the age of 11, my music taste was basically that of an indoor plant. By which I mean that I existed in rooms where other people with some form of music taste also existed. Don’t get me wrong, I grew up watching Video Hits and listening to Green Day, Blink-182 and Shaggy like everyone else, but nothing ever really stuck around. Until about 2006 I listened to whatever was on the radio and had no real interest in music. Then this band called Arctic Monkeys came out with their debut album and I had my first viewing of School of Rock (albeit 3 years late, sorry).
That first Arctic Monkeys album was like a goddamn spiritual awakening for me. I was suddenly the friend that was into indie/rock music; and watching School of Rock made me want to play guitar. Silly? Perhaps. But as a kid, inspiration strikes you in the weirdest ways. It turns out that the dream of being a guitar virtuoso didn’t go so well, but rock music remained and I eventually found my love for drumming. Then in 2012 it all changed, again.
So let’s talk about Kendrick Lamar.
This love letter goes out to Kendrick Lamar’s album: Good Kid, M.A.A.D City.
Dear Good Kid, M.A.A.D City,
You were the the first album that took me outside of the realm of rock to appreciate a wider range of music. You grabbed me by the scruff of my neck and shook me awake. I can’t remember exactly how I found you, but I remember hating myself for being so closed-minded until then.
I was going to pen this letter to that first Arctic Monkeys album, because it’s still my favourite album of all time. But until you showed up I had considered anything ‘mainstream’ with electronic production as not ‘real’. Until now I needed guitars, and I needed drums, and I needed four sweaty dudes on a stage. Arctic Monkeys gave me eyes, but you took the blinkers off.
Rock music was the vanilla ice-cream which I had grown to love, but you were my very first spoonful of Ben and Jerry’s New York Super Fudge Chunk. From the outside it was easy to write you off as lacking subtlety and nuance, and just a symbol of excess – but oh, how wrong I was. You had base notes and top notes and everything in between, and if I actually knew anything about wine I would’ve said you had ‘mouthfeel’ too.
I’m not going to run through a full in-depth analysis of the lyrics and thematic content you contain because there’s just too many ingredients in your 12-track label. But you delivered a narrative which starts off with Kendrick on his way to see a girl named Sherane and then told me about growing up in the crime-riddled and drug-infested streets of gang-run Compton. Interspersed with voicemail recordings of his family, your narrative portrays how normalised the situation had become and how easy it was to get caught up in it all. On your fourth track – The Art of Peer Pressure I heard about Kendrick’s internal struggles after drinking with his friends and going out to loot houses:
“Smokin’ on the finest dope, ay-ay-ay-ah
Drank until I can’t no mo’, ay-ay-ay-ah
Really I’m a sober soul
But I’m with the homies right now
And we ain’t askin’ for no favors
Rush a nigga quick, then laugh about it later, ay-ay-ay-ah
Really, I’m a peacemaker
But I’m with the homies right now
And Momma used to say (say, say, say, say)
One day it’s gon’ burn you out (woo)
One day it’s gon’ burn you out, out, out”
In your sound I heard how easy it was to become another violent gang member, but you showed me that family could be the anchor which would hold you steady. In your second last track ‘Real’, Kendrick confessed to me that everything he was chasing was meaningless and fake. He opened up to me with a voicemail from his father after the death of a friend:
“Kenny, I ain’t trippin’ off them dominoes anymore. Just calling, sorry to hear what happened to your homeboy, but don’t learn the hard way like I did, homie. Any nigga can kill a man, that don’t make you a real nigga. Real is responsibility. Real is taking care of your motherfucking family. Real is God, nigga.”
It’s not just what you said, but how you said it all. You spoke to me with equal parts internal reflection and straightforward rap telling me what was really going on. I heard heavy lyrics often contrasted by light musical ideas with a tight rhythm section keeping things moving.
The way Kendrick told me about the events of his experience was like I was there getting high and robbing people with him, but I could also feel the internal struggle to be something more. You contained a level of story-telling and maturity which I hadn’t heard before. The way you brought everything together was world-class and I knew it without even having the understanding at the time. I was a spectator at the Olympics in a sport that I’d never watched or played before, but somehow I was the one winning gold.
To me, ‘real’ music is something that makes you feel something. ‘Real’ music can transport you to another place or mood, or give you a glimpse into someone else’s life or experience. Good Kid, M.A.A.D City; you did exactly that, and I can’t believe that I could’ve ever written you off for not being ‘real’.
Since listening to you my tastes have widened incredibly, and the influences behind how I play and write music are so much more diverse. Being able to work with others on musical ideas whilst taking inspiration from outside of our genre is incredibly freeing. So thank you Good Kid, M.A.A.D City and thank you Kendrick Lamar, for changing how I perceive music forever and making me always search for more.
– Rachit Moti (drums)
Brisbane’s The Dollar Bill Murrays have just dropped their fuzz-rockin’ new single, ‘The Shape You Take’. Give it a listen below and catch them touring live across the Aussie east coast this month (dates below).
The Dollar Bill Murrays – ‘The Shape You Take’ 2018 Tour Dates
Friday, 15th June
Valve Bar, Sydney
Saturday, 16th June
The Gasometer Hotel, Melbourne
Saturday, 23rd June
Sonic Sherpa Records, Brisbane
Tuesday, 3rd July
Howl & Moan Records, Byron Bay