I didn’t love Danny Brown at first. It took me a couple of years to hear his genius before playing XXX and Black and Brown on repeat and getting some of his lyrics tattooed (so just a super chill fan now).
Same with Count Bass D. I scored a Pre-Life Crisis CD at a used shop and at first shied away from the record’s intense originality, eventually singing every song and discovering more of his work like Art for Sale and soon, the crew classic, Dwight Spitz.
It even happened with DOOM. I vividly remember holding Operation DOOMSDAY in my hand dozens of times at music stores as a kid and for some reason not buying it. I couldn’t stop being drawn to the art but I wasn’t up for the challenge. I was buying what I already knew to stay comfy (and unafraid) like De La, Del, Tribe, Wu, Beasties, and Biz.
My harmful self-protection (aka fear) kept me from experiencing DOOM for years. This part of me that wanted to avoid harm was trying it’s best to help but failing huge.
The art testing (harming) me let me know I have a ton of work to do to 1) sound anything like these cats or, even better, 2) be ok with their genius without needing the sound to come from me. Ego all-round.
This stuff challenges the ‘white man with the answers’ ideology engrained in me via society from day one. Combine that with a suburb kiddo doing everything they could to wear the right stuff to fit in and you get a big ole pile o’ fear.
Even into my 20’s, when I heard new stuff I would sometimes throw shade because it was either so different from what I was doing or — more often — because it sounded like what I might be capable of with a scary amount of work. Instead of spending hours practicing I could protect my ego by hating.
I’m so happy to call these vibes out and grateful to be able to see it happening more clearly now. This can be what practicing growing looks like. We can give ourselves props for recognizing wack patterns and not letting them detour our listening, learning, and building as artists and people.
It’s OK to look back and be like, “WTF old me?!” There’s no way for us to have the perspective we do now as youth. But if growth is the goal, It’s not OK to move forward without responding when we notice we’re protecting our ego and hiding from things we’re likely to love deeply if we can let go of fear.