My Favorite Albums: OutKast’s Aquemini

aquemini-558a0696ab9efI spent the summer and fall of 1998 as a college intern at a research facility in Columbus, Ohio. I was at a real crossroads – my grades from the fall of 1997 and the spring of ’98 were not good1. I was focused on all the wrong things, and I was hoping my natural ability would allow me to get by.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough, so I made the hard decision to take a semester (Fall 1998) off from school.

Looking back, it was one of the best decisions in my life. I was away from school and away from friends. I was expected to show up to work on time and to be prepared when I showed up. I had to pay my bills on time and budget.

I was able to align my priorities. I started taking better care of myself.

That’s one of the reasons I love Aquemini. It was the soundtrack to that season in my life. I loved jams, I loved the beats, I loved the lyrics. Dre and Big Boi were maturing from  Southernplayalistic… and ATLiens. I was maturing, too. Continue reading “My Favorite Albums: OutKast’s Aquemini”

My Favorite Albums: Songs In The Key Of Life

Songs_in_the_key_of_life[1]Last week, I ported over a 4-part series about Steve Wonder’s from my old blog. The posts were about his greatest recording period – the late 60’s and his 1970- 76 “Classic Period”1:

As I re-read the posts, I realized two things:

  1. I  never covered his “Commercial Period” (the 1980’s – where he was one of the most commercial artists of the decade).
  2. I talked about the albums from a technical viewpoint, but not from a personal point of view.

Maybe I’ll write about Stevie’s 1980’s output later on. Today, I’ll cover my favorite Stevie Wonder album; his magnum opus: Songs In The Key of Life. Continue reading “My Favorite Albums: Songs In The Key Of Life”

My Favorite Albums: Mos Def and Talib Kweli are Black Star


I first heard Black Star in the summer of 1999. I was between my senior and “super senior1” years in college and was interning in New York (working on Long Island, living in Brooklyn). It was a special time in my life; I was evaluating my next steps through all prisms (social, spiritual, economic) and was making key decisions about the direction I wanted to take.

New York was the perfect backdrop for my sometimes poignant, often pointless ponderings on life. The city was a hotbed of activity and I took in my fair share –readings at Nuyorican Poets Cafe, jazz at the Blue Note, way-too-late nights out at countless Reggae clubs, and long walks throughout Manhattan.

It was on one of those long walks that I came across Black Star; by chance I walked into a free concert in Central Park. N’Dea Davenport was the featured performer. She was good… but the real stars were the lyrical duo of Mos2 and Talib. They flowed effortlessly on stage, as if they had been doing it for years.

I wrote their names down in my quotes book (along with the line “Your skin is the inspiration for cocoa butter”) and went on about my business… forgetting about them after a while.

Continue reading “My Favorite Albums: Mos Def and Talib Kweli are Black Star”

My Favorite Albums: Al Green’s Call Me

Call MeI’ve never used this phase before (and I hope to never use it again), but nothing else describes Al Green’s Call Me as well as the oft-used term “Grown Folks Music”.

I was first introduced to a few cuts from Call Me in the summer of 1995, on a double date 1 with some friends from high school. My buddy (RIP Leon) supplied the wheels and the music – a 1991 Saab and Al Green’s Best Of. While I knew most of the tracks, two in particular stood out: “Call Me (Come Back Home)” and “You Ought To Be With Me”. There was a heft and grit in Al Green’s voice that I hadn’t heard since discovering Billie Holiday. He was raw and vulnerable…. but at the same time, tough, proud, and matter-of-fact.

Continue reading “My Favorite Albums: Al Green’s Call Me”

My Favorite Albums: Incognito’s Positivity

Spring 1995 41WTQ5EAWZL[1]: I was a senior in high school, preparing for graduation, submitting college applications… and getting ready for my senior prom. My senior year had turned out to be pretty good, and I was aiming for Senior Prom to be my magnum opus. I wanted to be the best dressed, smoothest, most sophisticated cat in the building.

By April, I had just about everything in order: Date confirmed. The ride on lock (my mom’s brand new Buick LeSabre). A black, single breasted tux with a midnight blue vest1. A day-of appointment to get a fresh cut.2 All that remained was completing my mixtape. Continue reading “My Favorite Albums: Incognito’s Positivity”