I believe institutional racism is the most important problem to solve in the United States right now. My engagement with and emotions about this situation escalated over the course of the summer, and I’m at the point where I have to do more than just keep mulling things over. Though I don’t normally go all-in on one theme with my quarterly Collected mixes, I wanted to use this one to share how I’m processing racism with the hope that it helps me make a connection or improve my thinking and actions in some way. Making mixtapes has long been my go-to outlet for working out difficult stuff, and I’m kind of all over the place here. So, yeah, music, please. If you’re listening, we most likely know each other. If you’re feeling similarly or if something I wrote doesn’t quite sit right or comes across tone deaf, please, let’s talk about it.
- Stranger Things | Kyle Dixon & Michael Stein
Stranger Things, Vol. 1 (A Netflix Original Series Soundtrack) | 2016
The Stranger Things opening theme song is sick, but what really drew me in to the show is how it takes on the themes of oppression, isolation, trust, and sacrifice and depicts what it’s like to fight for (and win) acceptance of your reality from others. Consider this your welcome to the upside down, where some fearsome shit going on. Accept this reality.
- Drowning (feat. Badbadnotgood) | Mick Jenkins
The Healing Component | 2016
The passage of time might be a necessary condition for the US to heal from our legacy of oppression of people of color, but it has proven to certainly not be sufficient. I first heard Mick Jenkins guest on Badbadnotgood’s good, good, not bad album, IV earlier this year. They team up again on “Drowning” for Mick’s new album. I’ve been laboring over this mix for weeks, unsure about how to communicate my feelings, my thoughts, and my readiness to act as an agent of change in the anti-oppression movement. Let’s start with some feelings.
- Black America Again (feat. Stevie Wonder) | Common
Black America Again (feat. Stevie Wonder) – Single | 2016
Black lives matter to me, and I bet they matter to you, too. But Common makes it clear the country at large isn’t behaving that way.
- BlackLifeMother (prod. IGNORVNCE) | DoNormaal
Jump Or Die | 2015
DoNormaal. Whoa. Watch her perform a cappella at KEXP’s grand opening in April.
- Wake Up | The Chambers Brothers
Love, Peace, And Happiness | 1969
“Wake up. You’ve got the power to get up. Now’s the moment to stand up.” I’ve been collecting a fair amount of vinyl this year (too much, really, but it’s so fun), and weird and cool album covers like this still draw my eye, especially when they’re by The Chambers Brothers, known best for “Time Has Come Today“.
- Round And Round (original mono single version) | Jerry Jeff Walker
Mr. Bojangles | 1968
“Now life is strange when you think about the paradoxes we all live around. Well, teach the young to love their neighbors but make sure that they grow up.” I’m really stretching some song meanings, I know. It’s because these are songs that have made me think and feel the most deeply last quarter, and that’s what this mix is about. I looked it up, Andrew from Parquet Courts is a fan.
- Philosophy Of The World | The Shaggs
Philosophy Of The World | 1969
The story of the Shaggs is irresistible. A trio of teen sisters, under the management of their dad, form a garage rock group in the late ’60s, perform at a bunch of wholesome house parties and town dances, and record an album in one day. I’m not sure what’s going on for me with this pick. On the one hand their “Philosophy Of The World” is naive, or maybe just cynical, but on the other hand their performance is endearing and earnest. It sort of demonstrates how good people can come to bad conclusions about the imbalance of privilege and oppression.
- Ticklish Warrior | Thee Oh Sees
A Weird Exits | 2016
Let’s call this my pillow to scream into.
- Clear Your History | Grandaddy
Way We Won’t – Single | 2016
I’ve been struggling with my whiteness (and my maleness, my straightness, my middle class-ness — my privilege), as well as my resistance to conflict, and my self-doubt and self-critique. What if I can’t remove the proverbial log from my own eye, and I come across as self-righteous or disingenuous? Jason Lytle shows us how to touch bottom like no one else can do.
- Do You Need My Love | Weyes Blood
Front Row Seat To Earth | 2016
“Tired of feeling so bad. The world that I knew just fell through and left me outside. And we may be blind more than the others.” How can we mend the relationship between races? Don’t we need each other?
- Bum Bum Bum | Cass McCombs
Mangy Love | 2016
Was there any question whether Cass would write my favorite protest song? Mangy Love is one my favorite albums of the year. Unlike so many of my favorite singer songwriters, over the course of thirteen years, Cass has not strayed from the heart of what I find special about him. I saw him perform this song at the Tractor Tavern directly following the first presidential debate, and it was just what I needed.
- Winter In America | Gil Scott-Heron & Brian Jackson
Midnight Band: The First Minute Of A New Day | 1975
Serendipity struck one late summer Sunday at Holy Cow Records when I happened upon Midnight Band and knew it was important that I listen. We have experience with racism, and we’ve improved our understanding of how to affect change. I have a lot of listening to do.
- But You | Blood Orange
Freetown Sound | 2016
Freetown Sound has a lot to say on the topic of racism. It’s another of my favorite albums of the year. Dev explains “But You” like this: “It’s actually about walking down a street, and me trying to work out what to do, say, if there’s like a young blond girl in front of me, and we’re the only ones on the street, and it’s me trying not to scare her walking — trying to work out if I should cross the road, if I should walk faster and try to speed past — but it’s kind of told through this shield.” Implicit bias and racial profiling cause people of color to have to constantly protect white people in this way, and that’s not acceptable.
- Freedom Interlude | Noname
Telefone | 2016
“Just a feeling… It’s just a feeling. It’s like how do you tell somebody how it feels to be in love? How are you going to tell anybody who has not been in love how it feels to be in love? You cannot do it to save your life. You can describe things, but you can’t tell them. But you know it, when it happens. That’s what I mean by “free”. I had a couple times on stage when I really felt free, and that’s something else. That’s really something else! I’ll tell you what freedom is to me: No fear!” -Nina Simone on freedom, sampled in the outro of “Freedom Interlude”. Telefone is great, too, geez. Did I mention that 2016 has been a spectacular year of music for me?
- I Am For Real | George Duke
Follow The Rainbow | 1979
How about something fun to finish up this heavy mix? I am for real, though, things need to change.