“…And while so much of this shit was all up in my head, when the hurt was finally real–and this little girl, I do remember, ‘cause I would eventually marry her–it was joints like Pendergrass’s “I Can’t Live Without Your Love,” Rick James + Teena Marie’s “Fire and Desire,” and more obscure fare like Booker T. Jones “I Came to Love You” and Michael Henderson’s “Take Me I’m Yours” (both found in my mother’s ‘45 collection) that provided sonic catharsis. What I often found myself committing to those mixtapes that I was started making in the early 1980s, as I transitioned from high school to college, was the most complex version of myself; the me that I most wanted to be was always gonna be found in those sonic archives.Some of that complexity was found simply in the presentation of those mixtapes; every one of those tapes, featured visuals, usually cut out of my mother’s Essence Magazine–a thing I borrowed from a college peer, who was a noted player and Division 3 high jump champion–understanding even then about the importance of aesthetics in the curation of the archive; our shit more broadly, has never been about boxes and storage shelves.For me, those mixtapes were not just a reflection of my love of music, but recognition of the thoughtfulness that went into constructing sonic representations of my passions, desires and moods. Like the DJs who work months in advance at creating mixes that folk will hear on the dancefloor at the club, I always understood (even before I had language to explain it) that these mixtapes represented my intellectual property—they were not simply songs thrown together randomly or in a sequence decided by some record company executive, but an attempt at meaning making that went beyond the intent of the artists whose songs might have appeared on one of those tapes…”
We often make a hard line break between analog and digital. But when discussing digital blackness, it may be there is a grey area or transition area (or an overlap??) where the skills and practice carry over, even if the tools do not. And I say that as someone who was a mixtape GURU herself once upon a time and became a CD guru by the time I got a CD burner (a fancy free technology at the time) for the computer I brought with me to college. And then there were those of us illegally downloading music throughout the dorms (because Napster) and then making playlists using VLC, WinAmp, or, later, iTunes. You could tell me NOTHING. You could tell US nothing. And many a dorm party put our mixing skills to the test.
I also see legacies of the mixtape and DJing in Soundcloud playlist play, in DJs like DJ Lynnee Denise.
Much to think about here.