Growing Up With Chad Kroeger and Spider-man

It’s easy to latch on to the idea of being a 90’s kid – there’s just so much to admire about the decade. There’s this ideal image of the music and culture that makes it appealing to associate yourself with. While my friends and I were born in the 90s, a large amount of our adolescent lives that we could actually “participate with the culture” was the 2000s (the otts, the 00s, whatever you want to call it).

I’ve started reading Colin Meloy’s contribution to the 33 1/3 on The Replacement’s album “Let It Be,” which focuses primarily on Meloy’s experience with music through the awkward years of junior high. “Let It Be” essentially sound-tracked the big memories in his life – school dances, playing on the JV basketball team, not being sure where you belong, etc. It seems like such an appropriate album for a time of transition. This got me to thinking about what particular album I can recall tying with junior high. Even though I listened to my (still) favorite all time band Remy Zero constantly, it pains me to admit that my Junior High defining album was “Music From and Inspired By: Spider-Man.”

Let me iterate that again. The Spider-man soundtrack was like my version of The Replacements “Let It Be.”

These days, it’s really cool and trendy to hate on Nickelback (myself not exclude from this) but it can’t be dismissed that in 2002 Nickelback was a juggernaut and most people I knew at the time thought they were a solid band. As promotions started for the upcoming Spider-man movie, the music video for Chad Kroeger and Josey Scott’s “Hero” was on constant rotation in the morning on MTV and VH1.

“This song is beautiful,” I remember thinking. The rolling snare abruptly being stopped by the booming strum of Chad’s acoustic guitar gave me goosebumps. The imagery of Spider-man swinging through buildings while Chad and the band played on a rooftop felt so serene, like an oil painting or a student art film. Then the vocal’s kick in with the killer opening line.

“I’m so high I can hear heaven, oh but heaven, but heaven don’t hear me.”

Sold. Shut up and take my money, Mr. Kroeger. You’ve made my puberty filled heart melt.

In a routine trip to Fred Meyer I convinced my dad to buy me the soundtrack as we passed through the electronics section. This was the summer before seventh grade. In a month or so I’d be going to a new school where I was totally unknown. Though I was able to make a few friends, I still felt a bit disconnected from everyone else that year. I was able to find my “group” to hang out with a lunch but didn’t see much of my classmates outside of school. Every day on the bus ride home, I’d take my CD case and red disc-man with matching over-the-ear headphones out of my rolling backpack and find the black disc with the orange lettering. Sitting in the back, I’d crank up the music and look out the window or sometimes observe the high schoolers laughing and talking away.

I’d skip the first track usually (the original Spider-man cartoon theme) and go straight to “Hero.” I tried really hard to like the Sum 41 song “What We’re All About” but could never manage it.

On days I tried to make a move on my current crush (which typically involved trying to start some sort of conversation) and inevitably failed it was straight to track 16, “She Was My Girl” by Jerry Cantrell. I didn’t know who Cantrell was at the time, but I thought he captured my angst and longing so well.

“She was my girl. Used to be my world.”

God damn, Jerry, have you been observing my life or something?

When I was feeling particularly angsty (again, usually over girl issues) it was “Learn to Crawl” by Black Lab.

“Tell your pretty red haired babe to forget that I exist”

Black Lab snarling those words over a chunky, melodramatic post-grunge guitar riff made me feel like I was a bad-ass that no one should try and mess with. Beneath by blue and black Nike windbreaker and graphic t-shirt was the heart of real rocker. I began to love music in the obnoxious “oMyGod MuZiK iZ mAi LyFe!” sort of way – infatuation, but not quite yet true love.

At home I’d put the CD in my computer while I worked on my large creative pursuit: Monkey Man comic books. I had a whole franchise planned out in my head including multiple series, spin-offs, and inevitably a major movie deal. At the core, it’s hard to say if Money Man was a spoof of Spider-man or just a blatant ripoff (I mean, being bit by a radioactive monkey is TOTALLY different than being bit by a radioactive spider). I think I played it off as a joke to people, but secretly I imagined Monkey Man swinging through New York on his vine as the bridge of “Hero” trembled in the background.

“It isn’t the love of a hero, that’s what I feel it won’t do.”

Looking back, it’s hard for me to listen to the Spider-man soundtrack and take it seriously. Still, it’s hard for me to dismiss something so pivotal to my early teen years. I may not be jamming out to Black Lab and Nickelback these days but those songs served as a stepping stone to what I listen to now. Chad Kroeger rocking out on an acoustic guitar had a profound impact on impressionable, tiny, naive, middle school Dusty. So Colin Meloy wins this round of cooler middle school jams, but I feel we still have shared the same feelings listening to our respective albums and I don’t think there’s any shame in that. I’ll hold on to this soundtrack like the wings of the eagles, and watch as they all fly away.

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My (Not So Real) Afternoon With Kanye West

Me and Kanye West, just chillin.

As I was listening to Kanye West the other day, I couldn’t help but think what it might be like to have a casual conversation with him. Not an interview, but just superficial interaction. This is how I think it would go:

It’s a crisp Autumn afternoon as I sit waiting at El Diablo Coffee in Upper Queen Anne. I sit a table by the window, checking my phone every few minutes to pass the time while I wait. It’s not everyday that you have coffee with Kanye West. He happened to be passing through Seattle today and a mutual friend of ours (who asked specifically to remain anonymous) thought we might get along so he gave Yeezy my e-mail and we scheduled this meeting. He happened to have no gigs planner or parties to hit up while he was here, so it seemed like the perfect time to do it.

The door swings open and who should it be but Mr. West himself. He looks around the room briefly, trying to spot me out. I wave to him and get out of my seat to greet him.

“Hey there. I’m Dusty,” I say.

“Very nice to meet you. I’m Kanye.” he says.

We take his satchel over to the coffee table to reserve our spot and then go over to the counter to order drinks. We wait in line for a moment.

“This is a pretty vibrant looking coffee shop,” he says.

“Yeah, it definitely has a lot of flair to it,” I say. “I thought you might like it. It definitely stands out from the rest.”

He laughs. “Ha, well looks like someone did their homework on me.”

Seriously, try and convince me this doesn’t look like his next album art.

We both share a chuckle for a moment as we finally reach the cashier. He orders a grande Americano and I order a Mexican Hot Chocolate. I try to pay but he insists, since I am sort of hosting him by showing him the area. I feel a little guilty, but in the end I am a gentleman and accept his offer graciously. The whirs and clanks of the coffee machine are loud next to us as we wait for our beverages. I can see Kanye tapping his hand against his leg, as if the sounds are giving him inspiration for a new beat. We grab our drinks and go sit down at our table.

Kanye gingerly takes a sip of his Americana.

“That’s a damn good Americano,” Kanye says.

“Yeah, this place is pretty great,” I say.

“Best coffee shop I’ve ever been to. I’ll have to remember to buy it later,” he says. We laugh, but I’m not sure how much joking was going on there.

“So our friend tells me your a musician yourself too,” Kanye says before taking another sip.

“Eh, I guess so. I play in a folk-rock, alt-country band,” I say. “We’re still small but it’s pretty fun.”

“Alternative country, huh? I love that shit,” he says. “I’ve actually been working on a side project of that genre for awhile now. Been keeping it pretty under wraps till the right moment.” He looks around the room quickly, then back to me. “I’ll show you a quick clip if you promise to keep it on the down-low.”

I agree and he pulls out his iPhone. Though he seemed initially worried about others hearing before, he plays it through the speakers. It’s a bit hard to hear, but I’m able to discern a distinct twang reminiscent of Ryan Adams or possibly the Avett Brothers. Kanye’s voice fits surprisingly well in this manner.

“No one man should have all the power…”

“This is really good stuff, Kanye.” I say.

“Please, just call me Yeezy,” he says. “Do you really think that or are you just saying that to be polite?”

“No, I really like it. It reminds me of Whiskeytown meets Wilco but with a more 70s influence.”

“That’s exactly what I’m going for! You’ve got a great ear.”

“Well it’s a great track! All I had to do was listen to it, you created it.”

We talk a little bit about alternative country and artists from other genres that we like. We both have a mutual appreciation for The Notorious B.I.G. and a mutual dislike for Taylor Swift. It helps ease the conversation quite a bit and gets us more comfortable with each other. When in a conversation with someone new, it’s always the best bet to go with any common denominator.

As we finish our drinks I ask Yeezy if he’s ever heard of Kerry Park. He hadn’t. So I insist that we simply must go check it out. It would be positively criminal if we didn’t. We get up from our seats, I open the door for him, and we step out onto Queen Anne Avenue. The weather is perfect. Cool enough to wear a light jacket, but warm enough to not need it.

We keep talking as we’re walking.

“So, how are things with your love life?” I ask. He smirks a bit and looks down at his feet.

“You know, it’s funny,” he says. “As a rapper, I’m expected to be all about gettin’ hoes and having orgies and whatnot; and I have done a lot of that, but right now I’m pursuing a girl that is different.”

“How so?”

“Well, she’s just not the typical girl I’d go for. She’s reserved, very quiet. She’s very pretty but not some bootylicious superstar model. She’s just…nice.”

“Well that sounds like it might be good for you; tone things down a bit.”

“Yeah, I think so too…what about you? You mentioned a girlfriend earlier.”

“Yeah, Kristin’s great. I’m really happy with her. We complement each other perfectly”

“Yeah man, that’s what I’m lookin’ for right there.”

“Yeah.”

“Yeah.”

Who will survive in Seattle?

We finally reach Kerry Park and witness one of the most amazing views my city has to offer. As Yeezy stands looking out over the skyline, I can almost read his thoughts: “I run this shit.”

“This is incredible,” he says. “Thank you for showing me this, Dusty.”

“Hey, it’s no problem at all,” I say. “Everyone should see this view at least once.”

I see Kanye wipe his eyes, possibly from tears but it’s hard to tell from the angle and the sunlight.

“I’ve had a great time today, but I have to meet up with our friend at the airport soon,” Kanye says softly.

“Definitely, I understand. Let’s get you back and ready to go.”

I turn to start walking back to Queen Anne Ave but I am stopped by Kanye grabbing me by the shoulder and turning me around. He looks me straight in the eye.

“Dusty. I hope to some day be half the man you have become before my eyes today.”

And with that, he vanishes in a brilliant flash of light. If I listen closely, I can almost hear the flute hook from “Jesus Walks” faintly playing in the background.

Jay Z’s 99 Problems (Part 1)

This man has problems.

In his song “99 Problems,” Jay Z famously proclaims “I got 99 problems but a bitch ain’t one.” He talks about a couple incidents he’s had before. The issue here (or you might even say, the “problem”) is that the chorus uses the present tense while most of the problems he brings up are problems he has had in the past. So what are the 99 problems he has? I’ve thought about this for a long time and I think I’ve figured it out. There’s a lot to cover so I will split this up over a few posts across a span of time.

1. He’s having trouble coming up with album titles that don’t involve the words “The Blueprint” in them.

2. Beyonce clearly hates him and all other men in the world (this doesn’t constitute as “girl trouble” because Beyonce is not a girl, she is Sasha Fierce).

3. He’s having writers block writing the sequel to his biography “Decoded.”

4. No one wants to publish a sequel to “Decoded.”

5. His new line of fragrance for men called “Dirt Off Your Shoulder” is failing in test groups with repeated comments saying “it smells like dirt.”

6. Rihanna wants to branch out and work with other rappers.

7. He keeps losing count when trying to count his money.

8. Jehovah is mad that he calls himself “Hova,” citing copyright claims.

9. He still feels hurt for Nicki Minaj totally outdoing him with her verse on “Monster.”

10. He was banking on being Donald Trump’s VP candidate.

11. His new line of fragrance for women called “Izzo” is failing in test groups with repeated comments saying “it smells like Seagrams wine coolers and bro sweat.”

12. The patent office rejected his application to obtain rights to the phrases “uh huh, uh huh.”

13. Soulja Boy is making a mockery of his genre.

14. He’s can’t figure out what the least sacrilegious name he could give to a future son who would be the son of the Hova.

15. He’s finding out that New York isn’t the place where dreams are made of. Dreams are actually created in the subconscious.

16. He’s misplaced one of his grammy’s.

17. His new line of fragrance for the elderly called “Money, Cash, Hoes” is failing in test groups with repeated comments saying “the only thing more offense than the name is the smell.”

18. He just can’t seem to break into the nursery school market with his record sales.

19. His life calling to be a wild life rescue official has been put on hold because of this little rap career.

20. He’s still having trouble making facial expressions.

Are Biggie Smalls And I The Same Person?

Biggie and I chilling, circa 1993.

The other day I was listening to The Notorious B.I.G., like I typically do on those lazy Monday afternoons, and I started noticing something in his music that I never have before. The song was “Juicy” from his debut album “Ready To Die.” I have always loved his phat beats under his illustrious flow but I never looked far past that. As I listened to his lyrics I realized that Biggie and I have very similar lifestyles. Not even just that, but we seem to have nearly exactly the same life experiences. This got me to thinking. Are Biggie Smalls and I the same person?

Biggie opens the track with some shout outs (something that I LOVE to do). He says the song is dedicated to teacher’s who said he would never amount to nothing. I can relate to this. I’ve had a couple times in college where I have gotten C’s on a paper and the professor would point out the flaws in their comments. It was basically like telling me I would never amount to anything. He think gives another shout out to the people who lived in the houses he hustled in front of. These people also called the police on him when all he was doing was trying to make money to feed his daughter. That line gives me goosebumps because it’s so similar to my life. Last summer I worked a job street canvassing for the ASPCA, trying to get people to donate money on the streets. People would be so cruel to me and sometimes store security would tell me to go somewhere else. I was just trying to feed myself and save poor, defenseless puppies! Just like Biggie!

It was all a dream
I used to read Word Up magazine
Salt’n’Pepa and Heavy D up in the limousine
Hangin’ pictures on my wall
Every Saturday Rap Attack, Mr. Magic, Marley Marl
I let my tape rock ’til my tape popped

Biggie then goes into this rhymes with the famous introduction “It was all a dream, I used to read What Up magazine.” Interesting, because I WANT TO WRITE FOR A MAGAZINE SOMEDAY AND BIGGIE READ MAGAZINES. Also, it should be noted that I also hang pictures on my wall. I also like to listen to rap on Saturdays.

Way back, when I had the red and black lumberjack
With the hat to match

This speaks for itself.

I’m blowin’ up like you thought I would
Call the crib, same number same hood
It’s all good


This blog is explicit evidence that I have also blown up. Also, I’ve had the same number since I was 13 years old. It’s all good.

Super Nintendo, Sega Genesis
When I was dead broke, man I couldn’t picture this


Respect.

I had a Sega Genesis. My step brother had a Super Nintendo. I remember when our parents got married I came to the realization that we were going to have both of these systems. I thought, “Man, I couldn’t picture this!”

No heat, wonder why Christmas missed us
Birthdays was the worst days
Now we sip champagne when we thirst-ay

Sometimes during the holiday season I think that we have MISSED the Christmas meaning. Also, I drank a glass of champagne on New Year’s Eve. I was thirst-ay. Really, it is impossible to ignore the similarities. Although the only thing I can think of that really separates us is the fact that he’s East Coast and I’m West Coast…

Awkward friendship.

And if you don’t know, now you know.