2007: The Playlist
I don’t know why I am expecting anyone to be disappointed that I did not know anything about music when I was 14, though I do feel like many of my friends and peers had a lot better perception of music than I did at that age! I am not sure if you’ll find anything new is what I am saying, though I say this being me, knowing who I was in 2007. To make up for any lack of possible newness, here’s some blurbs to give context to why some songs and acts are there.
“We Takin’ Over” by DJ Khaled (ft. T.I., Rick Ross, Fat Joe, Birdman & Lil Wayne)
We the Best, 2007
My main source of music by the beginning of 2007 was MTV Jams, a cable channel that exclusively played hip-hop music videos. I feel like I have to explain such a thing existed because it sure doesn’t exist now in the age of YouTube. I also feel compelled to point out that the team-ups of DJ Khaled songs once seemed fresh, a spectacle even — how else would you explain this roster of names? T.I. ruled my life then during a previous season thanks to King while I repeated Lil Wayne’s final verse over and over again. (He did his own “We Takin’ Over” freestyle for Da Drought 3, though it felt less of the “feed me rappers of feed me beats” madness that the original was.)
“Frozen” by Slick Rick (ft. Raekwon)
The Art of Storytelling, 1999
“Frozen” reminds me my listening habits of searching up music on YouTube has yet to change since 2007. I’d spend at least a good hour, like I do now, just clicking on stuff suggested on the Recommended side bar. To get to this lesser-known 1999 Slick Rick cut, I think I began with maybe a Wu-Tang song: apart from a healthy diet of 36 Chambers tracks well over a year since I found the album, new Ghostface albums at the time, Fishscale and More Fish, kept 14-year-old me busy. Or maybe OutKast: I definitely know “Street Talkin’,” from the same Rick album, came into my life through the same process; I remember I was impressed by how it’s a reversal of “Da Art of Storytellin’, Pt. 1.”
“Fudge Pudge” by Organized Konfusion
Organized Konfusion, 1991
Speaking of YouTube, I also began to make and upload my own videos then. Fooling around with Windows Movie Maker, I first edited together mundane videos like me and my friends playing Jenga. I put Organized Konfusion’s “Fudge Pudge” on there, which is why I remember this track out of anything in their catalog. (Their self-titled album, which includes this song, and their most well-known classic, Stress: The Extinction Agenda, is not available on Spotify — criminal!)
“You Know What Time Is It!?” by Teriyaki Boyz
Beef or Chicken, 2005
I soon began uploading Vlogs that same year. My high-school friends and acquaintances to this day mention them to me, maybe partly because it had a hooking gimmick of me asking “what time is it” to describe what is happening at given moment I rolled my digital camera. Naturally, I called the series “What Time Is It?” and I distinctly remember using this song on one of my episodes because why wouldn’t I? (Teriyaki Boyz’ Beef or Chicken is not available on Spotify, though “Cho LARGE” from the album is.) I think I still get copyright takedown notices from the ’90s rap I put in those videos almost 15 years later.
“Rocketship” by One Be Lo
Another source of new music was MySpace, specifically the music on my friend’s MySpace profiles. I set up my own page a year before, and I was definitely displaying my tastes there from the artists I had on my top 8 — it didn’t take long for social pressure to make me abandon how it’s intended to be used and instead fill it with band pages — to the music I had up on my profile. I’d also snoop around the pages of my friends, and friends of friends, and take in what they had to share. One Be Lo and his former group Binary Star was one of whom I added to my library this way, as well as Aceyalone’s “Moonlit Skies” and Rhymefest’s “Build Me Up,” featuring Ol’ Dirty Bastard singing “Build Me Up Buttercup.”
“88” by The Cool Kids
Totally Flossed Out EP, 2007
I remember scouring MySpace in secret to find out who was responsible for songs like “88,” “Black Mag” and “Pump Up the Volume” because I couldn’t just ask the person who had it on their page. It felt like asking a magician how he does his tricks, and I also didn’t want to fess up that there was something related to music that I didn’t know. The Cool Kids was also the first artist that made me realize there were rap acts not on radio or MTV. A music like theirs that was exclusively on the internet was a new kind of underground that feels more than commonplace now.
“Go On Without You” by Shirley Murdock
Shirley Murdock!, 1986
A good chance any music before the ’90s made it to my iTunes library is because they were sampled by some hip-hop producer. This one is a tad embarrassing because, well, see: this took so long to find partly because I had to do one deep Google search to find whatever this song was that Kanye West was making here. (It is Do or Die’s “Paid the Price,” from their 2005 album, D.O.D., which inexplicably is the only Do or Die album not available on Spotify.) I was so goddamn happy when I finally found it that I had to rave about it to a poor friend who obviously didn’t care at all.
“Let’s Groove” by Earth, Wind & Fire
My parents did not play any old music growing up and instead listened to Top 40 radio most of the time; my dad went through a steady rotation of CDs by Eminem, Jay Z and Kanye West before I started building my own library of music. So oldies like this, along with Kool and the Gang and even Michael Jackson — whose Thriller was enjoying a 35th anniversary in 2007 — I learned through my friends, who I’m sure was handed down these songs from family a generation before them.
“Teachme” by Musiq Soulchild
I also inherited the taste for neo-soul and R&B slow jams from my friends, who I think found some of what they recognized growing up in their parents’ music in Musiq Soulchild. The more plush R&B cuts from Mario (“How Do I Breathe”) and Marques Houston (“Favorite Girl”) are removed of the nostalgia but nevertheless feels adjacent to this circle of mid-00s R&B. I think this is where my affection for K-pop B-sides come from, the slower type of album songs that look back to the groups of the ‘90s.
“One and Only” by Timbaland (ft. Fall Out Boy)
Shock Value, 2007
A lot of things from my Last.fm scrobbles just shouted 2007 from “Crank That (Soulja Boy),” the many T-Pain features as well as his singles from the great Epiphany, the Fueled By Ramen roster — which we will get to in a minute. But Timbaland circa Shock Value eclipses most of those period-specific choices. Those trance-y synths, perhaps more prominent in “The Way I Are” with Keri Hilson in that album, feel of the time thanks to “Sexyback” and also Danja’s work in Britney Spears’ Blackout. We glossed over it, but you can hear that as well in Bobby Valentino’s “Anonymous.”
(The other player who surprisingly does not get featured in this playlist is Terius “The-Dream” Nash and Tricky Stewart, whose “Shawty Is the Shit” did not do much for me at the time. The scrobbles are missing but I do remember liking “Falsetto,” though.)
“Can’t Be Saved” by Senses Fail
Still Searching, 2007
This might be the right place to note in detail my relationship with emo and all the other adjacent rock music of this time. Music was not at all central to my life when mall rock/Hot Topic-core types like My Chemical Romance circa Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge or Fall Out Boy’s From Under the Cork Tree broke out to radio; the latter band was a blip mostly because the music video for “Sugar, We’re Going Down” looked very strange for a teen like me raised exclusively by rap videos. So when Fall Out Boy returned with Infinity on High, it felt like a right time to dig into this kind of stuff proper. They also brought along DCD2, then known as Decaydance, and naturally I gravitated towards the label’s acts, mainly Panic! at the Disco but also Cobra Starship about a year later.
If I didn’t grab at these things myself, my friends would’ve put me on. That’s what happened with Boys Like Girls and We the Kings. A big one was Senses Fail, a band that one of my friends loved, and I think she at least indirectly introduced me to acts like the Red Jumpsuit Apparatus and 30 Seconds to Mars. In fact, I think most of the bands under this nebulous umbrella wouldn’t have entered my life without my friends sharing me their music, which takes us to…
“Here We Go Again” by Paramore
All We Know Is Falling, 2005
A friend introduced me to Paramore via “Misery Business,” a legit pop hit at the time. I ended up buying Riot! like a few months after, and I would just wear that album out. Oddly, hardly any Riot! songs other than “Misery Business” show up on the upper ranges of my Last.fm scrobbles in 2007. When I eventually put together a 2008 playlist, that album would definitely rank among the top 5.
Even more strangely, “Here We Go Again” is the most played from that year. I listened to All We Know Is Falling slightly less than the Riot! stuff if I recall, though it was still part of my regular rotation, including “Here We Go Again.” I distinctly remember listening to “Brighter” even if it wasn’t a single because a friend really liked it, and that same friend would be instrumental in showing me some of my favorite indie-adjacent rock bands to this day.
“Black Fire” by Dragonforce
Valley of the Damned, 2003
The only reason I had anything to do with Dragonforce is because I saw someone play the band’s “Through the Fire and Flames” on Guitar Hero 3 at a friend’s house. Guitar Hero would introduce me to a number of rock songs: The Strokes’ “Reptilia” and The Fall of Troy’s “F.C.P.R.E.M.I.X.” are two I can name right off top. Another friend just bought Guitar Hero ’80s, and so that is why a Skid Row song and “I Ran (So Far Away)” make random appearances in this playlist. You can see how distant I was to rock music at the time, taking the effort of many different social forces for me to interact with it.
“Australia” by The Shins
Wincing the Night Away, 2007
That same friend I alluded to while discussing Paramore introduced me to the Shins. James Mercer’s lyrics at the time sounded like the strangest thing in the world, but I was enamored by how the man put words together. I got into the rest of Wincing the Night Away, an album I hardly see mentioned as a first-timer’s album. I liked Oh, Inverted World and Chutes Too Narrow, but Wincing the Night Away will always have that sentimental value going for it for me.
“Baby, It’s Fact” by Hellogoodbye
Zombies! Aliens! Vampires! Dinosaurs!, 2005
I loved this album in 2007, though it feels too teenage and 2007 for me to revisit it to see if it holds up. I won’t disown it, but it’s one part of this year that I’d rather not much engage with again at least for the time being.