I’ve come to the conclusion that I may be one of those “trapped in the ’90s” people Nas talked about on “Loco-Motive.” However, I’m not on the level that the kids from Dope are.
Unlike those kids, I was born in the late 80s, so my childhood was the 90s and my teens were the 2000s. I’m somewhat trapped in the 2000s too for some of the same reasons. I miss most of the music and the nostalgia of innocent and happier times. But, I definitely miss the way music was mostly purchased: on CDs.
Do you remember buying CDs and struggling to open the plastic on the CD case? Do you remember being so happy to finally open the case and thumb through the album booklet, looking at the fly photos and reading the lyrics and thank yous? Do you remember looking at the pristine CD, with no scratches, and putting the CD into your CD player (or your computer, boombox, or your car’s CD player) and letting it ride out as much as you can before you wore the CD out? Great times, right? Maybe? …Not?
It’s a memory for most people, but not so much for me. Even though I buy most of my music via iTunes now due to its convenience, I still buy CDs on occasion because there’s something so magical and exciting about those moments. Opening up a CD and listening to it for the first time as you look at the lyrics and album artwork is like getting a gift you’ve anticipated for a long time, with the satisfaction of your gift relying on how amazing it came out. Sometimes, the music is great; other times, it’s lackluster or just straight up terrible. But the process of unwrapping all of the layers and sitting with the work is so awesome to me. I did that as a kid and teenager.
Now, as an adult who relies on music streaming sites and outlets for almost all of my music consumption, I miss that feeling.
I love the tedious task of opening the case, the new smell and feel of the booklet, and even the way that you have to hold the CD so you don’t get fingerprints on it. I treasure those moments because, to me, music is so personal and intimate, especially in the first few listens. Unlike most people, I can’t really “tweet through it” or talk about it as I listen. I have to sit with it by myself for the first or second time. With some albums, like Kendrick’s To Pimp A Butterfly, I wait until the fourth or fifth listen.
I’m afraid that I won’t have many more opportunities to buy CDs and experience music that way. There’s been a consistent decline in CD sales here in the U.S. because, of of course, most people are opting for music streaming. Along with that, someone tweeted about how most CDs don’t come with lyrics anymore, which led me to tweet what I said above. It spawned a lot more retweets and people in my mentions than I’m used to. It even brought in a few tweets from one of my favorite music journalists, fellow hip-hop head and R&B lover, Rob Markman, about a joint project that Genius is doing with Spotify that allows you to read song lyrics as you listen. It’s still in the beginning stages, so every song doesn’t have this available, but check out this feature on Genius’ hip-hop playlist on Spotify by clicking the link in Rob’s tweet:
I think that the Spotify and Genius collaboration is really cool for the direction that the music industry and music consumption is going in. But, it doesn’t make up for the trip to the record store, especially the local shops. It doesn’t make up for the physical touch, for the album artwork, and even for purchasing music, no matter how much most artists make from streaming services – which is close to nothing, if we’re being real. I mean, I could buy the album on iTunes and then go back to Spotify to listen to it with the lyrics, but going to a “brick and mortar” record store is important to me. Opening a CD is important to me. Touching the album artwork and the CD are important to me. Reading the lyrics out of the album booklet is important to me. I know that Kanye isn’t a fan of CDs anymore, but it’s all a part of my preference, my music experience.
So, in homage of being “trapped in the 90s” and the 2000s, I plan on making a trip to my favorite music store to buy a new CD, then open it up and take some time to sit with it. I want to experience this magic again, because even though CDs may come back into rotation like vinyl has, the production will eventually die down…and I know I’m gonna miss it.