A Trip Down Memory Lane With Some of Music’s Rising And Biggest Stars
Everybody starts somewhere. Before your favorite recording artist was making songs you know by heart, they were children absorbing the sounds and rhythms around them. Those early exposures and experiences with music either shape the artist-to-be’s musical prowess or at the very least inform it.
I decided to report on these evocative moments in the lives of so many recording artists today so that there could be more lines interlaced inside of the entire industry. I rounded up the artists IBRA, Torres, Abhi of now-defunct Abhi//Dijon, Dijon, Wiz Khalifa and Flying Lotus for interviews where I started with the same question. What is your earliest memory of music? I hoped to gain insight into these artists’ works and better understand the choices they made along their ways to become who they are today. Below are their answers. I hope you enjoy them. Don’t forget to leave a comment!
“My earliest memories specifically would be my parents would always play like Bollywood music in the car. I would listen to electronic music like Daft Punk. I was really into Daft Punk. And then after that I moved onto rock music, like Radiohead. I was really into Radiohead. And I guess more accurately there is… Neptune type production. Anything that they do in general I really like, that really sugary pop stuff. Yeah. I think that’s it,” IBRA says from his home studio in Dallas, Texas, where he has embarked on a career in electronica and pop. With three releases under his belt, including the latest entirely strictly instrumental effort, these memories match up to the music the young artist makes today.
“That’s a good question… my mom used to play “Fur Elise” on a grand piano when I was really young. She loved playing that song on the piano. That’s probably as far back as I can remember,” Torres says. Torres is an independent American singer, songwriter, musician and artist from Macon, Georgia who later studied Songwriting and minored in English at Belmont in Nashville, Tennessee. Working in indie and alternative rock as well as folk, her memories of classical music served her well in her career as a foundation to build her music upon.
“ Mine was Bollywood showtunes for like the first five years of my life. I don’t know what else came before that. I was born in India before we moved here, so,” Abhi says, making this case study a little more interesting. Abhi primarily works in rhythm and blues, and his slow, measured music isn’t exactly a brainchild of the thumping Bollywood tablas and synths that captivated generations before him.
“I was a military kid and I just remember being in Germany listening to the Diddy joint where in the video he falls off the bike. I was born in Washington State before settling down in Maryland — we used to be all over the place,” Dijon says. Now this, this makes perfect sense given Dijon’s similar trajectory in navigating the music industry from the time he was in a band with Abhi. In the time spent pursuing a solo recording career, Dijon has infused folk music into rhythm and blues, something that to do well is a lot harder than it sounds. Indeed, it is this very nomadic memory of music that spells out Dijon’s musical philosophies in a plain, relatable fashion.
“[My] earliest memory of music is probably listening to Alexander O’Neal and stuff like that with my dad. Singing Chubb Rock lyrics. He used to listen to a whole lot of ’90s rap,” says Wiz Khalifa, the music industry’s most fearless cannabis connoisseur. He made a living off of talking about the drug in his music in just about every way you could imagine. This memory of music — singing Chubb Rock lyrics, with his father no less — invokes images of a young Wiz already basking in the ultimate, easy-going, road-tripping stoner-buddy persona he has claimed as his to take from him.
“I just remember listening to a lot of Stevie Wonder,” says Flying Lotus from somewhere in Los Angeles. He is an experimental multi-genre music producer, electronic musician, DJ, filmmaker, and rapper known for his otherworldly live shows and extraterrestrial soundscapes. Imaging a young Flying Lotus being exposed to long-standing, traditional genres like the ones Stevie Wonder worked in (soul, pop, R&B, funk, jazz), the ties to Flying Lotus’ daring takes on jazz make sense, but the soul and pop sensibilities that came so naturally to Stevie Wonder seem to have escaped Flying Lotus in his career.
All of these musicians were very adept at pinpointing specific names and times that mark their earliest memory of listening for pleasure. This speaks to something in the music business, and how it breeds new generations and waves of creatives seemingly everyday. Influence is always spreading, and there are always people hanging onto every note.