Why I Liked David Turner’s De La Soul Piece
Sasha Frere-Jones
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I’m not sure if a lot of the review’s backlash stems from the fact he slammed the album; I think it’s how he chose to slam it.

I’m around David’s age, and as a fellow millenial music fanatic, I do my best to catch up on the classics that thrived before my time. This being the case, I understand finding older music corny. I love Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell. I’ve never been able to understand Crosby, Stills, and Nash or even Neil Young (although I do somewhat enjoy “Ohio” — I guess two negatives make a positive?)

This is true especially when it comes to older rap music, coming from someone whose first favorite rap song was Eminem’s “Without Me”. There are some acts from the early eras I genuinely enjoy — Public Enemy, Beastie Boys, Slick Rick — and then there are some I find it harder to take at face value. Hip-hop is a genre that has made incredible sonic strides since its conception. For me, it’s not hard to see how dated early rap records sound to just about anyone my age, most of them folks without a personal investment in the genre. I still remember listening to BDP’s “My Philosophy” in my dorm one day when my friend walked in, furrowed his brow, and asked “Why the hell are you listening to Will Smith?”

When it comes to older records that “broke the molds of their time”, you never quite know what that means in their contexts. It’s not like listening to Kanye’s “Runaway” for the first time now and thinking that was out of this entire world. It’s like listening to “Please Please Me”, a song that provided a blueprint for countless others, and thinking huh I see how this was cool…then. Those songs got so absorbed into the cultural consciousness that when I started making my way back in time, it felt like I heard it 20,000 times before.

Nonetheless, I think it’s still essential to understand and acknowledge the importance of these groups. More importantly, it’s important to listen with an open mind. You never know what you may get listening again to a song you disliked or didn’t get at first.

To me, the De La review felt off-handed and sloppy; right from the get-go, it seemed Turner was disinterested in the album. It sounded like he was embittered by the fact everyone told him to listen to 3 Feet High and Rising. The tone is skepticism that quickly turns into stingy lethargy. I’m not sure what anybody’s supposed to get from an album review that mentions bagels and emojis constantly. It’s not doing anyone any favors — the readers, the album, himself — if he can’t get off his own I’m-so-young-I’m-not-gonna-get-this-oh-I-was-right-I-don’t-get-this thought process. And after all, as Andrew Noz once said, a critic’s first duty should be to the art.

I get his point about how being told to listen to older records feels like a chore to him. But as a music fan and tastemaker, shouldn’t you want to listen to just about everything you can, especially if it gives more context to what you listen to now? Almost every time I get wind of an artist I’ve never heard of before, I immediately listen to a song of theirs or save their albums for later. I’m always trying to learn as much about music as I can, especially from their older contexts. I can’t pretend I love every older song or artist I listen to, but I can always gain a new appreciation, for either the influence or the influenced.

Then again, growing up as a music fan in an age where the market is so saturated, it is hard to want to listen to older records over and over, unless they’re the ones that remain ahead of their time. When a plethora of new music is relentlessly pouring out, it’s tough for a music fan to keep up with everything they want to or feel they need to.

But I think that it is important to keep listening to our history, if for no other reason than to understand how we got here today.

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