Shatter Your -Isms

Response to New York Times piece “The Pernicious Rise of Poptimism” by Saul Austerlitz

By Nik Bates

A writing response where I take down the notion of “poptimism,” arguing not only that pop music is worthy of educated critique but of how the ideas of poptimism, ageism and classism among others do nothing but the hurt music as a whole.

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MY FAVORITE SONG: March 31st, 2014

The Rolling Stones - “She’s A Rainbow” (Their Satanic Majesties Request)

I had always heard the Stones on the radio growing up. So, I’m very familiar with all of their hit singles. However, it wasn’t until my first year of college that I got into their albums.

Their Satanic Majesties Request is where I started.

The entire album is magical, but once I got to “She’s A Rainbow,” I couldn’t help but be overcome with feelings of joy and elation. The song sounds like everything that’s good about what it must feel like to be in love. There’s also something else I want to mention:

I think The Rolling Stones are better than The Beatles.

As musicians and song writers I find the Stones a lot more interesting. I mean, all I have to say is “Sympathy for the Devil” and that sums up why I like them way more. I have a much more substantial emotional connection with the Stones than I do The Beatles. It’s very hard to explain. I guess part of it is that I’ve always been told all my life that: “The Beatles are the greatest band ever,” or other things of that nature.

One time at Andres’ house, Marco was attempting to loop the piano part of the song and make a beat out of it. He was working with a sample of the riff in Audacity. I was actually trying to be the voice of reason, telling him that “She’s a Rainbow” is too much of a classic to be sampled into a hip-hop beat. I just can’t imagine it any other way.

This song comes on at work a lot. That’s actually where I discovered this song. It came on at work, so I ran to the back, looked up at the music player and wrote down the song title. To my surprise, it was The Rolling Stones. I thought I knew all of their songs. That’s what lead me to getting the whole album, then finally digging into the Stones.

In my opinion, Their Satanic Majesties Request kind of stands out above the rest of their releases. It’s one of those albums where I can’t pick out favorite songs, because the album is so incredible as a whole. It’s a single body of work meant to be appreciated from start to finish.

While I think Led Zeppelin is the best band of all time, here’s to The Rolling Stones, who I think is the greatest band of all time.*


* “Best” meaning most skilled, musically. “Greatest” meaning artistic excellence.

MY FAVORITE SONG: March 30th, 2014

Whitesnake - “Still of the Night” (Whitesnake)

When I hear this song, I immediately imagine lead singer David Coverdale singing the opening lyrics in a transparent shot over his band playing in the background (10 seconds in). 

Personally, I think that’s an iconic image. This music video visually captures the entire 80’s hair metal movement. Hard hitting guitar riffs, ballad-like vocalism, and head-banging drumming.

The reason I remember that opening shot of Coverdale the most is because there was this 80’s metal CD commercial that would play. It’s like one of those “Now! That’s What I Call Music” type compilations, but this one was for bands like Whitesnake, Warrant, Twisted Sister and Def Leppard. It was one of those sequences where it went like:

"Featuring ALL of your favorite hits! Such as… WHITESNAKE!" *Still of the Night plays for three seconds*

This isn’t the exact commercial, but I saw this one on TV all the time. If you were to play the audio from the commercial I’d be able to visualize it in my head. It also features a Whitesnake snippet.

The main guitar riff is one of my favorites of all time. I eventually learned how to play it on the guitar, and it is so much fun. The long break where the strings come in is also very catchy. The song has so many parts and verses, it’s all just very cool. 

Whitesnake is one of those bands that reminds me of my parents. Their taste for classic rock and heavy metal was a huge part of my life growing up. I heard this song in the car all the time. I experienced the 80’s vicariously through their music. Mix that with old picture albums, band t-shirts, Headbanger’s Ball VHS tapes, cheesy movies and awesome live albums and you have your own little classic rock and metal fan.

These music videos are so engrained in my memory, and I’m not even sure how. I don’t remember watched much of these videos too often, so I assume they were on often when I was young. They’ve been subconsciously embedded into my brain.

I have yet to meet someone with as much of an affinity or familiarity for 80’s metal like myself, yet still enjoys other genres like hip-hop or electronic music. If you’re out there, we can be best of friends, no doubt.


MY FAVORITE SONG: March 29th, 2014



And that is NOT an understatement. I can probably go on for hours describing everything I like about the song. 

I was already a huge fan of Asher Roth before this came out, but when dropped this track, my mind was blown. I mean not only is this Chuck Inglish beat in my opinion his best, but Asher Roth has the nastiest yet still unassumingly simple flow ever. 

This song is straight rap. No concept, no gimmicks, just lyrics. It’s probably one of the best examples of how mean Asher Roth is when he’s spitting, aside from “Summertime.” When I needed inspiration to write some of my more lyrical flows (especially I’m Only Nineteen’s second verse), I would go directly to this song and study Asher’s verses.

I can’t tell you how many times I tried making similar beats to this. None of them ever ended up being used, but I took a few cues from Chuck’s production on this and used them for beats in the past. One of the biggest things I learn from “In The Kitchen” was the kick and sub bass hit combination Chuck uses. It’s a very high end kick, with a low end sub that fills in whats missing in the bottom half of the kick. I used that technique a lot when I started making trap inspired beats.

I took a lot of things away from this video. Such as when the shot plays, then it reverses and that same shot plays backwards; I used that in “Whirlwind" quite a few times (I also listed Asher Roth & Chuck Inglish as my biggest inspirations in the description of the music video). I planned on using a lot of sideways panning shots for my song "Super Soakers," but that video is never coming out. 

I had been listening to Kanye West, Justice and A Tribe Called Quest for about four years consistently by the time this song came out. But it very quickly became one of my most listened to songs, clocking in 337 plays at the time of this writing, sitting at 6th place only behind Kanye, Tribe and Justice songs.

This song was my go-to song for pulling into the Southwestern College parking lot every morning. It was also my go-to song for leaving the parking lot every afternoon. I installed a subwoofer not too long before this song came out, so I was playing loud music every time I got in the car. I don’t think I’ve ever skipped this song when it came on. I’m always in the mood to listen to “In The Kitchen.”

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve posted this song on Facebook, Twitter or Tumblr. Any chance I get, I would play it, whether it be just sitting around at someone’s house, or at a party.

This song is amazing in my eyes.

It saddens me whenever Asher Roth is brought up and all someone can think of is “I Love College” (which is one of my favorite songs by him btw). I’d say 80% of people don’t know how nasty Asher is on the mic. I knew it when I heard Greenhouse Effect Vol. 1, and I still maintain that idea with Retro Hash coming out soon.

Pabst & Jazz is also one of my top mixtapes from 2011. I think just about every song has inspired me in some way. I mean, the title track, “Choices,” “Common Knowledge;” there are too many dope songs. This mixtape is also the first time I heard Action Bronson, A$AP Twelvy, Rockie Fresh and Hassani Kwess.

My biggest goal as a musician is to work with Asher Roth. I don’t even want to be a legend in the game. I just wanted to make a sustainable living off music and have the chance to work with one of the biggest inspirations I’ve ever had, musically. 

Here’s a kid from the suburbs, who was judged solely on his ability to rap, and not his street credentials. I mean, Don Cannon and DJ Drama of all people broke him into the rap game. It gives me a little bit of hope, reminding me that if I work hard on improving my lyricism, maybe I can actually get somewhere.

I say that I’d be incredibly satisfied if I got to “Asher Roth Level” in the music business, and that’s all I really want. He’s taken such a level-headed approach to music and that’s how I want to do it too. 

Here’s to hoping that one day, maybe I can work with Asher Paul Roth.


MY FAVORITE SONG: March 28th, 2014

Eminem - “Guilty Conscience Ft. Dr. Dre” (The Slim Shady LP)

When “The Real Slim Shady” came out, the only other remotely hip-hop artist I knew was Kid Rock. Eminem was essentially the first rapper I ever liked. But I wasn’t much of a music collector in 2000, so that was the only song I really listened to. It wasn’t until 2003 I really started digging into Eminem.

My dad ordered a copy of The Slim Shady LP from this music catalog. The day it came in the mail, he used the album to test out the system in his old car, the convertible Pontiac Sunfire. Not long after, I took the CD for myself when I found it in our CD stack holder. I would listen to it almost every night before I went to sleep in the 5th grade.

It blew my mind. 

I remember trying to explain some of the lyrics to Jon and Marvin, and they didn’t quite see why it was so amazing. I definitely flubbed what Eminem was trying to say, telling them: “He talks about doing somebody’s ear hole!” in a much more explicit manner. I can’t think of what the actual lyric was.

Now these were the Limewire days. So the only way I can remember watching Eminem videos was on his website, or by downloading them. “Guilty Conscience” was one of the videos I watched on Eminem’s website.

It quickly became my number one favorite video.

The concept was amazing. I was also blown away by the effect where the “Eddie” freezes and they start rapping circles around him, literally. I mean it’s still not 100% clear how they did it, but I’m assuming the impact of the shoulder bump was green screened, with 360° of cameras surrounding the actors. 

When I was younger, I could watch a music video I liked over and over. I was just discovering music so this was all new to me. 

I also remember that I would always go to sleep by the time “If I Had” came on, so the first songs were my favorites. I’m still an album listener, rather than a song listener.

When I listen to music, I listen to the entire album, so unless they’re pointed out as singles or highlighted to me by someone, songs usually don’t stand out independently from each other. For example, if I didn’t know “My Name Is” was a single, it might be a bit harder for me to pick it out and notice it. In that case, a song has to be really odd or innovative to grab my attention.

When I was younger, I wasn’t the type to develop a “good or bad” opinion about music, but rather just enjoy the music for what it was. So, I never really skipped songs in an album. There wasn’t a song in The Slim Shady LP that I didn’t want to hear.

I still listen to music with that mindset today. 


MY FAVORITE SONG: March 27th, 2014

Dance Gavin Dance - “NASA” (Happiness)

In 2011, I finally started digging into post hardcore music. It was like throwing myself into Shai and AJ’s world.

I’m talking about Of Mice & Men, Attack! Attack!, A Day To Remember, Chunk! No, Captain Chunk! and more. When Warped Tour 2011 came around, I had the chance to check all these artists off my list of bands to see (and I did). I also got to cross off my number one favorite post hardcore band, Dance Gavin Dance.

The cool part was that lead singer Jonny Craig was actually going to join them for this tour. Aside from all of the heroin and iMac scams, he is a great singer. Overall, the self-titled album was my favorite work by them, but “NASA” was easily my favorite DGD song. 

I’m not sure what it is about the song, it might have been that the intro caught my attention so vividly. I learned how to play it on the guitar, it’s a lot of fun to play. The drums are also really fun to play. If I had a drum set, I would’ve played to “NASA” so much.

Other than a We Remain The Sea show at SOMA, I had never been to any hardcore shows before Warped 2011. I had to prepare myself. I watched this video over and over:

Dance Gavin Dance’s “NASA” live

I got free tickets from our district manager at Vans. After packing water, sun screen, a hat and extra shirts to wear around my head, I put on my Vans Warped Tour employee shirt, shants and Authentics as I set out early in the morning. I knew that I was going to be surrounded by people I had nothing in common with, other than a love for music. Oh, and maybe the fact that we all were wearing Vans.

Dance Gavin Dance came on at 2 p.m., so I went to their stage immediately after Attack! Attack!’s main stage set. I didn’t know how much of a big deal it was going to be seeing Jonny Craig with the band at the time. I was also enlightened by someone standing next to me about these iMac scams that he was supposedly involved in.

My goal was to see “NASA” live, and I got my wish. I went nuts on the inside, but since I wasn’t that comfortable there yet, I stood pretty still. The real DGD-related highlight came later in the night however.

I was watching Yelawolf, one of the few hip-hop artists there. I didn’t know his music prior but figured this would be a cool way to check him out. As I peer over towards the back of the stage, I see Jonny Craig standing there waiting for Yelawolf to come on. As he performs, I see Craig with his arms folded and head bobbing. It was kind of funny to see that. 

I still listen to Dance Gavin Dance often, they’re my go-to for hardcore music. “NASA” is still the first song I play, and it will probably stay that way for quite some time.


MY FAVORITE SONG: March 26th, 2014

Pearl Jam - “Alive” (Ten)

If you know me, you know I love making jokes out of musicians’ trademark voices. Whether it’s the MF Doom flow, the British blues band lead singer or James Brown’s mannerisms. If you really really know me, you know which voice is at the top of my list:

The scowl of the 90’s grunge band lead singer. 

It’s Alice in Chains, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Stone Temple Pilots… It’s also how the lead singer of Creed sings. 

Aside from their voices, many great hits came out of this era of alternative rock. While Nirvana ruled the world with their music, to me, Pearl Jam sounds like grunge on a much grander scale. It’s like they took the music and made it work for arenas. “Alive” is much more of an anthem than “Smells Like Teen Spirit” in my opinion, meaning it’s structured in a much different way.

I don’t know if it’s just me, but you can tell when an artist is trying to make music and when an artist is trying to write music. Making music is a much more internal, visceral process. Writing a song is much more about crafting something that is dynamic in that it has sections that build up and break down, much like a story would.

"Alive" runs nearly 6 minutes, but it never gets boring along the way. Nirvana’s "In Bloom" may be closer to my own interpretation of a song that was written. Alice in Chains’ “Man In The Box” is kind of in the middle between the two for me.

Who knows, I mean grunge isn’t exactly my area of expertise so if anyone would like to enlighten me as to where these artists should be correctly positioned in the world of rock, please do.


MY FAVORITE SONG: March 25th, 2014

Jurassic 5 - “What’s Golden” (Power in Numbers)

This beat is one of the sickest hip-hop beats I’ve ever heard. The sample flip is so crazy, I didn’t even know it was a sample for the longest time. I first heard this instrumental my freshman year, but I didn’t find out what it was for nearly two years.

During one of our morning announcements at Olympian, a video played on the TV made by this guy named Benito and I believe Eddie. It was a movie where they were being chased by a doll of a baby. The music they chose for a majority of the video was the instrumental for “What’s Golden.”

This was before our school was finished being built, so in the background you would see green tarped construction fences all over the place. We also only had three classroom buildings at the time. Our locker rooms for P.E. were an empty classroom and our lockers were these small black gym bags they gave to us. Whenever I hear this beat, I imagine Olympian High in it’s infancy.

I thought it was the sickest beat ever, but I had no idea how to find out what the song was. I asked a few people if they knew the beat, but no one knew what song I was talking about. I would try to hum the bass line to the best of my ability, and I would ask people if they remembered that video but many didn’t.

I can’t tell you how I finally discovered this song, but it must’ve been when I decided to finally dig into Jurassic 5 past “A Day At The Races” and “Concrete Schoolyard.” This was before the times where I would find an artist I liked and get every single album I could from them, so I listened to only those songs for a while. 

I used to watch this J5 freestyle on the Tom Green show all the time

"What’s Golden" itself is a pretty simple song, the verses are short and the lyrics aren’t too crazy. The most notable part is after the break, when Chali 2na comes in. When I first heard J5 in Tony Hawk’s Underground, I thought his voice was a computer voice. I had no idea that it was a real person.

He probably had the most notable flow out of all of them, everyone was really smooth and he was very robotic and rigid. It still sounded nice. I still try doing my best Chali 2na impersonations whenever J5 songs come on. 

To me, Jurassic 5 is a huge and unforgettable part of my early teen years. I wonder how much of an impact they had on everyone else in the world. 

Sometimes the whole feel good hip-hop thing gets really old really quick for me, but Jurassic 5 perfected the sound. They aren’t boring boom bap beats with lyrics about how hip-hop makes you feel good and the mainstream rappers don’t have heart, but their music is actually good. They do draw those real MC/fake MC dichotomies but it doesn’t end up being the basis of all their lyrics.

"What’s Golden" is probably in my Top 25 beats of all time, and that’s saying a lot because there are too many good instrumentals out there.


MY FAVORITE SONG: March 24th, 2014

Queen - “Princes of the Universe” (A Kind of Magic)

At first, it was pretty hard for me to pick a Queen song to write about. I eventually decided to go with what was probably the first Queen song I knew, ”Princes of the Universe, the theme for the TV series Highlander.

I feel like out of every possible Queen song out there, this one is an odd one to highlight. Versus tracks like “We Will Rock You,” “Another One Bites The Dust” or the classic “Bohemian Rhapsody,” I’m not sure too many people know this one. A Kind of Magic came out during the late 80’s.

This will forever be the theme of Highlander in my mind. It’s such a powerful song and I didn’t even know it was Queen growing up. The series was about an Immortal named Duncan McLeod who was a part of the Game. In order to get closer to the prize, he would have to behead other Immortals and take their energy through Quickening, which is literally a lighting bolt like energy that strikes the beheader. Any other injuries or death by circumstances other than beheading can heal for Immortals. 

It’s a somewhat complicated story. The series took place in the 90’s, but since McLeod was immortal and 400 years old, there would be a lot of flashbacks showing McLeod throughout history, as far back as the 1500s. That was the coolest part of the series. It was cool seeing him in all those different time periods and costumes. 

The actual TV intro for Highlander

My parents were huge fans of Highlander, as well as Star Trek, the Hercules series with Kevin Sorbo and Xena: Warrior Princess with Lucy Lawless. Those shows remind me of growing up in the mid 90’s. We had this really cool poster that was a map or timeline of some sort, but it showed McLeod throughout all the centuries he lived, and had pictures of him with dates by them. I wonder if we still have it.

My parents were also huge fans of Queen, so that’s two huge influences on my right there combined. The more and more I peruse my iTunes library, I can piece together memories and events that make up who I am today. This is another example of how much influence my parents interests had on me.

I mean, hearing this song, I feel like I can take on the world… All I need is a sword.


iTunes Library Write Up

Just stumbled upon this iTunes quiz, I thought I’d give it a try since I miss doing these. 

How many songs: 27,374

Sort by song title: 
First Song: Asher Roth - “A-One” 

Last Song: Sonnymoon -∞”

Sort by time:
Shortest Song: (0:02) Shaw Brothers - “Saucy Bit No. 13 (Brave Archer)” 
Longest Song: (1:03:34) Sleep - “Dopesmoker”

Sort by artist:
First Artist: a-ha
Last Artist: 702

Sort by album:
First Album:
 A$ton Matthews - A$ton 3:16
Album: Justice - 

Top Five Most Played Songs (On iTunes, since December 2013):

  • Roc Marciano - “Cut My Check Ft. Quelle Chris & Blu” (65)
  • Ty Dolla $ign - “Paranoid Ft. Joe Moses” (38)
  • Kendrick Lamar - “good kid” (31)
  • Step Brothers - “Tomorrow Ft. Rakaa & Blu” (30)
  • Antwon - “Underwater Tank Ft. Lil Ugly Mane” (26)

Top Five Most Played Songs (On Last.FM, comprehensive):

  • De La Soul - “Rock Co. Kane Flow Ft. MF Doom” (412)
  • Justice - “Genesis” (403)
  • A Tribe Called Quest - “Excursions” (380)
  • Kanye West - “Flashing Lights Ft. Dwele” (370)
  • A Tribe Called Quest - “Bonita Applebum” (361)

Death: Flatbush Zombies - “Death”
 Sly & The Family Stone - “Life”
Love: Mos Def - “Love”
Hate: Les Baxter - “Hate”
You: L.A. Symphony - “You”
Sex: Red Hot Chili Peppers - “Blood Sugar Sex Magik”

(Source: mineftdrake, via chrosty)

Tags: itunes quiz