I lived for almost eighteen years, more than half my current life, before the advent of the new millennium. It’s sobering to think that I didn’t grow up in a world where the internet was pervasive, where we lived our lives online. I’m not necessarily nostalgic for that life, but when the recent Mixtape Concern assignment was “years,” I thought it would be a good opportunity to explore those years before 2000, when I was young and full of energy.
1982: S.O.S. Band, “High Hopes”
I was born in February 1982. My parents, I am sure, had very high hopes for who I was to become. Whether I have met those hopes is still yet to be decided.
1983: Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, “New York New York”
I was just over a year old when we moved to New York City, a place that has defined who I am much more than one would expect, considering our short (only a few years) stay there.
1984: DeBarge, “Time Will Reveal”
When you’re two years old, you’re starting to become a real person: you’re talking, walking, interacting with the people and the world around you. What did two-year-old me say about who I was to become? Only time would reveal.
1985: Eddie Murphy, “Party All The Time”
What do you do when you’re three years old, you’re a few months away from going to pre-school, and don’t have any responsibilities? You party all the time, of course. You spend the time exploring the world and learning about the people around you.
1986: RUN-DMC, “Walk This Way”
My love of strolling, of flânerie, comes from an early childhood of necessity. When you don’t have a car in the big city, you walk — everywhere. Now, I love getting places by foot, but when I was a kid, the message was clear: if you needed to get anywhere, you walked that way.
1987: Eric B. & Rakim, “I Ain’t No Joke”
First day of school in a new school, new city, new country. I walked up to my teacher and introduced myself, in perfect French, and then smiled at the class. Sure, I was joining them all in the middle of the year, but I was going to make my presence felt: I wasn’t no joke.
1988: Pebbles, “Girlfriend”
The first woman I fell in love with, I met in my kindergarten class. Her dad drove my school bus, and she was in my class at school for six straight years. The word “girlfriend” means something very different when you are five and six years old, but that’s what I called her, and all the adults laughed.
1989: De La Soul, “Me Myself and I”
For the longest time, my family was my grandparents, my parents, and then me. I was the only child in the family. In October 1989, my brother—still my best friend—was born, and everything was no longer focused on me, myself, and I. And that was okay.
1990: Deee-Lite, “Groove Is In The Heart”
There are many years in my life that are a blur, but the one thing I remember from most of those years, like this one, is that I was always dancing. Even now, the groove runs through my heart — I dance every chance I get.
1991: PM Dawn, “Set Adrift On Memory Bliss”
I remember bits and pieces of my childhood, many moments and experiences and feelings, but 1991 is the first time when I can accurately look back at the year and remember it clearly. For some reason, fifth grade is stuck in my memory, and when I am set adrift looking back at blissful memories, that is as far back as I usually go.
1992: Shai, “If I Ever Fall in Love”
I’ve been singing as long as I can remember, but my first real public performance came in sixth grade, performing in a community production of West Side Story. I sang three pieces at my audition, but the pièce de resistance was my rendition of Shai’s 1992 classic.
1993: Janet Jackson, “If”
Middle school is a time for crushes and dances and flirtation and all sorts of hormones and emotions and awkwardness and faux pas and that feeling of if only I had said something or done something or just smiled. All the fleeting “ifs” that make up our pre-teen years.
1994: Zhane, “Groove Thang”
Heading into my teenage years, heading into high school, I was sure I had life all figured out. I had good friends, a good sense of style, and a whole lot of (undeserved?) swagger. Nothing could stop me, stop that groove thang; there was a bounce in my every step.
1995: Montell Jordan, “This Is How We Do It”
My teenage years were good to me. I worked hard, but played hard too. I explored, experimented, and thoroughly enjoyed myself. Most of the time, I was a model of good behavior, but sometimes, I got myself in trouble. This is how we did it, back then, after all.
1996: General Degree, “When I Hold You Tonight”
I loved high school dances, but I was really in my element at the various house parties that started popping up in the neighborhood in the mid-to-late 90s. There, we would listen to good music, move our hips to the beat, and find someone, even a stranger to hold for the night, just as we danced, before heading home in the twilight.
1997: Scarface feat. Tupac, “Smile”
If there’s one recurring refrain that people keep telling me, when I was younger and even now, it’s that they rarely see me upset or sad. I learned early in life, even in my brooding teenage years, that everything felt better when you just smile.
1998: Tamia, “Imagination”
I’m not sure how exactly the idea of going somewhere new jumped into my head, but at the age of sixteen, I decided that I didn’t want to be cooped up at home anymore, that I didn’t want to follow a typical path towards adulthood. So I applied for a boarding school on the other side of the country, and waited, hoping that the opportunity to live the life of my imagination would come my way.
1999: Sleater Kinney, “Get Up”
I was seventeen years old when I moved out of the house and started to create a life of my own. The new millennium came with new adventures, new perspectives, and a new understanding of who I was. And so I end this mixtape with a song from an album that was released on my seventeenth birthday, reminding me that then, and now, “my soul was climbing tree trunks and swinging from every branch.”
(This post was created as my submission for the September 2016 edition of The Mixtape Concern. Download this mixtape on Dropbox.)