Nevermind and Its Influence

Many years ago, I received a shit-ton of music, because of a friend of mine. This friend was a stoner and older than me, but knew good music. He passed along his entire Hendrix collection (up to that point, I was only familiar with the more-known songs, such as "Purple Haze"), his Wu-Tang collection (I was missing a few albums), a slew of Nas demos (which, during this time, was a big thing), some Pac, some Beatles stuff, and Nevermind. I'm a Nirvana fan. I'm not a super-fan, and I haven't made the mecca to Washington to visit Kurt Cobain's house, the Young Street Bridge or anything. But, I'm a fan, all because of this friend of mine passing along Nevermind.

The album itself is classic, albeit a bit "cliche" to music snobs these days. And listening through the album, I began forming a basis of who'd eventually become the person people know as Speed on the Beat. Let's run down a partial list of things Nevermind infused into my musical vocabulary:

  •  free discussions of mental disorders, but still doing so in a way that's infectious (and, in certain spots, almost glosses over the meat of the story until you re-listen)
  •  grungy, not-so-polished recordings (even though their earlier stuff was even more "no-fi)
  •  death, rebirth, all sorts of existentialist and spiritual teachings
  •  the fact that fans will never truly understand you, even if you give them your heart and soul
  •  somewhat contradictory lyrics meant to make a person think about themselves and about the music
  •  the ability to attack the fucked-up aspects of the world versus just attacking fucked-up people that're a result of the world
  •  in-the-moment lyricism
  •  lyrics that, when heard/read, can be interpreted many ways (including the "right" way)
  •  using music as a way to talk about real-life shit
  •  flowery bluntness
  •  hating to really engage in "fame"
  •  distancing oneself from popularity, even if you somewhat embrace it
  •  criticisms of others and self
  •  honest, self-depreciating lyrics
  •  lyrics that can be interpreted as ascribing power to people over life
  •  putting a kid on your album cover
  •  anti-commercialism even while somewhat accepting commercialism

Honestly, the list goes on for days. But, I'll cut it short in saying that Nevermind inspired me musically almost more than any one hip-hop album. Is it the greatest Nirvana album? Well, to me, yes (mainly for the impact it had). If you want to understand where I come from musically, start here. Everything else comes after.

Now, is Nevermind the only album that has the aforementioned traits? No, not at all. But, it's the one that first stuck with and to me. During the early 2000s, I began seeking out other music aside from traditional hip-hop. This was partly in rebellion against social constructs, partly because rap began to suck, and partly because non-rap became all I could listen to without being judged (my folks began to think rap made me do...illegal things. That was more survival than anything and they now understand). And through that, I've been able to create non-traditional music that hopefully people will vibe with and learn from (and not misinterpret some years down the road). Also, Cobain's suicide, and revisiting the idea of the 27 Club, caused me to get some help of my own (however, I still plan to be a part of The 27 Club, just not through "actual death").

And no, not all the songs were about drugs. Or love. Just like mine aren't all about trying to regain myself. Or losing my sanity.

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