Gangsters & Pranksters II, Part 1

Year: 2004
Original Format: CD

As usually happens, as soon as I finished the original Gangsters & Pranksters, I started coming across more songs that fit the theme. A sequel was inevitable, and finally materialized in 2004 in the form of two jam-packed CDs.

When I switched from cassettes to CDs I continued my policy of using every bit of available bandwidth — which makes sound economic sense. But it is obvious now that 80 minutes of music at a time is just too much. So I am dividing the two discs of G&PII into four installments of ~40 minutes each, which is a little more reasonable.

Having decided that the first edition was light on hip-hop, I leaned into the gangsta rap on this one. Maybe a little too much; the n-word appears on it much more than on anything else I’ve ever made, and the b-word too, for that matter. But that’s what can happen when you keep it real.

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Gangsters & Pranksters, Side B

Year: 1996
Original Format: cassette

This one has some trace of a narrative arc: Our hero tries to go straight, but is betrayed and pulled back into the criminal life; some scores are made and adventures had; but in the end the outlaw must die — because how else will we learn our lesson?

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Gangsters & Pranksters, Side A

Year: 1996
Original Format: cassette

These were the days of elaborate mixtape packaging. For this one I went so far as to commission custom artwork for the cover (which meant I asked my friend James to do a painting — isn’t it great?). The liner notes were folded up and slid into a little envelope glued to the inside cover, and looked like this:

I suppose some of that time could have been used to, like, start a career or something. But on the whole, no regrets.

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Aural Pleasure (All Other Priorities Rescinded)

Year: 2021
Original Format: mp3

This one has been languishing on my hard drive for awhile awaiting the finishing touches. The idea was an experiment in pure musical hedonism, without regard to any other considerations. I find the finished product pretty successful, but then I would.

With that in mind, I’m going to forego the commentary and just post the playlist. Hope you enjoy.

For best results, play loud.

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Turn the Future On, Pt. 3

Our Electric Destiny/A space is made by telephone

Year: 1995
Original Format: cassette

For the most part, the music on these old tapes still sounds really good to me. But probably not as good as it did back then, when I still had those young-person high-frequency receptors. I wonder if this is why over the years I’ve tended to gravitate more toward bass-heavy music. That probably isn’t what A Tribe Called Quest meant by “The Low End Theory,” but it’s a low-end theory, anyway.

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Turn the Future On, Pt. 2

Words of Advice/The sun in the morning & the moon at night

Year: 1994
Original Format: cassette

This dates from that weird period right after Kurt Cobain killed himself. I was surprised at how hard it hit me; I liked Nirvana, I had their albums, but they were not a special favorite. In retrospect, this was probably the closest thing my generation had to a Kennedy assassination; I think all of us remember where we were when we heard the news — though as befits our nature, probably vaguely and incorrectly. I remember wandering around the house on Woodruff Ave. wondering what Kurt’s last moments must have been like.

The suicide was not a surprise, exactly; he had tried once before, and even written a song called “I Hate Myself and Want to Die.” But it was still hard to fathom that someone my own age (Kurt was eight months older), who seemingly had everything a person could want in life, would pull his own plug.

Around the same time I had bought the Rykodisc reissue of Young Americans, which was the first time I’d heard a lot of those songs. I was particularly struck by “Win,” the words of which seemed eerily apropos, especially

Someone like you should not be allowed to start any fires

and

Somebody lied, I say it’s hip to be alive.

I always imagined that if Kurt had heard this song at the right time he would have taken the shotgun out of his mouth. It probably isn’t so; the man had problems, and they were bound to catch up with him sooner or later. But I always like to imagine a happy ending.

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