The Mastery of Consciousness, Side A

Year: 1999
Original Format: cassette

This pretentious title is a reference to The Mystery of Consciousness, my first “official” mixtape, which dates back to the Eighties. In the 21st century I would pivot (mostly) to CDs, which makes this sort of the end of an oeuvre. I put a lot of work into it and I still like it.

At the time I was fascinated by the idea of self-programming. I wondered, is it possible to use the power of suggestion to make yourself a happier, stronger, better person?

24 years later I think: Sort of? In very limited ways? You have to be careful how you do it, though; otherwise you end up with something like this:

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Satori in Babylon, Side A

Year: 1999
Original Format: cassette

1999 was a weird year. I never expected the world to end in Y2K, as we called it then, but I expected something to happen — some kind of sea change, which as it turns out did occur, but not in the way anyone expected and not right away. In the lead-up there was a fair amount of anxiety, which has become much more noticeable in retrospect.

This mix is heavy on the hip-hop, which I was belatedly discovering at the time. It also displays a preoccupation with righteousness, which — as anyone who listens to reggae will tell you — is one of the side effects of smoking too much weed. If my lifetime usage were charted it would spike, I think, in 1986 and 1999.

As for the cover art: That was an actual door I used to walk by in Oakland on my way to BART. It is long gone now, but fondly remembered.

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Soul Stone Junkie

Year: 2022
Original Format:

When I finished “Over the Line” there were a bunch of songs left over, and it was hard not to notice the common thread among them: they were all songs by African-Americans (except one by Rodriguez, who is Mexican-American). Only then did I realize that everything on “OtL” was made by people of the Caucasian persuasion. So I started assembling a companion piece, and here it is.

I am of course against segregation in all its forms, and it’s probably in bad taste to call these two mixes “separate but equal.” Maybe they reflect the different ways drug issues manifest themselves in the lives of people of different backgrounds, or something like that. In any case, this is food for thought, hopefully.

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Over the Line

Year: 2022
Original Format: mp3

I should probably warn you in advance that parts of this are kind of a downer. It’s a collection of drug songs, most of them of the cautionary variety. Some parts are funny and others go to dark places. I’m not really sure what compelled me to make such a thing — maybe just to feel better about my own bad habits — but I did, so here it is.

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33 1/3 Revolutions per Minute, Side B

Year: 1999
Original Format: cassette

Everything here was originally recorded onto some kind of magnetic tape in the studio, then pressed onto vinyl. I recorded that vinyl onto a cassette in 1999; converted the cassette to mp3 a few weeks ago; then uploaded it to the miraculous Mixcloud. You’d think after all that it would sound tired, but it still sounds pretty great to me.

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33 1/3 Revolutions per Minute, Side A

Year: 1999
Original Format: cassette

This was my tribute to vinyl and also, I thought, a fond farewell. At the time CDs had been the dominant medium for a decade, and there was no way of knowing vinyl would make the comeback it has. I’m happy for it, though I find the whole phenomenon surprising and a little confusing.

As for the artwork: I honestly can’t remember. I was smoking a lot of weed at the time, that may have had something to do with it.

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Thank You America

Year: 2017
Original Format: mp3

Today my country celebrates its birthday, and the way things have been going, my inclination is to throw its cake out in the rain and give it a swift kick in the posterior followed by a big two-finger salute. I mean, for fuck’s sake, America — get your head out of your ass.

When I made this mix back around Thanksgiving 2017, I wrote:

 American dimness has reached its apotheosis this year. Is it possible that the wave will soon break and roll back?

Hilarious! Since then, things have just kept getting worse, of course. In the last few weeks we’ve tumbled several levels down the slippery slope to theocracy, and there’s not a whole lot of reason for optimism about the future.

But hope doesn’t require reason, so I hold out hope nonetheless, because what choice is there really? Better to make a playlist than to curse the darkness, isn’t that what they say?

This one could just as easily be called “Thanks for Nothing America” or “Fuck You America.” It’s a little cathartic, a little sarcastic, a little bittersweet. For whatever reason it seems to help.

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