Top Five, Top Five, Top Five… (Part 1)

Washed boys remember the music from before they were washed.

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Jake: First, welcome to this blog that as of the time of this writing, remains unnamed! I approached Deege with this project to achieve a very simple goal: “to find a healthier way to spend my free time than violently jerking off to Trump press releases”. As of the time of this writing, that goal has not been achieved, but we fully intend on chasing that dream as far as we can! (Note: we have since named the blog “Washed”. It represents how the authors of the blog are already washed immediately after graduation. Unfortunately, we will be extremely more washed as time progresses.)

We’re planning on populating the blog with articles of various length on pop culture topics like music, sports, and style. We’ll be shooting for about two articles each week to start, and if all goes well, we can build from there. We’d love hearing from readers on Twitter – you can find us at @jkrmrz and @deege5.

Brass tacks now – Deege and I are recent graduates, and while I can’t speak for him, I personally already feel Washed ™ as hell. As such, we’re kicking off the blog by looking back at those good ol’ college days. More specifically, the five most influential albums of our college career.

To be eligible for consideration, the album had to be released while we were actually attending university (August ’12 – May ’16). The albums weren’t judged on how “technically good” they were as much as how deeply we associated the albums with collegiate experience. To Pimp A Butterfly might end up being the most “important” of the albums released in that time frame, but we weren’t playing “Institutionalized” on the way to the bars, you know? Let’s actually get down to brass tacks now.

 5. Currents by Tame Impala

Jake: This was a late bloomer for me, but once it clicked, I couldn’t quit it. A testament to the beauty of this album is it made me want to be painfully broken up with by someone I deeply loved. Like I wanted to have a girlfriend of six years tell me she didn’t love me anymore the day after I bought an engagement ring just so I could relate to the album on an even deeper level. I know you’re a big fan of “Eventually”, and I respect that, but “The Less I Know The Better” is probably the best song that came out last year.

Deege: Thanks for the wonderful intro, Willy. Personally, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to fully stop jerking off to Trump press releases, but I’m damn sure willing to try. Maybe I’ll be less turned on when he plunges our country into World War III. But that’s a different story.

Speaking of being Washed ™ as hell, this album came out when I was working full-time and living alone in Phoenix in the summer between my junior and senior year. I was making money, working out every day, and looking forward to my final year of college. I felt like I was ready to seize the world by the tail.

How times change.

Unlike my counterpart, I actually counted down the days before this album was released and it lived up to all of my internal hype. I was bought in immediately, and I quite literally haven’t stopped listening to it since. It seems like every few weeks I just have an urge in the back of my mind that won’t be satisfied until Currents is spun all the way through.

It actually drove me crazy how slow the adoption rate for this album was among my friends. I can’t tell you how many versions of “broooo have you listened to currents yet this shit is fire” were sent out to various friends whom I thought had respectable music taste. I’d like to insert a special shoutout to Davis for being the first friend who finally matched my intense personal love for this album.

Besides being a synthy, alt-dance-pop groove machine, Currents possesses two main themes that really resonated with me at that time in my life. The first theme Kermz mentioned earlier, as I found much of the “deeply-in-love-break-up” bullshit to be pretty relatable. I’ll save you the gushy details, but suffice it to say that I actually sent said ex-girlfriend a snippet of the lyrics on “Past Lives” to describe our current situation: “I thought I was moving on, but I guess I was just switching off.” I know, I’m corny as fuck.

The other, more overarching theme on Currents was really about moving from one chapter of life to another. Living alone in a big city, having no real friend group and working a corporate job kinda bummed me the fuck out for that summer because I really started to realize how I was stepping into full-on adulthood. This album helped me turn that feeling from a negative into a positive, and it will forever be held in high esteem for that.

That’s enough about me. I hear you, Jake. If you were to ask me, “Hey Don, what song do you think the most people will like on Currents?” I would absolutely answer with the “The Less I Know The Better”. But the best on the album? I don’t know how you can beat that final build up and drop on the last “Evvvveeeenttttuuuualllllyyyyyy”, *snare*, *pause*, *beat comes back in with Kevin Parker spazzing*. I may or may not be sexually attracted to that song. I’m still salty as fuck Tame Impala didn’t play that live.

Jake: I actually think the first time I was exposed to Currents was at your place in Phoenix that summer. Speaking of being washed, I may have reached peak washed the week I crashed on your couch and your roommate came home to see me, a stranger, watching Archer in my underwear with a beer at like 11 a.m. on a Tuesday.

4. If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late by Drake

Jake: So this dropped in February of our junior year. There really hadn’t been much news on the Drake front for a while, and then all of the sudden there was a short film called “Jungle” and it had snippets of a few new songs. And then that night,IYRTITL was just suddenly on the iTunes store. It soundtracked a two-month semi-relationship, all of my trips to buy groceries that year, and it comprised about 40% percent of the only burned-CD I had in my car. And I’m still not sick of it!

I’m pretty tenacious in telling people who didn’t ask that IYRTITL is Drake’s best project, and that holds up post-Views. The mixtape* brought us the phrase “running thru the 6 wit my woes”, the “If You’re Reading This” meme, and a clear indication that Drake was capable of pulling his head out of his ass long enough to string together an entire album with no painfully cringey lines.

I personally think a lot of Drake’s Lil Wayne-influenced yolo stuff from Take Care and earlier has aged really poorly, particularly regarding the production and his delivery. I say that as a disclaimer before I say I think you can make a case for “Know Yourself”, “No Tellin'”, “Jungle”, and “Legend” all fighting for Top 5 greatest Drake songs ever.

Also, I can’t stop thinking that if IYRTITL had been the album to follow the VIEWS build-up and hype, it would be regarded as a masterpiece. Of course, the hype for VIEWS wouldn’t have been as great without IYRTITL, so I guess you can’t have it both ways. My point is, IYRTITL is criminally underrated, and it’s pretty well-respected anyway.

Deege: You know music is special when you can vividly remember the exact moment you first heard it. For us, we were sitting in our musty-ass, roach-infested living room, and Drake just tweeted a link. Just a link. I clicked on it and still remember that jolt of adrenaline as I realized there were 17 new Drake songs waiting to be listened to. This was well before the “surprise album drop” had become a common trope in hip-hop, in fact, the way IYRTITL instantly went viral as the world communally received and critiqued it via social media is a major influence on how music is being released today.

It’s funny you mention IYRTITL post-VIEWS, because even though I liked VIEWS it absolutely did not live up to the hype around it and really made me come to terms that IYRTITL is probably the best project Drake will ever drop. NWTS made me unashamed that I liked Drake, but IYRTITL made me put Drake on the Kanye God Level Pedestal.

Drake has described this project in interviews as just him “doing a project of nothing but hip-hop”, so it’s ironic that IYRTITL has Drake’s best R&B effort in “Jungle.” I’d hear cases for “Hold On We’re Going Home” and “Shot For Me”, but I think “Jungle” gets the edge. “No Tellin’” has always been the standalone favorite on the project for me, but I truly didn’t appreciate how legendary “Legend” (heh) was until Drake came out to it at ACL. Chills, man.

Jake: Yeah, the surprise drop was pretty huge. I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately in relation to expectations, particularly in the case of the enormous hype VIEWS received and didn’t meet. On a tangential note, it really makes My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy seem that much more mythical. That Kanye could do the GOOD Fridays series and then drop an album that exceeded expectations is, in the words of Gucci Mane, mind-blowing.

3. Acid Rap by Chance the Rapper

Jake: Somehow, three feels low to me, even on a very worthy list. It dropped right as the summer after our freshman year started, and by the time we came back as sophomores, it was our number one played album.

Chance made rap fun again in a way that should have been highly corny but wasn’t. “Pusha Man”, “Juice”, “Favorite Song”, and “Smoke Again” are still some of the most joyous songs I’ve ever heard. When you throw in the somber/trippy “Paranoia” and “Acid Rain”, it really seemed like there was nothing Chance couldn’t do.

It’s important to remember this was before the Arthur cover and the rest of those weird psuedo-singles he released that made me question the direction he was veering in during the Surf era. He since proved me wrong with Coloring Book, but I’m not yet convinced that Acid Rap isn’t the best work in his catalog.

Also, all of the albums we’ve listed so far, including Acid Rap, had fantastic album art that matched the atmosphere of the record, and I think that’s really important. At the least, it’s an indicator that the artist really had a firm grasp on the concept they were chasing. Not to beat a dead horse, but that’s a big knock against VIEWS in my eyes.

Deege: Yeah, Chance had me seriously worried during the Surf-era, and I was actually at the show where he had the crowd sing along to the Arthur Theme song for the first time. I remember looking around and thinking to myself, what the fuck is going on? 

 
Acid Rap was the perfect intersection of Chance’s corny enthusiasm and his somber critiques of society. On “Everybody’s Something” you have the absurdly optimistic and catchy hook: “Everybody’s somebody’s everything,” but preceding that you have the frantic “Paranoia,” which features Chance anxiously rapping about “riding around with my blunt on my lips,”  and having his “nine with the shits.” I’m not sure if we’ll ever get that mixture again now that he’s a dad and super positive all the time. Surf was very tilted toward “high fructose syrup” on the corniness scale, and although Coloring Book wasn’t nearly as corny, it was still named Coloring Book. I’d have been much happier with Chance 3. 
 
Literally every single song on Acid Rap I’ve come to enjoy, and I think very underrated parts about this album are the opening and closing songs. They’re so fucking good! Even better than I was the last time baby, ooh, ooh, ooh… It’s funny I called this an album while critiquing it earlier, because it is technically a mixtape. Back to your point, Jake — Chance truly had a great grasp on the concept he was chasing with this project, and you can absolutely hear it all the way through.
 
For my money’s worth, the combination of Pusha Man/Paranoia is the best song(s) Chance will ever do. The contrast between the joyous highs of being a drug dealer and the fearful lows, combined with perfect production and incredibly catchy hooks is something that is hard to beat. I remember seeing Paranoia being performed live in front of a sold out crowd at the Rialto Theatre in Tucson. One of my top show experiences ever.
This was Part 1 of “Top 5, Top 5, Top 5…” Check back next week for Part 2. 
By Jake Ramirez and Deege Sutton

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