Coming of Age

A wise man by the name of Sean Carter once said, “30’s the new 20, nigga I’m so hot stillbut I wouldn’t necessarily say my 20s are what’s “hot” right now, and definitely not something that I would want to carry with me to my 30s. I’ll be hitting my mid 20s in a few months and I’ve been on quite the rollarcoaster ride of highs and lows since the beginning. Throughout the course of this wild ride my 20s have me on, thankfully I have music to get me through it along the way. Take a look and see which albums are defining my 20s for me and why…

 

Too High to Riot

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Even as a loyal Dreamvillian, I had no idea Bas’ “Too High to Riot” would hit home for me at age 23 like it did when it released in 2016. I enjoyed the fantasy ride his debut album “Last Winter” took me but nothing can compare to the places I went with sophomore album, “Too High to Riot.” What really pulled me in was a song where Bas took us inside his mind while on tour, “Clouds Never Get Old.” Although, I haven’t even seen half as many faces or places as Bas, we had one destination in common on that song, which was not having one at all. Throughout the song, as well in the album, you hear a lot of Bas being lost, whether it be Bas lost in love, lust or not much trust, or having love lost in general. As being single at 23 lost in dating and trying to get on the right path careerwise, “LOST” was one way to describe how I was feeling at the time.  I did, however, find comfort in songs like “Penthouse,” “Black Owned Business,” and “Dopamine” connecting to them with my mind, body and soul. While I’m still maneuvering my way through this maze called life, an album such as this lets me know its okay to find yourself lost at 20something.

 

2014 Forest Hills Drive

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For those who read “How J. Cole Cured My Post-Grad Blues,” it’s no secret to how this album has shaped me in my 20s. I earned my Bachelor’s degree in May 2015 at 22, and was super hard on myself when things didn’t turn out like I planned. Life…what can I say, you know? I felt stagnant working 2 jobs selling sneakers for a living, much like I was doing before I graduated and felt sick to my stomach, and also broke af. That summer I turned to that album on a trip from Baltimore to New York just to pass the time and did a lot of soul searching on that drive home. With this album, I pulled myself up out of that little pit of self-pity I was digging for myself and took heed to Cole’s story and words of wisdom. 2014 Forest Hills Drive was more than just a coming of age concept album. It was how I re-established my sense of confidence and aggressiveness with “Fire Squad,” and learned to appreciate the things I am blessed with thanks to “’03 Adolescence,” “Apparently,” and “Love Yourz.” It also helped re-fuel that burning passion that was in me before I started doubting myself when life took a few unexpected turns.

Vol. 2… Hard Knock Life

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OKAY I’M RELOADED! While “Vol. 2…Hard Knock Life” doesn’t rank in my top 5 Jay-Z albums, it’s the one that I feel relates most to what being 20 should feel like. On this album, Hov embodies everything I want to be from here on out in my 20s and beyond. He is dominant, full of flashiness and fortitude. It’s fitting considering this was his third album release and he exploded on the rap scene more confident than ever with the commercial success to reflect it. He’s calling the shots and even shooting a few himself. There were also so many songs that he had fun with on like “Nigga What, Nigga Who(Originator ’99)” or “Money, Cash, Hoes.” He played with different flows and beats from a spectrum of producers like Kid Capri to JD and more. Your 20s should be about having fun and experimenting a little bit. But there were times when Jay meant business, like on “Hard Knock Life” when he states “if my situation ain’t improving, I’m tryna murder everything moving” and throughout the duration of the song where he raps about where he’s been and how far he’s trying to go in the industry.  He also makes a declaration of living his life like it’s his last and that “he will NOT lose” on “It’s Like That.” 

Late Registration

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One of these reasons why I miss the old Kanye is because his music used to make me feel something. With the album “Late Registration” came with so many different types of feelings for being 20, I don’t even know where to start. Late Registration takes me through the highs and lows in my 20s. Songs such as “Touch the Sky,” “We Major,” and “Bring Me Down” I feel were made for me at this time in my life to revisit my ambitious nature and remind me to rise over the hate that might come my way trying to climb the ladder of success and so many other positives principals essential at this age. One major principal that comes with being in my 20s is the one that applies to family and on Kanye’s “Roses,” I feel it. Kanye shares a personal story of his family gathering together from all walks of life to support his grandmother as she was hanging on by a thread in the hospital. At age 24, sometimes I think I confuse being independent with not needing anyone but that’s not true at all. My family, much like Ye’s, is supportive and loving and I know they’ll be there for me no matter what part of my life I go through, 20s, 30s, 40s etc.

Graduation

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Although Graduation came about when I was a teenager, it’ still a very definitive album in my 20s. Not only is this my favorite Kanye album out of the bunch, as mentioned in a previous post, it includes songs that set the narrative for being a 20something.  From trying to figure out my dreams and my place in this world, like on “I Wonder,” or coming to the realization of who I am as a person, like on ” Champion” and “Everything I Am,” Graduation has been the soundtrack to my 20something life. More specifically, when it comes to my finances. There’s nothing more relatable than a track that explains my financial woes and expresses my need to be great in this world like “Can’t Tell Me Nothing.” Between that song and hearing “I spent that gas money on clothes with logos” on “The Glory” is music to my ears. Sometimes I feel like I just can’t get it together with my money, but there’s something comforting about knowing that someone who has the “Goyard so hard that’s [he’s] Hugo’s Boss” goes through it too. It’s just life. There’s also such an inspirational sense of hope on Graduation. With this album, Ye “graduated” in the hip-hop game in a sense. After spending time doing 5 beats a day for 3 summers and moving in a room full of “no’s,” Ye finally made his way to becoming not only one of hip-hop’s most prominent producers but also most  influential artists and Graduation was his testament. I’m still trying to figure it out myself in my 20s and if Ye made a way, then I can too.

 

DAMN.

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New to my collection of CDs that play on the soundtrack of my life, Kendrick Lamar’s DAMN is a way perfect way to describe daily internal struggles, especially ones I’m facing at 20something. On this album, you not just hear, but feel the ups and downs of someone who is finding God and a sense of purpose. There are tracks that capture the essence for certain moods, emotions, thoughts, and much more that goes on in our heads in your 20s. We visit being afraid with the track “FEAR,” which of my biggest complexes as an adult. In this song, Kendrick takes us through how fear has evolved with him from age 7 to 27. At age 27, fear is much more than being scared of being in trouble with your mom at 7, but resides much deeper with thoughts of letting his family down and not reaching the pinnacles of success, which is something I feel as well at this stage in my life. We also get in touch with some of Kendrick’s most toxic, negative thoughts on “FEEL.” filled with anti-social behavior and hopelessness. Songs of those caliber are certainly something I can relate trying to get it together but for the times I am able to overcome those overwhelming emotions we have songs like “DNA.” and “ELEMENT.” Songs such as this are packed with powerful statements to remind others and ourselves that we are individuals that can’t be broken or persuaded by others to think less of ourselves.

O.(verly) D.(edicated)

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Who is K.Dot? On this project, I first got acquainted with Kendrick Lamar and loved what he stood for, considering it was almost like a reflection of me. I stumbled upon “Overly Dedicated” bubbling under 20, at age 19, but felt this album is what defines my name in some ways. Kendrick and I first connected with the song “Average Joe” as someone else who tries to duck the influence from my city that’s brewing. Much like myself, Kendrick doesn’t get involved with street life, drama, violence or being under the influence. “You smoke that? But I’m high off life, I could fall out with sky like twice.” Kendrick sought out for a bigger, broader picture in life and declared a strong sense of determination and perseverance on O.D., especially with “Cut You Off {To Grow Closer}.” On “Cut You Off,” K. Dot made it clear he was beyond superficiality. Instead, he wanted to focus on things that were goal-oriented and positive as well as a faithful, healthy relationship with God. On his path to righteousness, he makes a few stumbles and has several questions to being faithful and shows it on songs such as “Growing Apart {To Get Closer}” and “The Heart Pt.2” No journey is ever the same or perfect, and while it might have been easy for some, it has not been easy for Kendrick or me, which is not only relatable but something I respect as a person in their 20s on a much similar path.

Hard Core

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My mom will be the first one to tell you that Junior Mafia’s “Get Money” was one of my favorite songs to sing along to as a little shorty, but I had no idea what Lil Kim was really saying as a toddler. But, listening to “Hard Core” as a young woman, I sing loud and proud honey! While Hard Core may be raunchy, it’s still raw and rugged, filled with tracks that assert myself as a woman in her 20s who knows what she wants and isn’t afraid to say it. Now that I’m coming into my own as a woman, I don’t have time to be timid. Kim sure wasn’t, she let you know she had a “Crush On You,” let you know she handled her own on “Big Momma Thang,” wasn’t here for half-ass shit with “Not Tonight,” and proclaimed herself as THAT bitch on, “Queen Bitch.” Lil Kim was sexy, sassy and strong which are not only traits you carry with in your 20s, but throughout your life.

Illmatic

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Time is Illmatic with this classic. Made in 1994 and still coming out my speakers in 2017 at age 24, this body of work stands the test of time and still lives and breathes inside of me and my music library. Nas cleverly penned this classic as an adolescent coming into his 20s, so I guess there’s no question to why this resonates with me so much in this day and age. As a black youth dwelling in the rotten apple, there are so many things mentioned in this collection of songs that sit on my heart that I can relate to, whether it be living in frustration of being black in America, trying to find peace in the midst of chaos, or dealing with the everyday struggle. While Illmatic had a dark and gritty tone, Nas still shined through with his confidence and verbal braggadocio with writing in his book of rhymes as what lit the way. At times when I need a new nigga for this dark  cloud to follow I turn to writing as an escape when its dark to see tomorrow much like Nas.

A Seat At the Table

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While it’s not hip-hop, but still full of soul, Solange’s “A Seat At the Table” speaks volumes in my life as a young black woman in her 20s. There are times I feel the pressures and weight of the world too much to bear and don’t know how to cope sometimes. Whether it’s the fight for freedom and acceptance in society as an African-American or my own personal fight I battle with my inner -self, “A Seat At the Table” is there for me as my therapy. Solange became my voice. She put words to what emptiness, depression, and un-fulfillment feels like on “Cranes in Sky” and when you just can’t shake that sad feeling off like a Polaroid picture. She re-established a sense of pride and belonging in a world that often shuns us as black women, and black people, with “F.U.B.U.” and reminding me my beautiful, black hair is my crowning glory in Don’t Touch My Hair.” Despite life’s ups and downs, Solange is continuing to find her glow and grow further on her journey with “Don’t Wish Me Well.” I’m so thankful for an album like this as a 20something. Not only are these songs I can turn to when I’m down but I can also look to lift me up above the bullshit.

What albums are you living through in your 20s? You can check out my “20 Something” playlist with a mix of songs from each album listed on Spotify.

https://open.spotify.com/embed/user/imani.brown143/playlist/01xQa60BMNU0vO3uXnjbej

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