February 15, 2015
In my first Enclave playlist I showed you all some relaxed music. This time we’re going to go a different direction and listen to some of the music I run with.
I’ve been running for over 15 years. I picked up the habit in the summer of 1998, when I came home from my freshman year of college, having gained some weight and wanting to trim down. I made my first runs in the triple-digit heat of a Southern California summer; I don’t recall the exact distances I ran, but they must have been in the realm of a mile or two. I took to running immediately, and the habit had no problem sticking—since then I’ve run consistently at least two or three times per week—and sometimes as much as five—the only exceptions being the times I’ve spent out of country on vacations.
Nowadays, I usually do somewhere from 40 to 60 minutes per run. I’ve found that the ideal length for a playlist to accompany runs of that duration is 35 to 40 songs, somewhere in the realm of 140 to 160 minutes of music. That way, you’re not hearing the same songs over and over, but neither are you losing tracks in the depths of an excessively long list. Mixes usually last about 6 months before they start to wear out. I have made 13 running mixes since I began the practice in 2008.
I never run without music. Back in the early days, I would record cassette tape mixes from CDs and mp3s, and listen to them with a Walkman (portable CD players would skip too much if I tried to take them out running with me). Later, I graduated to the early MiniDisk players and eventually acquired a first generation iPod. The iPod has been my music accessory of choice while running; I now own a sixth generation iPod, which will eventually be my last iPod, as Apple has chosen to discontinue them. I will possibly have to look into a Touch, or something else entirely, when this one finally dies.
Here are 10 tracks from various playlists.
1. Dancin’ on Ya Grave (remix) — Get Busy Committee. Any good running mix will have at least a few club hits. This is hard to get right, as lots of club hits have atrocious lyrics that I simply can’t put up with, no matter how good the beat is. This here is a posse cut mostly featuring rappers that can carry an entire album, much less 16 bars.
2. 36″ Chain — Run the Jewels. Jamie and Mike kill this one. ‘Nuff said. Most albums are lucky to have 3 or 4 songs that I can make work for a running mix. Almost every track on a Run the Jewels album qualifies.
3. Writer’s Block — Royce da 5’9″. Wow, talk about bodying a track. The beat on this thing is crazy, and Royce runs all over it, using about 5 different styles of rapping. Eminmen provides a perfect hook. This song is just punchline after punchline after punchline. It really exemplifies the swagger that any good running playlist needs to have lots of.
4. Where You Come From? — Evidence. Evidence is a truly great rapper, but he can be a little tricky to get into a running playlist because his style of rapping is just so deliberate and monotone. In this one his flow works, and it benefits from two excellent guest verses. And also, check Philip Glass on the sample—you can hear it best at the very end when Alchemist lets it run for a few seconds.
5. Sorry — T.I. T.I.’s the kind of rapper with the breath control and attitude that’s custom made for a good running song. On this one he’s doing some talking from the heart, which any good running playlist needs its share of. (I like to have a good combination of sincerity and blatant bragging.) As good as T.I. comes off here, Andre 3000 completely steals the spotlight on the guest verse.
6. Damage — Pharoahe Monch. Pharoahe rapping from the perspective of a bullet over a truly sick beat. Ummm, yes. This is a bit of a slower BPM than I’ll usually use on a running playlist, but Pharoahe makes it up by keeping his delivery fresh and mixing in some seriously rapid fire. Complex syllables can compensate for slow beats on a good running track.
7. Jean Grae — Kill Screen. I could pretty much the same things I just said about “Damage.” I like how Jean Grae keeps on switching up the speed of her flow on this one, starting off slow and building it up, then slowing it down and layering it up again. & don’t miss the goddamn video on this one.
8. Wishin’ — Royce da 5’9″. I think this is, hands down, the best beat off of Royce’s new album. It’s brilliant the way Premier switches things up and incorporates elements of each “phase” into the other (you’ll see what I mean when you hear it). Common’s guest verse makes up for the lackluster album he released in 2014.
9. Payback — Immortal Technique. This song is great for about 5 different reasons. Two of them are the intro, which is one of the best uses of irony I’ve ever seen in a rap song, and the outro, which is seriously ballsy and so damn satisfying. Oh, and the lyrics—this is how you talk politics in a hype track. Who doesn’t love a little payback when they’re running?
10. Move On – Slaughterhouse. On any given album, Slaughterhouse will compensate for all the egregiously ignorant tracks with one like this, where they seriously elevate their game, give us lyrics on top of lyrics on top of lyrics, and show what the words “real talk” mean. I still get chills when I listen to this one.
People, you made it really difficult for Manuel and I. A dizzying array of manuscripts throughout the week, a surge at the end, right as our eyes were bloodshot, our minds scrambled. Yeah, you made it really tough this time. And it’s for that reason that the fourth edition of Mainline breaks all the previous contest records. What does this mean? Well, it means the first-ever three-way tie. Yup. Simply no other way around it. When looking at the battleground of submissions, three manuscripts fought the good fight, always managing to be at the end of that trail of dead bodies, standing tall. Thank you, to all that took part in Mainline. I know how difficult, and stressful, it can be, putting your work on the line like this. What’s important is that you did. You had the guts to do just that. Just because you didn’t win, it doesn’t mean you won’t dominate the next. Keep that in mind and keep writing. You only lose if you stop. Three winning manuscripts. Another Mainline completed. Bloodshot eyes. Trail of dead bodies. Yeah:
Flesh of the Peach by Helen McClory
Transitory by Tobias Carroll
American Mary by Alexandra Naughton
Down in a Hole by Jesus Angel Garcia
The Hoosier by Jared Yates Sexton
A Manual for Nothing by Jessica Anne
They Don’t Know Us Here by Carolyn DeCarlo
The End of Cinnamon by Jordaan Mason
Cured Meat by Polly Trope
These United States by Russell Jaffe
Encyclopedia of Failed Filmmakers by Johnny Damm
Helen McClory’s Flesh of the Peach, Tobias Carroll’s Transitory, and Alexandra Naughton’s American Mary will be published as part of CCM’s 2016 Catalogue.
Mainline will reconvene in June.
An excerpt from Flesh of the Peach:
She stood out on the observatory of the Empire State Building in the failing light, felt delicate and underslept, and awaited something decisive to occur. Maybe she’d be there until closing. Did they close this place? Every night the top of the building glowed different colours. Beacons for the various dread causes. And maybe out of cause-kinship, every night, all through the night, they let fools gather to acknowledge their own.
Sarah’s causes? They were slimy, incriminating, broken, partial. She rummaged in her bag for a candied ginger. Sucked down on sticky fire, and squinted out across the city. I am all alone, she thought, who the fuck could aid me but me? She pulled down the sunglasses from the top of her head. That helped. You should always at least have a bit of poise. It wasn’t that she particularly cared if tourists noticed she had been crying. Just that she was fond of her projections. The kind of person who went to her solitary bed in light makeup and skimpies in order to present fierce aspect. To herself, to anything in the world that might be leering in her window.
This guy. Grandpa and the adding machine. He acts like he does not come from a family forever tied to numbers, reciepts and nice shiny things. He smells at times like a brush fire in a garbage heap next to a Gin factory. His eyebrows radiate a strange kind of malignant evil when he tries to lecture. The little handbags under his eyes remind me when I tune out like this of the bags found at thrift stores with the smell of old things and failure along with the ghost of moth balls. He tries to rumple and stain just so but his posture radiates long rides in a car with a driver never spoken to.
He is winging it again. He may as well bring lecture notes in drawers from a bedroom or just tell us all teaching writing is an impotent fruitless pathetic wheels spinning in mud for infinity waste of time on a base even molecular level. He has something in his teeth. His eyes have that dead murder look again, oop, now like a ghost it is gone again. I could be eating lunch. I could be flossing.
But here we are.
Elliot Slarp’s note found on the floor at Naropa Institute one summer before he dropped out to “find himself”
Professor: William Burroughs