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.