Nostalgia has become a kind of currency for online outlets. We ply you with those sweet, syrupy, “remember when?” moments, and, if we’re lucky, you repay us with page clicks, likes, retweets, and word-of-mouth praise. Those of us who write about music are especially aware of how just the opening bars from a familiar song can crack the walls of repression and force a virtual geyser of memories to pour back into our consciousness.
This piece isn’t about that exactly. This is about how a song can ruin a memory forever–in the best possible way.
I was a younger man, barely out of high school, and I met a young woman at a wedding. We danced to a cloyingly sweet ballad called “Cupid” by the former Bad Boy Records quartet 112. It was just a dance, and a brief conversation, nothing more. Still it was an uncharacteristically sweet moment that I held on to for a long time, for reasons I still don’t understand.
At one point, hearing that song would cause me to look through that young man’s eyes and see her face all over again. I would remember her smile that said she was embarrassed for the both of us. I would remember that every once in a while, for a split second, you can let down your guard, and everything would be okay. I would live briefly in a moment that passed just as quickly as it arrived.
Then Killer Mike had to ruin everything a few short years later.
It’s 2005, and I have my first real job after 18 months of working as a bouncer, as office security, and a writer for a few magazines that existed for about as long as it took you to read this sentence. While I was busy blowing my now regular paychecks on sneakers, dates with as many women as would have me, and overpriced nightclub alcohol, I would still find myself thinking about her. Not “her” in particular–to be honest I forgot her name soon after the wedding–but the idea of her was a nice security blanket to throw over my shoulders from time to time when the streets got too cold.
One day, I unwrapped the plastic from my recently purchased mixtape by Big Boi’s new Purple Ribbon collective and let it ride. Not long after the triumphant horns of the “So Fresh, So Clean” remix died down, a familiar set of chords filled the fuselage of my 747-sized Buick Park Avenue. Like a high-caliber gunshot reverberating through a narrow hallway, Killer Mike’s voice rang in my ears, initiating a jarring mind-fuck from which I still haven’t recovered.
“The time is 1:12 in the ATL/I exit 112 with this b*tch Michelle.”
No more brown-eyed girls with innocent faces. Just images of burgundy-stained carpets, scorched flesh, cocaine, and dirty money. When those opening acoustic chords start, I no longer think “Girl, if I told you I love you…” All I can hear is Killer Mike laughing at his young shooters for not f*cking the women in the crowded hotel suite before killing them.
Mike’s used his pen, and his sharp attention to detail, to stab me directly in the heart, letting the last pint of Kool-Aid slowly ooze out. Don’t get me wrong, I still believe in innocent pure moments that confirm that some good remains in the world, but I definitely have less time for acoustic guitars and brown-eyed ideas with pink lipstick than I did before Killer Kill, Big Zach, and Jackpot paid Joe the Player a visit.