The V in Variety

V is an interesting letter. It’s exactly in the middle of my first name, and it holds the two D’s together with the vowels. When I think of V, I think of Variety. This week while composing pieces for the upcoming edition of The Appetizer, Variety was at the heart of what I am serving up. Here’s why.

The Appetizer was birthed in September of 2003 out of a desire I had to hear music on the radio that I was actually listening to. I’m sure you can relate. When was the last time you heard your real favorite songs on your iPod on the radio? Isn’t this what fuels people to plug into Pandora and Spotify? I’ve been in radio since 1997, and even then my desire was for the airwaves to be full of music that was unique and that not everyone was into. If every station across a town is playing “Pop” music, that’s like every restaurant in your town serving only hamburgers and fries. Sure it’s tasty once a week or so, but it gets old really fast.

I have really diverse tastes in music. I bet you do too. I’m not sure if there are certain seasons where I listen to some types of music more than others, but I like some very different styles of music. I love punk rock, especially stuff from the 90s (No Motiv, NOFX, etc), and yet I also love acoustic singer-songwriter(Iron & Wine, Brandi Carlile, etc). I love grunge (Pearl Jam is one of my all-time top 5 faves) and I love hip-hop, but here I’m much more selective. It’s honestly more of a closet fan and don’t know a lot of every style or artist. My favorite artists are 2Pac, Jay-Z, Nuwine (now called Wine-O), and K’Naan.

I think what draws me to this style is beyond just the talent it takes to flow rhymes together in sequence, and even more than the talent of the beats is some of the stories told in rap, even hardcore rap. I’m drawn to stories that grip me, that I feel something I haven’t experienced before. Rap does that for me. I didn’t grow up in a place where I had to hustle to survive, where bullets riddled the streets, and I was in danger every day. While that’s not I life I seek, those who have experienced it and survived, and made a way for themselves and others to get out of it is inspiring. Yeah in the midst of those inspiring raps there are claims of how many people the rapper has shot, how tough they are, what happens if you cross them, and all that. I chalk that up to the lingo and vernacular of the geography of the streets. It’s hard for someone who hasn’t lived that or experienced it to just judge it on the cover premise alone. My family raised me in church. Church lingo and vernacular doesn’t make sense to those on the outside of it. So it’s the same thing. There’s a lot of crying out to God for rescue in rap. That brings it all around, and makes it where everyone can relate. Isn’t that a similarity in every style of music. “Oh God Help Me!” I think something along those lines and cry is in every style of music in every language, in every century. “I love you!” is as well. That’s in every variety of musical flavor.

I’m not into the overly sexualized side of this music, but I’m not into that in any style either, where women are talked about like property or good for only a one-time encounter. So please don’t accuse me of being someone I’m not by being into this stuff. I say that because I’ve heard those comments from people in reference to rap. I’m also not into condemning and judging people based on their lifestyles, and I know plenty of religious self-righteous people who do this stuff. So just because I believe and love God doesn’t make me a hater on everyone who doesn’t go to church or speak in Christian-ese. And listening to rap, or hardcore rock/screamo (which is another favorite) doesn’t make someone inherently evil. Ha, glad I got that out.

Some of my friends and family that regularly listen to The Appetizer every week might think they want to sit out this week, since I’m doing something outside the envelope. But let me ask something of you, that my mom used to ask of me (actually I didn’t have a choice, but you really do). I remember sitting down to Sunday dinner and she cooked up asparagus (which smells horrible!). I looked at it and said (in a whiny, irritable tone) “I don’t like that and I don’t want to eat it.” She told me to give it a try. “You never know, you might actually like it.” Turns out she was right. I frickin’ love asparagus!

If you give it a shot, and join me in the process, you’ll see how hip-hop is really already in a lot of musical flavors, many of which you probably love. It’s wild but I realized that until this week, I’ve left out one of the styles of music I love a lot on The Appetizer. The past several months I’ve been stretching the palates of people tuning in to include more progressive rock, some country, and other styles. But I haven’t included something that is part of me-hip hop. Not anymore. This coming week, join me in a unique music experience, as I put the V back in Variety in a Hip-Hop Salad. More to come!

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DGrantSmith

Host of the syndicated radio program The Appetizer heard on public radio across Texas and online from our Listen Now link; enjoys conversations, music, food, art, storytelling, and people. Connect with me. Would love to hear from you.

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