Newsletter Issue Draft

andrewtsao  •  24 Mar 2023   •    


Hey there 👋

I have a confession. In the first year of writing this newsletter back in 2021, I always dreaded the week leading up to the 25th. It felt so hard to write about this abstract vision or theme I have in my head that connects these 25 songs together to create a curated experience. But sitting here now, 35 issues later, even though there are still parts of this process that feels difficult, I am starting to really notice that there is much more joy and excitement vs fear.

It’s exactly this feeling that makes me feel confident that I can keep doing these newsletter for a while— as long as you’ll have me. Enjoy!

Theme of the month:  ⏩ Hopping Forward

My friends all know that I like to talk about music. Hell, I like talking about it so much that I even decided to publish an entire monthly newsletter to talk about it more. But in the many years of sharing and discussing about different songs, albums, and genres, my friends have definitely never heard me talk about hip-hop.

This may make me sound like an uncultured man, but for a long time I never felt like I “understood” hip-hop. One of my favorite podcast is Jon Caramonica’s NYT podcast on music and every year him and his music journalist friends will discuss their favorite albums of the year and they would often include a handful of hip-hop albums as one of their top five and I would always remember thinking to myself, “What am I missing? And why do I have so much difficulty truly appreciating this genre?”

This all changed last May. I carved out an intentional day for myself on a Saturday to shut down my digital devices, and spent the entire day doing creative things that nurtured me which included just laying down in my living room and listened to albums. One of the albums I chose was Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly. I am not exaggerating when I say this, but even though I have heard specific songs from the album before, that particular experience of listening to it from beginning to end completely opened up ajar my appreciation, curiosity, and adoration of the genre. It felt like something shifted in me, and I found myself listening to an opera-esque masterpiece that was so powerful in scope, message, and musical beauty that it just left me absolutely speechless. I would later proceed the following weeks spending hours upon hours listening to a podcast dissecting each song and the meaning behind it. I was obsessed. Some part of me felt ashamed that I have been missing out all this time, but I mostly just felt exhilirated that a new world of music have opened up to me.

This month’s curation is the first time for me that I’ve focused primarily around hip-hop. Along with some deeply soulful R&B tracks, I’ve hand selected a range of rap and hip-hop songs to not just feature some recent favorites that I got me bopping, but I also wanted to showcase some history of it— like songs from late 1960s and 1990s. The playlist is an celebration of the good things in life that opens up to us when we have the intention and courage to be more open to new things.

Song Highlights:

Track 2: Righteous Minds - Joey BadaSS

When I first opened up to a friend about wanting to explore more hip-hop, this was one of first artist that was recommended to me and he has been one of my favorites ever since.

Track 10: Check the Rhime - A Tribe Called Quest

In college I took a course around around race and culture, and I have faint memory of my professor takling about A Tribe Called Quest. It only took 11 years for me to finally listen to the music and understand the genius behind it.

Track 12: 93 ‘Til Infinity- Souls of Mischief

This was a song that was included in a mixtape my highschool girlfriend made for me, and if my iPod nano had tracker for songs that I listened to the most, this track would definitely have made the top 20.

Track: 21: When I B On the Mic- Rakim

Apparently this rapper was one of the most transformational figure in hip hop who pioneered the use of internal and multisyllabic rhymes. Gotta thank Netflix’s Hip Hop Evolution for introducing me to this artist.**


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