Tag Archives: makes you think

Piles of headphone choices


Some time ago, I wrote What ever happened to headphones? in reaction to the declining appearance of headphones on peoples heads. Fast-forward 2 years and the onslaught of Beats by Dr Dre gracing the heads of athletes and celebrities traveling has had a huge impact on the how people listen to music. Slowly the fad of the white ear buds are being replaced but brightly color headphones.

I’m glad to see that headphones are making their comeback, gaudy designs and all. I just can’t imaging a DJ in front of his MP3 mixer (smh) cranking out music. But we can’t all be DJ’s so when I see them on the train, bus, airport or walking down the street, I smile.  It lets me know that the person is serious about the sound of their music and recognize the difference in quality the two systems produce.

Not only is Dr Dre and Snoop Dogg (Skull Candy) endorsing headphones but also 50 Cent with SMS and Ludacris with Soul. Personal I think the team behind 50’s brand didn’t do their research or even a simple Google Search. Had they, it would’ve been immediately clear that the acronym SMS has been used in so many ways, most notable in relation to cell phone text messaging (Short Message Service) they would have chosen a better name.

Where all of these endorsements fail except Skull Candy is price point. When you’re setting the bar at $100, it suddenly becomes very costly to buy into their products. Especially since the most abundant material in their products is plastic. Anyone that has owned a pair of headphones of any price dreads that snapping sound. It’s the worse sound any headphones can make!  Second to that is the more silent wire short. That problematic, unfixable issue that has you twisting, rubber-banding and bending the wires just to correct a faulty speaker.

When it comes to which headphones to go with make sure you test them out first for the best sound. The artists themselves didn’t design or create these products but they did put their names on them so don’t let the name fool you.  They just want you to buy them because their name is on it and they get a check every time you do. No matter which way you go to enjoy your music make sure you buy that warranty if they offer it. A couple extra bucks right now could save a whole lot of heartache later.

Behind “in” music

I’ve come to know that I see things with different eyes than the rest of the world which often leads me to different conclusions than most people expect so when this video came across my screen I had to watch it a few times.

The first time I watched, I was curious to what they were trying to do. I listened and identified the songs:

  1. Family Affair – Mary J. Blige
  2. In Da Club – 50 Cent
  3. Lose Yourself – Eminem
  4. Hard Knock Life – Jay-Z
  5. Changes – Tupac

Simple enough. Next I watched again and did my usual color count. Not a black face in the whole video. That’s not exactly a bad thing nor is it a big deal, I just often take inventory of the things black people are doing but then it hit me, how many current black artists play instruments?

Sure there’s a somewhat long list: Alicia Keys, Stevie Wonder, John Legend and Jamie Foxx all play piano; QuestLove of The Roots plays the drums; Prince plays guitar and pretty much every produces uses a synthesizer. Miri Ben-Ari has labeled herself a “Hip Hop Violinists” which to me is just her capitalization on the music. Especially since very few in the genre actually play an instrument. This is one of the few genres where words matter more than sound.

Gone are the days of Quincy Jones, Curtis Mayfield and Isaac Hayes. Not because two of those guys are no longer with us. It’s because these guys knew how to compose music. They could take the sounds of the different instruments they could play and put them all together and make a song. That knowledge of music helped them create their great careers. That’s not to say that people today don’t make music, it’s just not made the same.

Instruments themselves are starting to become scarce in schools due to the funding of music programs being cut. School is often the place where people learn how to read music and play it with other instruments. Exposure to a variety of sounds people often shape the minds of people. This often the argument between home-school vs. traditional school. Not many people are skilled enough to properly teach music in the home. Pots, pans and buckets make nice pseudo-drums but they’re not a replacement.

The music behind many hip hop songs is rooted in actual instruments and not just synthesized sounds. Many use the samples of other songs but their sound often features a prominent instrument.  The instruments themselves add so much character to the song that they are like a second layer of lyrics and speak for themselves. They are so powerful that in some songs, featured below, they extended the music without the words to add to the mood.

As digital takes over, it will never take the place of the sound of instruments themselves no matter how well it can copy them. Hopefully those involves with hip hop culture won’t let instruments fall by the wayside for much longer or we will have a whole segment of the population without the skills and tools to make music should the lights go out other than a bucket.