Fade to Black: The Friends & Rappers We've Forgotten

How many friends have you lost touch with? How many rappers have come and gone?
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“Some people change, it's a part of life like seasons” - Big K.R.I.T., "Boobie Miles"

Too much shit.

Too many clothes.

Too many souvenirs.

Too. Much. Shit.

I’m trying to get rid of things, I’ve been trying for a year now. Every few weeks I spend a day getting rid of stuff, hoping that by shedding some material weight I’ll find enlightenment. I fantasize about packing all my shit up and just leaving, but I don’t have the courage, not yet, so I’m settling for being prepared when that time comes. I’m ready for a change. I’m ready to start a new chapter in my life.

As I sat in my room last Saturday, hurling random objects into a bag like a Santa who woke up late on Christmas, I picked something up. Unlike the intramural basketballs shirt from college and the Wizards playoff towels, I couldn’t let it go. I stood there for 10 minutes staring at this Rasta frog plush toy and realized that starting a new chapter means closing an old one, and I’m not sure I’m ready for that. That toy frog isn’t just a strange mix of a religion and an amphibian, it’s tradition, it’s the past. It's the fair. 

One hot evening every August the woes and I would gather (often in two cars because we roll deep), head up the 95 and make our way to the Montgomery County State Fair. One hot evening every August, I would always get off at the wrong exit. One hot evening every August I would swear “Fuck,” but then assure the woes, “Next year I got it.” One hot evening every August we’d see the lights of the Ferris wheels in the distance, bobbing and weaving through traffic, hitting holes like Barry Sanders, sneaking around Lakeforest Mall and making our way to the parking lot.

“Should we start with the fun house or the haunted house?”

“Haunted house, line’s shorter.”

“But Funnel Cake doe,” someone (usually me) would say.  

“I have to pee,” said four of the six girls in the group.

We’d always just end up doing it all, including me showcasing my sniper skills in the water gun game; that’s how I won that Rasta frog. One time I was victorious against a four year old girl - I’m ruthless - but gave her the toy I won. My girlfriend at the time wouldn't admit it, but I could tell she was actually kind of mad. She wanted the toy.

I would always leave broke, covered in bloomin’ onion juice and powdered sugar, but always happy. It was another successful trip to the fair, it was another year of tradition. I was happy to drop 60 bucks because it meant getting to spend time with a group of friends. A group of friends that, while nobody wanted to admit it, was deteriorating.

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The dull, subtle pain of that deterioration was made just a little bit easier by the summer tradition. Though someone was always mad at someone else for dating someone, though someone always brought a friend nobody really liked, though my girlfriend and I had broken up but not left friendship circles, we always made a point to make the fair. It was our Sunday truce. The pain was still there with us, swinging on the Viking ship next to us, subtly bitter in every bite of corn dog, but its enormity was outdone by the magic of the fair.

But as I sat there clutching that stupid fucking frog, I realized, this year was the first year since college that we broke tradition.

It wasn’t a conscious choice, no declaration was made, no retirement announcement. Two of my friends are no longer on speaking terms and spending a night with my ex and her fiance isn’t an ideal way to spend my free time. As a group, we’ve grown apart. Three years ago, fresh out of college, we used to have to all hang out and smoke and watch bullshit on TV. We used to go out and get drunk. We used to get stoned and hit up Parkway Deli (another tradition lost). Now? Some are married, some have moved away, some work. Now, as a unit, we hardly see each other at all. I still make time for the friends in the circle, even my ex, but as an entire group, I can't remember the last time we hung out together. It’s sad. I miss it.

It’s been on my mind this week and as usual I’ve looked to music for help. I’m an emotional dude, I feel more feels than I would like, but music always helps. I normally put on K.R.I.T., Oddisee or some Rapsody when I need a musical shoulder to lean on, but this time around it felt more appropriate to think of all the artists with whom my relationship has too deteriorated.

How much of the music that we listen to really sticks with us? Really? Just take a second and think about it, take a stroll through your music library. If you collect music like I collect music, you’ll see more ghosts than people. The signs of deterioration will be everywhere.

“Oh shit, I remember that song.”

“What ever happened to that dude?”

“That album was my shit back in the day.”

In strolling through my library, in talking with Nathan about rappers we once crowned next to blow and have now lost track of, I’ve come to realize most of the connections we make with music and with people are ephemeral. In the moment they are the most important thing, they shape who we are and how we see the world. They make us happy, sad, and weird combinations of both. They challenge us and they make things easier. We use music the same way we use relationships. The right song in the right moment can be like much needed words of encouragement, but eventually, most of those songs fade into the collective fog of our past. It’s not that we have slept on them or they’ve fallen off, shit just happens, life happens. Maybe an artist gets married, maybe they have a kid, or maybe they decide to pursue teaching instead of music. Maybe they never stop making music but it's us that drifts away. It’s the same in life, the same as the fair. The crew didn’t consciously grow apart, none of us boycotted the fair as a statement, it just happened. Maybe someone had to work, maybe someone was on vacation. For one reason or another we didn’t make it. For one reason or another, that rapper who seemed primed for the limelight didn’t make it either.

On the other hand, maybe the shedding of old relationships is necessary, a survival mechanism that prevents us from drowning in the past. Sometimes you forget about an artist because you find another who is there for you now. You have to stop seeing old friends so you can make time for new, fresh relationships. I’m not going to see a movie with my ex, I’d rather do that with my amazing current girlfriend. I’m not going to spend time on a three-year-old DJBooth featured loosie from a now disappeared rapper when I could break down Action Bronson’s album. I’d much rather find the next great rapper than dwell on ones that fell into the abyss...although sometimes, on a Saturday afternoon, alone in your room listening to music and cleaning, that abyss is all you can see.

As I try to close a chapter of my life, I’m going to think about music. Each song I’ve listened to has made me feel something, taught me something. Some people may be with me for a lifetime, my brother, my best friend, the Kanyes and K.R.I.T.s of my music collection, but most will fade, even as they all give me something, help shape me. I’ll always love them, but I need to forget them so I can find the next ones. So sure, I’ll remember the wise words of K.R.I.T., but I’ll always try to occasionally stop and remember all the friends, all the rappers, for the gifts they've given me, even the gifts that I can't seem to remember.

I threw the frog away.

The trash bag was heavier than I thought.  

[Lucas Garrison is a writer for DJBooth.net. His favorite album is “College Dropout,” but you can also tweet him your favorite Migos songs at @LucasDJBooth.]

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