It’s a Saturday night. I’m sixteen years old but I look fourteen, so I have long since accepted that my weekends will consist of listening to my friends talk about football and shitty cars. This weekend however, there is something different on the cards, there is a performance from a local act at a bar located in an equally rural location to where I live. Cue one of the worst nights of my life.
Growing up in a place called Magheramason, a small village far from the buzz of the city and inhabited by the same families since its conception, it’s no surprise that many of the residents are skeptical of change and anything different. Don’t get me wrong though, the people here aren’t pitchfork-wielding racists, just people of conservative values, values which are quickly offended by the vulgar language in hip-hop and everything else associated with it.
Take, for example, the time I was in the car with my grandmother. On said occasion I found the AUX cord in her car and did what any self respecting hip-hop fan would do. I put on some Kanye West. It’s a constant battle to keep the music on as my grandmother protests the profanity, and my luck ran out when Kanye expressed the very practical concern the he “can’t get spunk on the mink.” The AUX cord was promptly ripped from my phone accompanied by the claim that this is “the fucking devil’s music” from my grandmother. This response was maybe justified given that she’s over sixty, but getting flamed by your friends when you put on the new Run the Jewels record, though? That is something no one should ever have to experience.
Rap music is the art of storytelling and we like to share stories with others, but what do you do when not even your closet friends and family give a single ounce of a shit that the new Chance the Rapper track is fire?
Rap music is the art of storytelling and we like to share stories with others, but what do you do when not even your closet friends and family give a single ounce of a shit that the new Chance the Rapper track is fire? You and your unaccepted iTunes library struggles in silence, my friend. You see, small Irish villages work like this: nothing is worth stopping your day over unless it’s gossip about that family down the road that nobody likes. So misunderstood is my appreciation of rap music that my mum and brother think that I want to be a rapper when I grow up. And, every time I don’t answer the phone when my dad calls, my brother claims that it’s so I can talk about not knowing my dad in my lyrics. I shit you not.
But despite the daily rejection of your beloved music, you can always escape to a show and see your favorite rapper every now and then, right? You can be with people that understand the genius of Clipping’s new album or shout the words to your favorite Drake verse along with thousands of others, right? Unfortunately the entire place where I live probably cost less to construct than it would cost to book Danny Brown for a show.
Anyway, back to that Saturday night—my friends had mentioned earlier in the day that there was an event on at a hotel which would be a good night’s entertainment, plus there would be alcohol, so there was no turning down the opportunity. The day passes, night rolls around, and I find myself and two other friends drinking relatively warm Budweiser in the community park. It’s just the three of us opening beers off a park bench while telling ourselves, “this doesn’t taste half bad,” as we struggle to conceal our disgust. In a bid to save money on taxis, one of my friends decides to get someone he knows to take us to the bar—in the countryside pretty much everyone knows how to drive from the second their feet reach the pedals—unfortunately for us, our driver this evening would be just as drunk as us and wildly irresponsible as they sped around winey country roads, flicking the headlights off occasionally, “just for a laugh.”
We make it to the “hotel,” sobered up from the fear of the journey and make our way inside. The size of the building was the first indication—after the drive up of course—that I had fucked up in deciding to come here. This was a bar, and a small one at that. Walking into the bar I think, “maybe the music will be good,” but soon realize that’s not the case when I see that this band is playing.
The bar is packed, engulfed in a blur of plaid shirts, so getting a pint is out of the question for the moment. The majority of my friends had dispersed into groups of people I didn’t know so I decided I’d go to the toilet to kill time. In the toilets I find a group of plaid shirts conversing over something farm equipment related (probably) until they notice me in my unfamiliar choice of outfit, by which I mean, I was wearing a t-shirt, black jeans and a pair of Vans. I didn’t hear exactly what they said, but it was about my clothes, and it wasn’t complimentary. They laughed at me, while shamelessly wearing the same clothes as each other.
I return from the toilets and my friends have found a table. Pint after pint after pint is consumed and there comes a point where I am so smashed I start to become numb to the overall cringe that is this country music performance. Men who are probably too old to be speaking to the girls here are dancing contently to the music on the dance floor as everyone claps along and, in my drunken state, I do the same, telling myself I like this music. Telling myself I’m happy to be here, happy to fit in, even just for a few hours.
Don’t ever do that to yourself. Don’t ever convince yourself you like the shit that everyone else is listening to just because it’s the thing to do or the way to fit in. If you do you will (in my case at least) wake up in the morning feeling the need to wash the shame off yourself with a scalding hot shower while cleansing your musical soul with MF DOOM blasting.
Although my silent struggle is very much real, I must admit that with the internet around, me and many others in the same situation don’t have it that bad. We can always talk with others about that new mixtape that just dropped and the Twitter fight going on between Azealia or Azalea. Whatever your own musical struggle though, just know that next time your friends laugh at the music you put on when you’re in control of the AUX cord, you are not alone.