I’m pretty lucky in that I was born into a good record collection. The first record I distinctly remember listening to was Springsteen’s Nebraska, on a drive through Eastern Washington with my dad. We listened to that album on repeat for the entirety of the drive, which was six hours each way. I remember being petrified of that shout he makes towards the end of “State Trooper.” It still startles me from time to time.
So, growing up, I heard a lot of Springsteen and Dylan, Waits and Steve Earle, Townes Van Zandt, Stones, stuff like that. The first record I bought with my own money was Public Enemy’s Fear of a Black Planet.
I was ten years old. As suburban white kid street cred goes, that was undoubtedly my apex and the decline then has been precipitous. As a lyricist, Chuck D was light years away from what I had grown accustomed to; these were not songs about desolate highways, unrequited loves, or stream-of-consciousness dreamscapes. They were to-the-point, incendiary, and angry. That appealed to me.