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Mike Aragona - Freelance Writer / Editor

The Last Word

Musical Influences — (February 1998) Musical Influences. Folks who've known me for a long time may be wondering what the hell's gotten into me lately with my new fixation on Rap (or more specifically, Gangsta-Rap). It's rather easy to explain.

I have, since my early teens, been filled with a lot of anger. An anger that couldn't always find an outlet. In the early days, I looked to Heavy Metal for musical release. The heavy pounding of drums and wailing of guitars promised much, but didn't deliver. Yes, there was a lot of screaming involved, but most of the songs really didn't say much. What were the rockers screaming about? Wanting more money? More sex? They weren't in any kind of dire straits and seemed to be living well. Not exactly folks I could relate to.

The song I probably identified with most was Judas Priest's "Screaming for Vengeance" mainly because IT sounded like they were railing at the world. "Out there is a fortune waiting to be had, if you think I'll let it go, you're mad, you've got another thing coming!" That whole album rocked. And the screaming was great therapy.

But, as I mentioned, it wasn't enough. At that time, Punk began to make its way into my world. And that definately hit the right spot. Anger, hatred, railing at the world and injustices, fighting, clawing your way out of the slop of life. It was all there. Plus the screaming. Plus the most important thing: FEELING the anger in the songs. I don't know about you, but when I'm really pissed off, I swear. Hardcore Punk filled that void. When I was really pissed, I needed to scream and listen to others scream as well. Let me tell you, to this day, I still can't find anyone who screams or is as pissed off as Johnny Rotten is/sounds in "Never Mind The Bollocks." Especially during "Bodies."

So, is it any wonder that scene got so ingrained into my blood and psyche? The bands told it like it was and yelled it out for all to hear. Heck, sharing the anger was the whole reason Why Bother was started. A chance for ME to yell.

Now, all things change, and this life style was no exception. But not internally. Internally, I'm still the Punk I always was. But I'd pretty much heard it all. And when radio started calling it "Rage" instead of Punk, I knew it was all over.

How does Rap fit into all this? Easy. Back in high school, I always stated that I could listen to pretty much anything except for Rap. How could I? Rap wasn't saying anything new to me, nor was it screaming at me. It was fluff. And because of that, I tuned out of anything resembling Rap. Which is a shame because I missed out on the beginnings of NWA (Niggaz With Attitude) in 1988. That was a brutal wake-up call to the world.

Fast-forward to the Metropolitain Toronto Comics Convention of last year and Francisco's Gangsta-Snatch-Rap cassette. There were lots of tunes on that cassette, most of them about "da bitches". But one particular song stood out from all the others: "Hit 'em Up" by Tupac Shakur. It was brutal. It was vulgar. It was destructive and ultra-violent. And yet, I understood everything he was saying. In his own way, 2Pac was simply saying: "This argument is between me and Biggie. The rest of you had to stick your noses in and take sides? Well fuck all y'all!" Of course, he says it a lot more profane than I just did :)

Anyhow, there was something about his tone of voice in that and other songs. I could FEEL the anger again. I could sympathize with his plight. And, also, I could laugh at how much he was enjoying himself! There's a lot of laughter in his songs (whether at the fools going up against him, or just his joie-de-vivre of having succeeded at something else) and that endeared him to me.

Before you ask, yes, I own most of his material. I listen to them constantly in the car. I own some other CDs as well (Ice Cube, N.W.A., Trapp, B.I.G.) But 2Pac gets the most play.

There you have it. That's what music is to me. You all know that everything is personal with me, so it shouldn't come as any surprise at what it takes for me to really dig anything. Of course, some of you may be shocked to learn that I had so much anger in me. Well, I've said this before, and will continue to say it. There's a lot about me that people don't know about. I'm like the proverbial Iceberg. There's a lot beneath the surface. One just has to know how to look or the proper questions to ask...

(The Last Word (c) Mike Aragona. All rights reserved. No reproduction or retransmission of this article is granted without written permission of Mike Aragona)

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