The Intern Journals

As Blacker Inkwell’s first ever summer intern, I’m very excited to share with you some of what I’ve learned and experienced along the way.  After beginning the internship by venturing out to New Jersey two weeks ago, it already seems like I’ve done so many new things.  Hope you enjoy…

One of my first ongoing projects of the summer is beginning to digitize Blacker Inkwells music archive for use on various mixtapes or soundtracks related to his writing. Therefore, the first few days on the job were spent learning my way around a turntable and the computer program Audacity.  Considering I had never really handled vinyl before, let alone actually played it, just putting it on, cleaning it, letting it spin and pressing record seemed risky.  Fortunately, the required skill set doesn’t exceed that.  Although I’m a beginner at the art of DJing (rather, what’s below beginner? Novice?  What’s below novice?), I have to admit that simply adjusting the volume dials is a cool feeling.  Needless to say, I have a newfound respect for DJs everywhere.

Hip-Hop is one of the many interests Todd and I have in common.  While I’d like to consider myself reasonably well-versed in the genre, my knowledge does not go beyond the classics and some of the better-known underground artists.  But this is little help to me considering that the majority of Blacker Inkwell’s archive is from the late ‘70s into 2000 – outside my scope.  But it turns out to be a great opportunity for me, however, because working with records primarily from the founding years of hip-hop, listening to Todd’s collection has resembled a kind of history lesson.  There have been moments throughout listening to the records while they’re recording in which I’d catch something that sounded really familiar and have it curiously linger with me for a while.  Later, I began to realize these certain lines, or parts of a verse, that I recognized had been cut from older songs and used as the hook on a more recent track.  Although it may seem unoriginal, using parts of a song from over twenty years ago as inspiration for their own music is a true homage to hip-hop’s roots.  For example, I’ve heard of NWA’s infamous “F The Police,” but not Jay Dilla’s earlier version.

Therefore, the stuff I’m used to hearing now isn’t so different from the music Todd grew up on.  This method of recycling material comes full circle in the greater scheme because it links the music I know back to the tracks that established hip-hop in the first place.

Despite our common interests, it’s true that Todd and I are of different generations.  Growing up in the 2000s, as far as I know music comes from a box, aka an iPod.  How does it get there?  I don’t know.  But when you click the song, it plays.  Working with vinyl, however, has a whole different feel about it.  There is something about dropping the needle on the record and watching it spin that creates a much deeper connection to the music.  Not only is it a grittier experience than having the music pre-packaged for you, but it also feels more closely related to the production of the song.  The imperfections in the audio can always be removed on a computer, but hearing the little skips and pops makes me feel like I’m in the studio with the artist, he’s behind the glass and I’m in front of a huge soundboard just bobbing my head.  I never would have expected getting this sense of closeness to the music simply by counting the rings in the record, watching the waves bounce or feeling the record’s weight in my hands.

While some of the content of hip-hop (at least among the deeper, perhaps less commercial artists worth listening to – more Talib Kweli, less Lil Wayne) certainly remains throughout the years, it is a shame that the intimacy one feels with the music itself by handling vinyl has been replaced by the demand for convenience in the form of an iPod.

So as far as internships go, I’d say I’m one of the lucky ones.  While other kids my age are getting coffee and sending faxes, I’m reading, writing and listening to great music – can’t ask for much more than that.  Of course, sliding how I’m now an amateur DJ into conversations doesn’t hurt either.

Thanks for checking out the blog, and an update on the adventures will be along shortly,


Posted in blackerinkwells by setkin on July 22nd, 2010 at 11:01 am.

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