It could be effectively argued that visuals destroyed the process of visualization. This theory, once applied closely to the arts, as video popularity sometimes supplanted that of the song it was to support, has trickled into everyday life.
Cellphones with photo/video capability have empowered anyone to garner content and essentially tell stories. So important is the visual that the quality of what is seen needn’t matter. Framing an image and specifically for video, sound doesn’t matter. No wonder we hear things but don’t listen. We’ve grown accustomed to the background noise.
Are we that far removed from the days when we could close our eyes and allow the lyrics to paint the picture? Was it that long ago that radio was an overall medium, not just a conduit for music but a vital and refutable source of information and entertainment? Some say no. In fact, they’re out to stem the tide. One such person is Christopher Johnson.
“I started out as a producer in public radio, at NPR,” said Johnson. “So, in my duties as an editor, producer, writer, reporter and creator, I think in terms of sound, and I believe in the use of sound as a means to tell a story.”
Johnson has pulled together his acquired skill set to put together a compelling project called “100:1 Crack Legacy.” Done in six-parts, the Audible original series delves deep into the history of the war on drugs and the impact it has on race and policing in America today. For many of us, that’s a not so distant history, and our memories of that period have crystal clarity of a time that should be revered and celebrated.
I heard it firsthand two weeks ago while getting a line-up. Barbershop lore is filled with tales of the gear, the girls, the whips and the excitement, all from that bygone era. To add flavor, they’ll hit the prep and the wop with Temptation-like precision while mouthing along to songs by the likes of Keni Burke, EnTouch and Brand Nubian. The addition of Rob Base’s “It Takes Two,” however, puts a different spin of the tales. Did the enthusiasm from the opening verse (I wanna rock right now, if you can’t recall) come from the song being a favorite, or was it a journey back to the dark side?
As much as cats like to spin the “Everybody was eating” mantra, it wasn’t the case at all. Many casualties were left by the wayside. Imprisonment and early caskets were the extreme and inevitable options that those who participated in such behaviors accepted. Much worse was the fear of jail or death that everyone in the radius was subject to. Hopes and dreams were held hostage and in some cases snuffed and the circumstances were out of their hands. Those are some of my Bronx memories.
Johnson has some memories of his own that led to the creation of the piece. He said, “It’s a bit of a love letter to where I come from. I wanted to get back and try to understand what went down in Washington, D.C. in the late ’80s, early ’90s.” The series begins with the stories of two young Black men from Maryland whose deaths, although 30 years apart, are intimately linked by racism, fear and crack cocaine. 30 years apart. The more things change…
You can find the six-part series exclusively in Audible Channels. Check it out!
Over and out. Holla next week. Til then enjoy the nightlife.