What The Game’s Been Missing: Music History Lessons

Last week I reviewed Robert Glasper Experiment‘s incredible new album, Black Radio, and couldn’t have been more excited about the music delights that it held. Seriously, if you have not already copped that joint, shame on you! But anyway, in my review I made somewhat of a faux pas. If I may quote myself:

Bilal shines, as he usually does, on “Letter to Hermione.” Forget the fact that my favorite Harry Potter character is memorialized in the title of the track; my man Bilal whisper-sings in his sultry voice over flutes and jazz drums about longing for love, which equates to pure heaven.


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It wasn’t until I read a comment on the piece that I realized that the song “Letter to Hermione” was not a send up to the female lead of one of the greatest books of all time (though I hoped desperately that it was), but a cover of a David Bowie song.


My face was played. Nobody wants to be the basic chick blissfully unaware of her music history, especially not me, so I made sure to double back and learn up on the song. I am by no means a musical slouch, but this experience reflected a very real generation gap in the knowledge of the context of certain music. Which got me to thinking, wouldn’t be dope if there was some sort of layman’s guide to American music? Maybe some type of condensed, open source music history course?

Honestly, people don’t have the time (nor money) to go back to school to get a degree in ethnomusicology, but an American Music 101 course would be amazing for those of us who want to know more about the music we take for granted. Oldheads, allow us to sip from your fountain of infinite wisdom! Those with mature musical palettes, teach the masses! Andre 3000 made an astute observation in his recent Fader interview that music “is really just a continuous conversation, a lineage thing.” Music, particularly black music, is continuing to evolve. Having a primer on good music would be a great way to put people on game without scaring them off, and I definitely could have used a class last week!

Instead of required reading, you would have required listening — essentially jams that one should be up on. Only the finest of teachers will do (I personally would like Prince Rogers Nelson as my instructor, but I digress). No matter how the course is packaged, whether it’s via a blog or YouTube, it could be just what the doctor ordered in terms of connecting genres and generations of music. It’ll help us all remember why musicians like Parliament Funkadelic were so groundbreaking, and how younger artists like the Robert Glasper Experiment and KING are picking up where they left off. Let’s keep the conversation going and knowledge flowing.

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