Above: Header by Janine Hawkins
Welcome to the Waypoint High School Class of 2016 Yearbook. We're giving out senior superlatives to our favorite games, digging into the year's biggest stories via extracurriculars, and following our favorite characters through their adventures together in fanfic. See you in 2017!
A thing that happens in this job, occasionally, is that you get a surprising package in the mail that contains little tchotchkes related to some big upcoming game. Mostly, this stuff exists to grab your eye (and then clutter your desk), but sometimes, a public relations person decides to really go for it and include something like a soundtrack too.
Earlier this year, I received one of those soundtracks… and it came with a surprise. On top of the game's original score, it had an extra file: "1stRecord_[NAME]61_7.8.16." Which was mysterious, because every other track was something like "05 Generic Soundtrack Song Title." Even stranger, when I loaded the track up, the song name was Serato Recording 1. For the unfamiliar, Serato is a company that makes DJing hardware and software.
My interest piqued, I hit play and… Well, you know what, you should load it up too, and then we can have a little New Year's Eve listening party.
Three quick notes: First, I know who sent this to me, but I'm going to protect his anonymity and the anonymity of the related project. Second, who knows, maybe he didn't make this mix at all. Maybe it's a weird mistake of the mass-produced USB drives the soundtracks came on. But… let me dream, okay?
Third, and this is serious: Please turn down your volume from 13:45 - 14:00. Just… trust me.
Okay. Let's go Esco.
00:00 - "Poetic Justice" - Kendrick Lamar (ft. Drake)
Okay. "Poetic Justice" isn't the best track off of Good Kid, M.A.A.D City, but it's still a good way to start a tape. Beginning with a Kendrick and Drake track really makes it clear that this mix could go anywhere—thoughtful lyricism or energetic anthems. In terms of mixing, PR Guy is getting warmed up with some stutter effects and fade outs, plus the introduction of Dom Kennedy's "Gold Alpinas / Chromed Out Beemers" hook as a sort of bonus adlib. Nothing too impressive yet, but let's see where he goes from here.
02:00 - Ahhhhhh
Oh my god why did you do that to Drake's voice? What was that? Why did Drake sound like a late season Star Trek: The Next Generation alien?
03:00 - "Gold Alpinas" - Dom Kennedy ft. Rick Ross
Okay, that transition was actually pretty smooth. I bet Mystery PR Guy (a.k.a DJ PR) worked that crossfade out way before he knew he'd be making this tape. In any case "Gold Alpinas" definitely means that this tape is leaning more and more anthem.
05:40 - [Intermittent Static Noise]
Okay I think this is "Niggas in Paris" trying to break its way into this mixtape, but it also might be my great aunt rhythmically changing channels on her old tube television.
06:05 - The end of "Niggas in Paris" - Kanye West & Jay-Z
Yeah, it was the end of "Niggas in Paris" alright… until…
07:00 - The beginning of "Niggas in Paris" (but pitch shifted) - Kanye West & Jay Z
"BoOM!" That's what I imagine the PR guy said out loud when he made this transition, believing that he'd performed a devastating deconstruction of the listener's musical expectations. But there's a thing Derrida teaches about deconstruction: It can't just be a reversal of the norm, it has to utterly undermine the binary propping up the status quo. Saying "the bad thing is good actually" (or flipping the end and beginning of a rap song), isn't deconstruction, it's just re-inscribing the status quo by highlighting it. Pay heed to the post-structuralists, DJs.
Also this pitch-shifting shit is not effective, bruh.
9:12 - "Amazing" - Kanye West ft. Young Jeezy
This is a bad transition. Never go from Kanye to Kanye, and really don't go from the high energy "N.I.P." to the autotuned dirge of Amazing. Like, if you need to slow down but still stay 'Ye, at least gimme "Barry Bonds" or something, christ.
11:00 - "What You Know" - T.I.
This isn't even a mixtape anymore, it's one of those upsetting automatic playlists iTunes creates that makes me embarrassed by how often I've listened to the same dozen songs a billion times in the last decade. And that transition was garbage.
But whatever. "What You Know" is like the pinnacle of mid 2000s crossover rap and I'm never going to be mad because I have to listen to it. In fact, I think I'm going to rewind and listen to this again.
11:00 (Again) - "What You Know" - T.I.
Oh my god, this is the clean version of this song!
I didn't even notice the first time because I spent so much time working retail during the period that "What You Know" was at the top of the charts, so I heard this version of the track thousands of times. Plus, it's kind of a great radio edit? The way the producer uses "EY OH" in place of ".44" is just choice.
13:20 - WARNING WARNING WARNING
Lower your audio IMMEDIATELY AND LEAVE IT LOWERED UNTIL AT LEAST 13:55. This isn't a joke. Please please please lower your audio.
13:49 - Me, Enjoying the fact that the PR Guy hasn't cut off this very good song:
"Wow, remember when TI was good, before the surveillance state made him go pop?"
13:50 - You, Wise and Prepared
"Huh, what was that weird sound?"
13:50 - Me, Ears (and Weekend) Ruined
"Ahhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!!! This is the worst New Year's Eve Party Ever!!!!!!"
My understanding is that this is some sort of weird thing that has to do with Serato settings or hitting a wrong button or something. But it sounds so much worse than that. This is the sound the universe makes when mystical forces rewrite it to make it objectively worse. Today is supposed to be Friday, but this sound has transported me backwards into time to Monday. I just ordered my favorite drink from this coffee place, but they served me a lukewarm Earl Grey tea instead. Also I have a fucking headache.
But… You know what, PR dude? This is some avant garde, deconstructionist shit. Good hustle out there.
14:45 - "Swimming Pools (Drank)" - Kendrick Lamar
This is the best crossfade so far on the tape, though it drops a littl…
Sorry, I can't do this, my head still hurts too much. Give me another minute.
15:45 - Still "Swimming Pools"
Okay. Phew. Deep breaths. I like "Swimming Pools," but you have to show me some range here PR guy. This is the second time you've gone back to the well of the same performers.
"Same Old Mistakes" - Tame Impala "Same Ol' Mistake" - Rihanna
This is the worst transition yet. Just stilted and distracting. It would've been cleaner to just totally fade out the last track and then fade back up on this.
Also, while I really, really want to give credit to this guy for including the Tame Impala track that best fits into the sonic world of hip hop, well, Donald Glover already made that point this year. So, you get credit for taste, but no credit for originality.
WELL FUCK. I blame my ears being ruined and the fact that her cover, while good, is also VERY similar.
20:00 - "Two Step (Remix)" - UNK ft. E-40, Jim Jones, & T-Pain
This was almost such a good transition. Good mash ups make you go from nodding your head to one song into nodding your head to a new song almost imperceptibly. But DJ PR, you couldn't help yourself, could you? You had to drop that fader arrhythmically. You had to remind the listener of your presence. Please, DJ PR, show a little restraint. Your listeners will thank you.
21:50 - "Stanky Legg" - GS Boyz
I know I can't keep talking about transitions but oh my god, my dude, when people say "run that back," they don't literally mean hit the "back" button on iTunes three times in a row.
Anyway, remember the Stanky Legg? That was fun, huh?
22:55 - what was that
Now I feel like this guy is reading this as I write it and is intentionally fucking with me. What was that. Does Serato just have a "perspective of a drugged character in a mid-tier procedural cop show" button? If so, that's wild.
24:00 - "Power" - Kanye West
Maybe it's the headache from that sound. Maybe it's the way I feel personally attacked by this PR guy right now. Maybe it's the reminder that Kanye just had a friendly meeting with President-Elect Donald Trump. All I know is that I hate "Power" now. That's a shame. Used to be a p. good song.
26:15 - Is Kanye's voice slowly getting higher and higher?
26:45 - Yes, Kanye's voice is getting higher and higher.
27:00 - "Yonkers" - Tyler the Creator
Remember when Tyler & Hodgy Beats did that Fallon performance like five years ago? Odd Future had all the energy and potential in the world. It felt like anything could happen, like they could be the new Wu-Tang, for better and worse.
Anyway, that's how I felt about this mixtape 27 minutes ago. Now I just feel bad.
29:45 - "Real Sisters" - Future
My head hurts too much to check, but this I think this is the most recent track that's been on the tape. I'm happy about that, DJ PR. Glad you're still branching out and enjoying yourself.
32:00 - "Trap Niggas" - Future
Okay I… am still glad that you like Future, bud. I'm pro-variety and all, but this is still better than that noise.
34:20 - "Old Time's Sake" - Sweet Sable
Okay. One of two things just happened.
Either we've been hustled and DJ PR is secretly an old head with a record collection deep enough to have a 1994 Sweet Sable cut in it.
Or: This dude grew up loving the Above the Rim soundtrack. Which is fair. Which is fair.
35:50 - "Loft Music" - The Weeknd
MY WHOLE DAY JUST GOT BETTER.
Here is a thing that I have said before and that I still stand by: The Weeknd has never been as good as he was on House of Balloons, his debut mixtape. A big part of that was the production of Jeremy Rose, who has never worked with Abel again (and who alleges that he wasn't paid for his work, either.)
Anyway, the point is "Loft Music" probably makes my list of the top five R&B tracks of the last 20 years. (And only partially because of the killer Beach House" sample).
Thank you DJ PR. If you can keep this trajectory going for 10 more minutes, then I'll forgive you for everything: your bad transitions; returning the well; even the bad sound.
38:00 - "I Know" - Jay-Z
American Gangster is a totally okay album. But why would you go from early Weeknd to… just, you know what, let's move on. Let's just move on.
39:40 - "Call Me" - Tweet
Do you think Tweet thinks about how ironic it is that her breakout single references a form of communication that her stage name has (partially) replaced?
Anyway, Missy Elliot wrote this track and I wish she had performed it, too.
41:10 - "Try Me" - DeJ Loaf
I've always liked DeJ's sense of style—and not just because she wears a Degeneration X Jersey in the "Try Me" music video. Butttt I don't think this track holds up.
Also, I'm just growing weary. This song feels like those days I don't get out of bed before 5PM. I'm starting to regret bringing us down this path together. I know there's probably only another song or two but I'm not sure I can do this, Samwise.
43:06 - Somewhereinamerica - Jay-Z
Please don't end a mixtape on a Magna Carta... Holy Grail track. Please don't end a mixtape on a Magna Carta... Holy Grail track. Please don't end a mixtape on a Magna Carta... Holy Grail track.
Do you think this song has special significance to DJ PR? Do you think he heard Hov say "One million, two million, three million, 20 million / Oh I'm so good at math" and was like "Yeah, same, lemme get on my grind and unRAR this copy of Serato DJ and-"
Oh. That's it. It's over. We made it. I don't know what to say about this. How do you even wrap up something so messy and confusing and… God, maybe I should just cut this guy some slack. Whatever I say here isn't going to be any better of a closer than Jay-Z referencing that time Miley Cyrus twerked.
Thanks for coming on this journey with me. I hope 2017 is better than 2016. And if you're a PR person and want to send us your mixtape, well, we won't say no.