Tuesday, April 17, 2012

'Turn My Headphones Up'

As a frozen-in-time fan of '90s hip-hop, I was thrilled to watch the resurrection of 2Pac in hologram form. How eerie to see a 25-year-old Pac performing with a now 40-year-old Snoop Dogg (the two men were once the same age).

I would have been even more excited to see him perform "Hit 'Em Up" or "Life Goes On," but one can't be too choosy about the set list for deceased rappers.

Another recent treat: Slate's history of rappers saying "Turn My Headphones Up" at the beginning of songs.

From the piece:
At the beginning of his new track “Theraflu,” Kanye West asks “Can my headphones go louder?” It’s a familiar request. In fact, it’s so familiar that you’d think that sound engineers would have learned to keep rappers’ headphones loud already. There are whole Facebook groups dedicated to Eminem’s famous “I have no snare in my headphones” complaint in “Cleanin’ Out My Closet” (snare volume seems to be a recurring frustration for Mr. Mathers), and Dave Chappelle wrote a brilliant sketch exclusively about the phenomenon. 
The fact that these requests persist years after Chappelle’s Show proves that the “turn my headphones up” (TMHU) is much more than an isolated or thoughtless phenomenon. Some TMHU demands arise from necessity: Rapping, after all, requires a strong sense of rhythm and a firm grasp on the beat, and not being able to hear the snare in your headphones could be the difference between a hit recording and another failed take.

One of my favorite instances (not cited by Slate) is on "Can't Nobody Hold Me Down," where Ma$e says to Puff Daddy (pre-P. Diddy), "Yo, turn me up in the headphones." Puff Daddy obliges.

I've always been a fan of rappers' technical complaints in general. Nothing beats when Fat Joe says, "Put the f---in' mic on" at the beginning of "What's Luv?" (Question: If the mic wasn't on, how did it record him saying that?)

But this trend jumped the shark when light-rock songstress Colbie Caillat started one of her biggest hits by asking her producer, "Will you count me in?" (True, she wasn't complaining about her headphones, but it seemed to be in the same vein.)

Oh, Colbie. You're so gangsta.